Two months after Hurricane Katrina struck, I drove over the Claiborne Bridge into the Lower 9th Ward and was immediately facing a house collapsing in on itself. The front was torn open revealing the shattering of a family’s life –a broken chandelier, a ruined easy chair, stained wet clothes, piles of rubble that were once walls, and the stench of mold. The house seemed to have come from somewhere else and landed squarely on the top of a Laundromat. Remnants of washers and dryers were everywhere. Most ominous was the symbol spray-painted on the outer wall – a black circle with a line through it, indicating that a body had been recovered there.
After searching for a month, I discovered that the Perkins family owned the house. George Perkins, at age 78 had decided to stay in his house on Reynes Street and ride out the storm. This angered Ceola, his wife of 58 years and the mother of his 10 children. After her efforts to persuade him to leave failed, she and the rest of the family prepared to evacuate after church on Sunday.
As the Industrial Canal Levee breached that Monday morning of August 29th, water surged into the neighborhood, ripping the house off its foundation. The house floated four blocks until it landed on the corner of Claiborne Avenue on top of the Laundromat.
The Perkins family then scattered throughout the country spent weeks trying to find George. His body was finally identified at a make -shift morgue an hour from New Orleans. He was not laid to rest until November 30, 2005 more then 90 days later.