Lionel said the city has lost many homeowners who died in the storm or decided to pack up and leave. This has been tough for the economy and renewing the city’s vitality.
I was inspired to hear stories from several people we met on walks in the neighborhood about how they were able to overcome the storm and move back in. One woman across the street shared how she got a job directing traffic for construction vehicles immediately after the storm while working to renovate her home.
A few blocks away, the owner of a local diner decided to spend her life savings to reopen the restaurant in hopes that others would return as well. It wasn’t easy with few customers at first and a high crime rate in the area.
Lionel told us throughout the week that he felt a burden lifted as he saw his house being painted for the first time in eight years.
While I entered New Orleans heartbroken by the work that still needs to be done, I left inspired by the optimism, faith and spirit of the people who live there. I enjoyed visiting the French Quarter and hearing the lively jazz music from the street corners and eating a bowl of jambalaya.
Has America forgotten? There are no easy answers and there has been much controversy surrounding the relief efforts. But Lionel doesn’t think so. He thinks the country is overwhelmed right now by other tragedies such as forest fires and people being slaughtered in foreign countries.
When his home is finished, Lionel hopes to help other homeowners in need. That’s what it’s all about — neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends and even strangers helping strangers. That’s what will rebuild New Orleans.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but through it all Lionel Lewis still has hope. Maybe he can be an inspiration for all of us in the face of adversity. He sure is for me.
Jonathan Phelps is a staff writer for The Salem News and a Salem resident. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.