OUR STORY -
destruction pics home

 

THANKS!

Thanks to everyone who has helped financially, emotionally and spiritually.

We received notice of our SBA Loan. We're approved for enough to buy a reasonable replacement home and to replace the contents. Of course, it is a loan. But we're very very thankful. We thank God and we thank every person out there who helped us and prayed for us.



Donations still help.

 

UPDATES...

1/26/13 - It's hard to believe six years have passed since my last entry. Life is going well. I'm now working with elementary kids and having the time of my life at work. We're doing pretty well given that we re-started from scratch. The last two and half years have been blessed. We've been able to go on vacation in Destin. New Orleans is still not back to par yet, but here in St. Louis, all is going pretty well. Again, we're thankful to all the people and organizations who have helped us. It was nice to be able to help some people in Super Storm Sandy as well. Our main advice is don't give up hope. The government is slow, but dependable. The bureaucracy gets things done. FEMA and SBA are the best examples of why government By the People, For the People, and of the People is the best way to ensure our domestic tranquility and general welfare. Government by the people is good, very good. Thank you again. And.. it's never too late to donate, even $5 is helpful toward paying down our Katrina loss debt. We have it in control, but it's always nice to receive help, regardless of source or amount. Click paypal button, or make check payable to SBA Disaster Recover Loan and send to address listed on main page.

12/30/06 - Wow, we made it through the year. We're comfortablely ensconsed in Saint Louis now. I'm employed teaching a full inclusion collaborative 9th grade Appreciation of Literature clasw. I have great students, a wonderful collaborative teacher, great managment (really good bosses), and a sense of calmness. Elise is working in three different English instructor roles at Saint Louis University and seems to be enjoying her work life as well. Of course, there are always the positive and negative stresses that come with teaching, but overall we're quite happy in our jobs and in our home. We love the Botanical Gardens (except the Chahuly exhibit), Forest Park, Tower Grove park, Carrondelet Park, St. Stephen's Parish, and the good folks throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. In short, we're happy and thankful to be in this great city. Sure, we miss New Orleans, but last time we visited there the city just doesn't seem inviting to us. St. Louis feels like home now. That said, we still have $90,000 in uninsured losses, and would appreciate any donations still. Yes, we've rebuilt our lives thanks to $136,000 loan from the Small Business Administration and the kind donations we've received so far. Our home has been refurnished, and Clarisse has more than she had prior to the storm. We're living a positive, comfortable life once again. Now, our goal is to eliminate our Katrina debt as quickly as possible. And you can help by pressing the donate button above.

8/20/06 - I feel we're so close now to having completely restarted our lives after the storm. There's a deep well of hope and joy that we've decided to make St. Louis our permanent home. We became members of the Missouri Botanical Gardens today, and it felt like we were joining and becoming active members in our new community. Check out mobot.org and see the beauty we get to enjoy each day. Back when we were in St. Louis in the 90s, Elise and I would go for a bike ride to the gardens, and the stroll the gardens every day after work. Beginning today, we restarted our old routine, but with one wonderful addition. CLARISSE is enjoying it as well. "Garden, Daddy, Go to the garden, Daddy" was added to the list of places Clarisse requests to go: bookstore, coffeehouse, park, slide, outside, and now garden. I feel like our little princess deserves the great city that is St. Louis. I feel she deserves not to have to put up with the difficulties that are now part of every day life in New Orleans.

 

8/08/06 - We finally closed on our house. And here's how I feel today. On August 8, 2006, our ordeal finally ended. We lived four doors down from the levee break of the London Avenue canal. I'd like to thank first and foremost BIG GOVERNMENT: FEMA and the SBA came through for us and have allowed us to restart our lives. Yes, we now owe $136,000 debt instead of $44,500, and will payoff our mortgage in 30 years instead of six, but we're whole and we're returning to our lives. While the SBA process was a Kafkaesque nightmare, it ended well, and we are thankful to the SBA and our fellow American taxpayers who make rebuilding a life after a disaster possible.

We'd also like to thank all the people who helped us emotionally, spiritually and financially. However, our biggest loss is New Orleans.

Thanks to the incompetence of Bobbie Jindal, Mary Landrieu, the LRA, Louisiana government, Tulane University, the University of New Orleans, and New Orleans Public Schools, we're have been financially forced to permanently relocate to a safer, more competently run city in America: St. Louis, Missouri. Of course, Alvarez and Marsella (the crooks in charge of New Orleans Public Schools) failed in Saint Louis three years ago. Saint Louis Public Schools are in disarray because of their incompetence here. However, with 105 municipalities within the metropolitan area, there are many great schools and school systems.

Leaving Tulane for St. Louis University, and NOPS for Saint Louis' Special School District is a real step-up: financial, emotional and spiritually. Living two blocks from a world-class park, with music, food, and friendly people everywhere, Saint Louis has all the positives of New Orleans, without any of its negatives: opportunists--corrupt builders, landlords, and realtors--who have taken over the Crescent City, taking advantage of those in need by price gouging. For day-to-day living, Saint Louis provides a better standard of living for teachers and professors like us.

However, we will always miss New Orleans, and will work to return home for retirement (in 30 years now). We will miss most of all the French Quarter and it's wonderful characters: tarot readers, musicians, bar tenders, restaurant people, the drinkers of Decatur street, Jude Ackers chess master, and the scores of friends and acquaintances who aren't enslaved to the middle-class life my two-year old daughter, my wife and I choose now to live in St. Louis.

We'll see you at Jazz Fest.

8/02/06 - Well, we STILL haven't closed on our house. It seems clear that Kafka was talking about the SBA. However, we're in the very last stage and a check is allegedly being cut today or tomorrow. But the good news is this! We'll being going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving, and I'll be performing the wedding for Laurie and Oliver!

7/27/06 - It's been a very difficult summer. We're out of money. And we still haven't closed on the house. SBA process is straight out of Kafka. On May 19th, we closed on our SBA loan in New Orleans. On June 26, when we were supposed to close on the home, the money from the SBA wasn't there. Nevermind the contracts we signed with the SBA. They tell us it still has to go through three more people. Well, another month has past and it's gone through four people, and we haven't received the same answer from any of them. Finally, it looks like we'll close WEDNESDAY or THURSDAY, notice no straight answer again. I'm very thankful we're going receive this loan to get our lives back to normal, but the process has been almost as difficult as the evacuations. The worst part is that at the beginning of the process they told us one thing, and at the end they contradicted themselves, costing us every penny we saved all year since the storm from my job in Lake Charles. And at this point can we really believe anything our government tells us, at any level?

4/19/06 - Today Elise got two jobs at St. Louis University, and we bought this house.

14/06 - This is a list of our top 25 or so (we keeping adding to list) choices for homes in St. Louis. We plan on seeing them Monday, April 17-19, and buying a house next week. We're very excited. Please e-mail us and tell us which one you think look best.

4/9/06 - Because the job situation is better in St. Louis, and we don't feel safe over the next several years about future hurricanes, especially with little Clarisse, we have decided we're almost definitely moving to St. Louis (only getting the job at Tulane or an assistant professor job at UNO could keep us in New Orleans). We've been looking at dozens of homes, and have decided we're going to find a home from $85-$105,000, and use $15-$35,000 for contents and to fix up whatever we buy. We're going to live in South St. Louis city, hopefully west of Grand, but perhaps a bit (within 12 blocks of MoKaBe's) east. Elise will teach a local university, and I plan to work at a local elementary school, ideally within bicycling distance.

3/25/06 - Our Loan Agreement from SBA came in today. Basically, all we need to do now is put in a contract on a house, and they'll do the paperwork. The only down-side to it is that they want a long closing date (60-90 days). While, we're still 3 to 5 months from being home. But we're sure hopeful and positive today! Our prayers have been answered. We want to say thanks to everyone who has helped us and prayed for us.

3/14/06 - Well, we talked to our loan officer, Forest Barnes, from the SBA Friday, and he said we had been "pre-approved" for $120,000 loan to relocate, $80,000 for a home, and $40,000 for contents (but contents could be applied to home if desired). To stay in New Orleans and rebuild, we qualify for $39k to rebuild, and 40K for contents. So, since it costs a minimum of $117k to build a house like we had on pilings, we're going to relocate. We are heading for St. Louis. People from St. Louis were the most loving, kind, considerate and wonderful to us. We received more than twice as much in financial support from friends in St. Louis than our own family. But more importantly, our St. Louis friends gave us love, caring and support in non-financial ways that you'd expect mainly from family. While we will miss the handful of friends in New Orleans who wish us to stay, who would help us if they also weren't going through a complete devastation of their lives, St. Louis is our best choice.

St. Louis also has more opportunities for Elise to find an assistant professor or instructor position at a university than New Orleans (although she may still end up getting a position at Tulane, in which case we will live in New Orleans). For me, St. Louis is a second home--it has much of what is great about New Orleans, great food, great music, great people--but it also offers something New Orleans lacks--stability, community, and reasonable taxes and insurance costs.

Of course, there's also a possibility we may stay in Lake Charles, especially if we don't find a home in St. Louis over the Spring/Easter break. We love Lake Charles, uncle Mike, and our friends here. I also really love my job at Barbe Elementary here.

2/16/06 - I talked with a representative from SBA yesterday and they said we have been assigned a Loan Officer; so we should know our status within a month. Although the person on the phone didn't give any promises, it looks like we should know what our choices and possibilities for rebuilding and moving back home are. Because the teacher hiring system in New Orleans has been destroyed and we don't know any of the principals, my prospects for public schools don't look so good. I will either work outside Orleans or in the Catholic schools if I can't find a public school position. I'd prefer to work in Orleans to be part of the great changes that are possible in our city.

Clarise is doing very well. She's talking up a storm, and loves her books. Elise has been productive, publishing an article, and she's starting a novel on the 1st of March; her mad month of novel writing.

 

Since December a lot has changed. We have found that we're going to have to demolish our old home,
build up the ground the house is on, build an elevated house, floor and refurnish the house. The good news
is that we were able to pay off our mortgage so aren't paying double bills while we rebuild; the bad news is that we now need
$30,000 more than our original estimates. There are a couple of good job prospects for Elise, one at Tulane in New Orleans,
and one at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. She also has a chance, but far from certain, at McNeese University in
Lake Charles. If that happens, I would be happy because I love my job at Barbe Elementary.

 

12/31/05

- Christmas has come and passed. We took a wonderful revitalizing trip up to our family in Rock Island, IL. Snow at Christmas or a couple days before, was kind of nice. Best food ever, and caring, loving kind-hearted family: we were truly blessed this Christmas. We also visited wonderful friends in St. Louis. The kindness of these people really makes us seriously consider the option of living in St. Louis or Rock Island while we rebuild in New Orleans. Why are people in New Orleans who weren't affected by the storm so hateful toward those of us who were? How can people from New Orleans be so blase' about the suffering of others? Since the storm, we've met people from all over the U.S.: Texas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, and Louisiana. In every state except Louisiana people have been wonderful and amazing. It seems like all the good people from New Orleans are now living in Austin, while the racists and bigots are back home, rebuilding and trying to prevent ordinary middle-class folks from returning.

 

12/09/05 - Well, another week goes by. One of my kindergarden students wrote his whole name legibly for the first time. Hooray! Have to take the successes where they come. We hear rumors of federal buy-outs of property, but nothing definitive. We also received another wonderful kindness from folks in Jonesboro, GA from Hurricane Poets Checkin. They gave us money that was raised at a poetry reading there. Many thanks to Robin Kemp and the other poets of New Orleans who have had to leave the city from Katrina.

12/07/05 - Sometimes it feels completely surreal reading nola.com and seeing what ISN'T happening in New Orleans. While I strongly feel that New Orleans needs Mardi Gras 2006, I do wish some of the PROMISES that were made to New Orleans would be fulfilled ALSO. I think the people calling for a cancellation are clueless. It will generate funds we desparately need, and it will do it without waiting on the largess or government or aid agencies.

11/24/05 - Happy day today. Thanks go out to the wonderful people of the Slidell Alumni Hurricane Relief Fund. The check definitely picked our spirits up a bit; it will all go toward rebuilding in New Orleans. Right now we are trying to deal with the bureaucracy regarding demolition and rebuilding; there doesn't seem to be anything zoning-wise against us building 11 ft up; we're 1 ft below sea level with a base level elevation of -4 flood zone A7. I can just say how thankful we are to all the kind people who have helped us, and today especially to the folks from Slidell. Thanksgiving was at Father King's house and the folks from Lake Charles were truly gracious. Weirdly enough, I'm really looking forward to getting back to work next week. Free time right now is too full worries. Those worries were lightened today.

1/23/05 - What a difference a couple days make. I'm so happy and thankful today. I guess it's because Thanksgiving is upon us, but I'm so happy to be alive: So happy to have Elise and Clarisse, so happy to have my FUN job at Barbe Elementary. I'm still in a conundrum over the Habitat thing, knowing it's probably the best route, but then we have so much to take care of. But now our focus is on finding a builder and contractors and the loan for the difference between the insurance and the actual cost. According to the insurance papers we can rebuild for 88k, but the so far the cheapest we've found in 107k range. But God, it doesn't really matter anymore. We're alive. We'll rebuild and I will find a teaching position in New Orleans. It's going to be okay. We're all healthy. We're all ready to move forward. Over the next couple of days our focus will be on giving to those around us, helping in every way we can, here and now in Lake Charles. New Orleans is there. It's safe. We'll return... soon. How soon, well, today I'm thankful for the next several months, and we'll deal with the details later. For now, we're gonna focus on helping kids learn to read, and being the best dad I can be for Clarisse.

1/21/05 - Today, I'm just angry. I was reading an article about individuals who were hurt by the hurricane at newsweek.com when there was a sidebar about people (individuals, not huge inefficient organizations like the Red Cross) trying to help us, but the sidebar was telling people NOT to help individuals like me, who tell our story, and can be contacted via phone (504) 957-6677. It was saying, give to the Red Cross. Well, let me tell you: they aren't helping.

Then there's Habitat for Humanity. I sent off for information on their program. We lived in a modest home that is exactly like those put out by their program. It turns out that we make $5,000 a year too much to qualify. Let me see. I'm a special education teacher who only earns $32,000 a year with a family of three. Turns out to qualify, I'd have to be irresponsible and have 3 more kids in order to qualify. So, every time I hear about people saying how great Habitat for Humanity is; I wonder, is it really a program that requires you to live in poverty for 20 years? It sure looks like a good deal for those who qualify, $60,000 loan paid over 20 years, the house note with insurance and taxes paid is $367/mo. That's about $500 less than the $808 payments we've been making on our house. Ironically, it's exactly the $500/mo too much that we earn. I don't know. I'm frustrated. I sent an email to the contact there; hopefully, there are options for those of us who don't qualify, but who can't make it throught the debt/loan system either.

It seems like my rich friends (some who have received insurance checks for well in excess of what's needed for them to rebuild) are doing well, and my poor friends are doing well (qualifying for government and private programs like Habitat for Humanity). I'm seriously considering looking into LOWER PAYING jobs in New Orleans (perhaps teaching at Catholic Schools) in order to qualify for the Habitat program. Right now, I'm depressed and angry, and that's my entry for today. I think the idea of trying to find a lower-paying job is insane, yet perhaps that's what makes New Orleans New Orleans, systematically seeking to keep *some* of us down. Of course, it's my choice right. I mean, I guess I could go back to school and become a lawyer. ARRRRG!!!

11/20/05 - Well, Elise and I visited our home today. We couldn't get into the library. It was as bad as the pictures show. Although it was depressing, we were able to salvage our wedding dishes, our Ph.D. diplomas (bachelor's and master's had turned to mush). All my Teach GNO information is completely destroyed. Thank God my portfolio for LaTAAP is at UNO on the second floor of my professor's office. All DVDs, CDs, and books were destroyed beyond repair. Basically, a couple pieces of art work were salvaged; everything else is gone. I'm going to take an axe to the library door next time I come to New Orleans (probably during Christmas holiday, although I may wait until it's time to bulldoze the house).

People keep asking if there is anything they can do. I can't say this in person. But yes, we need money to rebuild. We need cash or contractor's paid. We're going to literally have to replace everything. Of course, it will be impossible to replace our library; 3000 books over a 12 year period, my specialized philosophy, political science, and religious studies books, Elise's literature, political and poetry books, many of which were signed first editions are irreplacable and lost. Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Allen Ginsberg, Everett Maddox, Jay Wright from Elise's collection, Bertrand Russell, Robert Jordan, and Ginsberg from mine.

So, if you truly want to help, click the donate button.

11/03/04 - (Click here to see the destruction of our house.) The second disaster happened to us today. Allstate is now telling us that our flood insurance is only covering the structure and not the contents, as our so-called "Deluxe Homeowners policy" states. We're also covered for only $60,000 and not $100,000 on the flood insurance. So, we're going to be $40,000 short on the rebuilding expenses and $15-30,000 short on contents. At least I have a job, and we will rebuild. The homeowners's part of the policy is paying us a whole "$5-$6,000," the adjuster said. Needless to say, we're now more devastated than we were before.

10/24/05 - Returned to school; everything went fantastically well. The kids are great. The classes are fun, the staff, administration, and fellow teachers are all great. I miss Elise, who's still in Austin until the sewerage is fixed in Lake Charles. I'm living with Father Brian, a friend of the family.

10/14/05 - Lake Charles schools reopen on October 25; so Joshua and Elise will be returning to Lake Charles the weekend prior. Also, updates on what's happening week-to-week are now kept on this updates page instead of the main page.

10/10/05 - Elise wanted me to let everyone know that right now we are receiving email at teacher@mediawell.com and elise@aasgaard.com but are NOT able to send email from our accounts here in Austin. When we return to Lake Charles, we will reply to each message we have received. I can reply to Slidell High people on the slidell high site. Clarisse is healthy and full of energy. We just need to patent a way to ...

10/01/05 - Well, by now you know we've been hit by Hurricane Rita as well. This time the news isn't so bad. Where we are living, Uncle Mike's had a little water damage in the foyer, but overall held up well. The parish school system is currently down because of electrical grid outages throughout Lake Charles. But this school system clearly cares more for its teachers than Orleans. My salary will continue and my employment is secure. It appears schools will open in two to four weeks.

On Monday, we're going either to Austin, Texas or Rock Island, Illinois. We will return to Lake Charles when the schools reopen. We plan on rebuilding our home in New Orleans. When we receive the insurance and FEMA gap difference loan, we'lll be able to make our home New Orleans better than ever. After our home is finished being built, we'll return.
We may live next summer in a FEMA trailer on our lot, or with Elise's sister Jane, whose house survived intact, taking only damage to the pool.

9/9/05 - Water level down 2 feet!

9/8/05 - H I R E D !!! I was hired today at Barbe Elementary in Lake Charles, LA. The first step in rebuilding our lives has begun. I will sign a contract for the 2005-2006 school year.

Elise will be working on her research for a journal article and book she's writing. We plan to stay in Lake Charles while we rebuild in New Orleans.

 

ORIGINAL HURRICANE PICTURES AND STUFF


Here's a low-res image of our house 1/2 block from levee break
Click on picuture of like to google's version and you can see
before and after pictures by choosing between "satellite" and
"Katrina" options..



Click on picture for enlarged view of our family's neighborhood.
Good news for Jane & David 0 to 6 inches(Elise's sister's family), not so good for Elise's dad (was 2.8 ft now 6 in), our friend Laurie(was 2.6 ft now 8 in.), or our house (was 8.2 ft, now 5. ft). We all are underwater. Shannan C.(was 5 ft, now 2.4 ft, since ur house is high up from ground you may be okay). To see your house, try floodmap; it let's you see how much water is on ground!