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Reflecting, rebuilding in New Orleans

Marketplace Staff Jan 1, 2008

Reflecting, rebuilding in New Orleans

Marketplace Staff Jan 1, 2008


Tess Vigeland: 2007 saw its share of natural disasters. Floods in the Midwest, raging wildfires in Idaho and California. Are you ready for the next disaster? You do know that it can happen anywhere?

Hurricane Katrina was one of the biggest lessons in being financially ready for the worst. Marketplace’s Sam Eaton visited New Orleans for the second anniversary back in August. He found three lifelong residents who returned after the storm with a newfound sense of how to prepare for the next one.

Yashica Jordan: I’m Yashica Jordan, the owner and director of Jordan’s Learning Academy in New Orleans, La. And I’ve been back in New Orleans since Aug. 15, 2006. I’ve been here my whole life.

MIKE BUTLER: My name is Mike Butler. My brother and I own the Venice Marina here in Venice, La. Venice is the little point that sticks out into the Gulf, and we’re the last drivable place that you can go and the furthest south in Louisiana.

Henry McCloskey: My name’s Henry McCloskey and I own Zito’s Plate and Polishing Works in New Orleans. I’ve lived here all my life and, but, we’ve been in business here some 60-odd years.

JORDAN: I will never forget this. I didn’t have anything with me because I didn’t think that it was going to happen, the way it did.

BUTLER: There are a lot of things that you don’t count on after the storm. One is you didn’t count on the fact that you were going to be out of your business for nine months. We had a rainy day fund. We had some money set aside. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to have a financial plan where when I got to be 55 years old I didn’t have to worry about retirement. Well, Katrina, she kind of had a little different perspective on that.

MCCLOSKEY: That was the amazing part of it, is when you came back in. And you seen the damage what water does. … But when we finally got back in here we saw a total loss.

JORDAN: I left every checkbook I had there. I had left my debit card there. I left bank statements. I left everything at the house because I thought I was only going to be going for a day.

BUTLER: The reality after the storm … what you don’t realize is that all the banks were shut down. ATMs, nothing worked. Only thing that worked was greenbacks.

MCCLOSKEY: We didn’t have insurance so we knew … When I got back here there wasn’t no use to sit down and cry about it. Because, we don’t have a lot of money. And I said, we gotta back. Let’s get this place open, you know. You either … We’re going to float and go through with it or we’re going to drown.

JORDAN: If another hurricane was to hit New Orleans and we prewarned about it, I would take every dime I had out of the bank. I purchased a safe. And inside that safe contains everything from my bank statements, my cards, everything that I need so that if I would have to evacuate again, I would take that safe and it’s like I won’t lose nothing.

MCCLOSKEY: You know, my wife’s got her file cabinet. She’s to point now where she knows she’s got that one folder that has all our important papers in it. And we’ll scoop it up, and she’ll be taking that with her. You know, we done lost all that once before. … She’s not going to go through that again.

BUTLER: You know, every year since when we bought the business — except for last year — we had to evacuate for a storm. So you always knew the risk was there. But you didn’t realize that the scope of things change. And you don’t factor in those escalating costs after the storm, because it was so widespread.

MCCLOSKEY: Everybody says I’m crazy because I tell them I’m staying. I don’t feel like I’m crazy because, if it was theirs, they would probably do the same thing. You know? Because I know how hard I work … and how hard it is to get what you got. And it’s so easy to lose it.

JORDAN: Katrina was a blessing to me, because I didn’t have this attitude before. And I should have had this attitude. I wasn’t business-oriented. I wasn’t caring if I had a dime or not. I was just spending my money everyday. It didn’t matter if I was broke. And now it’s not like that. Now I’m looking for more businesses to open and finding more things that the city needs that I can help and open this business for the city so we can have it here. So, Katrina has really, really, really changed me.

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