Video: Brad Pitt makes it right in the Lower Ninth
Transcript of: Brad Pitt makes it right in the Lower Ninth
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (New Orleans): We're back on a Friday night, and our MAKING A DIFFERENCE report comes from right here in the Lower Ninth Ward . Katrina destroyed this neighborhood, completely flooded. There were barges and boats on these streets. There were trucks tucked under houses. When we first drove in here when the waters receded, we had to use GPS to tell where the roads were as we first brought a vehicle in this area. A whole lot of celebrities and big names, as you know, responded to Katrina , and they raised a fortune. Brad Pitt , for himself, staked out this neighborhood, and slowly he is transforming it. He commissioned 21 architects. They've built 50 sustainable, affording homes -- affordable homes , rather, and that number is growing. And there's someone ready to move in the minute the next home is built.
Ms. MELBA LEGGETT-BARNES: A porch. Nothing but a concrete porch that my daddy built twice, and a tree.
WILLIAMS: And that is all Melba Leggett-Barnes was left with five years ago here in the Lower Ninth Ward .
Ms. LEGGETT-BARNES: I said, 'Lord, I'm going to put this in your hands.' I said, 'Because I don't know what I'm doing.'
WILLIAMS: The help she was praying for arrived, and it came because Brad Pitt , who had fallen in love with New Orleans years ago, decided to come in here and put up homes to get the people back here.
WILLIAMS: We just heard a lawn mower a minute ago, which was striking because you didn't hear anything like that for years here.
Mr. BRAD PITT: Yeah. No, no, nothing. Nothing. Just Mrs. LeBlanc over here in her trailer, her FEMA trailer , and Mr. Greene here in his trailer. And that was -- and common ground was over here. That was about it.
WILLIAMS: Brad Pitt founded Make It Right , an organization devoted to building low-income, eco-friendly homes for people who lost everything here, and because others had decided to give up on the place.
Mr. PITT: They told people that they could build on a slab here, and they set them up for catastrophe. And this place where we're standing right now, there were over 1500 deaths. That was unnecessary, it shouldn't have happened. I got -- I got angry. I got really angry. Now on the flip side, I have a lot of friends who are -- who were involved in architecture and know a lot about it.
Ms. LEGGETT-BARNES: My house is energy efficient. I love when I get my electric bill, honey. I love that. I want to make sure I get all the sun I can get.
Mr. PITT: A lot of people. So, I mean, I was good at bringing smart people in to solve these problems. But that's what architecture is. You have the challenge, and -- the challenges of an area, and you build to answer those challenges.
WILLIAMS: Homes like Melba Leggett-Barnes ' are built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane , solar panels are installed to save on energy bills, and having open roof access is mandatory because of the horrors we all watched during Katrina . Take us into the future. As if we stand here five years from now, what does the neighborhood look like?
Mr. PITT: Well, this is -- we're -- where you see a third of the homes up now. We got half the homes in process. There'll be 150 of these homes in that time. But I would like to see this spread. I'm hoping we raise more money to expand this idea. So I would like to see this expand through the city, expand to other places in the US, this idea of making it right, making a home that's fair to the people who live there.
WILLIAMS: The houses cost about $150,000 each. Brad Pitt says he's in this to stay, and because of this effort, Melba Leggett-Barnes is now back home to stay.
Ms. LEGGETT-BARNES: It didn't dawn on me that he would do anything. He's like a angel. He -- look at it, he got an angel face. You can just put some wings on him, he fly, fly away.
WILLIAMS: Part of our time with Brad Pitt . And talk about a day in the life . After our conversation, Brad Pitt wanted to just duck across the street, talk to a few of the neighbors, friends of his. They had house guests , visiting school teachers from New Jersey . While he's seen as Brad the builder around here in the Lower Ninth Ward , he is a movie star, after all. And the paparazzi had followed him out here and staked him out all the way out here. This is not the French Quarter . And when they started asking questions about his wife and whether or not he was interested in " Dancing with the Stars ," that's when he had to go back inside because, to him, today was supposed to be about this rebuilding effort, slow and steady throughout this neighborhood. A reminder