Meet Mr. Louis Freeman. He is 87 years old.
Today my group worked on his house, at 2225 Orleans Street, in the historic Treme section of New Orleans. His son, Louis Jr. ran the Oasis Unisex barber shop one-half of the house. When Katrina hit, Louis Sr. was trapped in his attic for days. He was finally rescued from the attic, only to be trapped again on a freeway overpass without food, water, or medical help. He was finally evacuated to Houston by helicopter.
The house was soaked with three feet of water. It was only three feet of water because it's built three feet above ground. The putrid water destroyed almost everything in the house, but the house itself was saved.
We followed the folks who gutted the house. It was still full of ruined junk, so we hauled all that out to the street. We did find some photographs, which we'll send to Mr. Freeman, among the moldy curtains, mildewed cushions, and rusted out stereo.
Then the guys got up on ladders and ripped the remaining lathe out of the ceiling. We did this in the dim, because there's no electricity or working plumbing in the house. Once the lathe was out, we picked up the debris and hauled that out, then we swept up. It was so dusty that we had to wear masks when we worked.
Next came nails. Let me tell you, I may be the Queen of Mopping, but I am the Empress of Nails. I must have pulled a thousand nails out of the studs, to get them ready for new sheetrock. It was so hot in there that the sweat literally rolled off my face and dripped onto the floor. Nevertheless, the nails came out. I started with a claw hammer, but I found that I prefer a prybar.
But the inside work was nothing compared to the yardwork. Completely overgrown and totally filled with trash from the gutting, the yard was anything but a yard. It was a junk jungle, complete with big spiders, geckos, and even a snake (a little one, don't panic!) and rife with weeds and overgrown vines.
As we pulled nails and weeds, hauled junk from the inside and out, and swept and raked, the junk pile grew and grew and grew.
Shortly after we started, the pile was already impressive:
By the time we finished, the pile was extraordinary:
Folks, I am not an amazing person. I am a very ordinary, unfit, verging-on-old person. The amazing people are those who are doing this work every single day. The amazing people are those who are willing to do the endless work necessary to transform these ruined shells of houses into homes again, so that people can come back. So that Louis Freeman can come home and live once again at 2225 Orleans Street, New Orleans, Louisiana.
That, my friends, is love.
Happy Love Thursday.