Seven years after Katrina, I traveled to New Orleans with a group of volunteers to put hammer to nail at a house on the aptly named Flood Street. Astonishingly, I never posted here about that trip but the death of Tom Magliozzi, the Click of the Tappet brothers, i.e. "the one with the laugh," allows me to rectify that error while quoting a favorite writer from a Facebook post I did at the time. Ah, vanity.
On the second day of our trip (I went with some 20 others affiliated with the Middlebury, VT, Congregational Church), I was moving some 2X4s when:
...This character jumped out of his car at the Habitat site, said exactly three words ("Hi, I'm Ray") to which yours truly blurted out, "I know who you are!" Within seconds, our whole crew surrounded him, all of us delighted. And he was as funny as he is on the air (look at this pic closely) and as hard a worker as any. This is his "7th or 8th" time here for Habitat. "It's just a good fun thing to do," he said. D'accord.
Bostonians unite! Ray and me
Ray made it an even more fun build than it already was. I'd never volunteered for Habitat before and didn't know what to expect. We stayed in the dormitory of a church that had had several hundred parishoners before Katrina but by the time we arrived two years ago only a dozen or so remained. We had the use of their kitchen, with each of us signing up to cook meals and clean-up. I made what's become a trademark dish (recipe here), Dan Brown, co-owner of Middlebury's Swift House Inn, made all the breakfasts...and there were other good meals too.
Ray was a delight. His photo-bombing me, which my cousin Bay Area Trail Aficionado Morris Older remembered, was in keeping with Ray's buoyant spirit. We all loved having him as part of our crew, or shall we say, krewe, since all of this took place during Mardi Gras, forever endearing him to me, who can't even remember what my own car looks like...speaking of which, why does the "check engine" light keep coming on?
Nice memories and my heart is aching for Ray and his family today. Even though every single one of us loses loved ones and even though every single one of us learns to live with immeasurable loss, each new death is a novelty, as if it's never happened to anyone before, and is singularly hard to bear.
A few more photos from that trip here, including our side trip to the Ninth Ward, where we snapped some shots of the houses that Brad Pitt's Make It Right foundation has built.
Map of where volunteers staying at church came from
Day 2 -- these things go up fast!
Rich at work
How it looked when we left
And now for a few of the houses that Brad built, the result of architectural competitions, designed to withstand anything like what Katrina wrought. The first is the sign in front of the spot where a new house has been built, where a family was devastated. I hope you can read the words.