Derek Gentile: Nothing about Lower Ninth is super yet



With the demise of the New England Patriots, most of the buzz about Sunday's Super Bowl is a little muted.

So be it. Let someone else have the spotlight.

I'm pleased that this year's game will be held in my adopted city of New Orleans. We've already seen just about every daytime television personality down in the Big Easy broadcasting outside the Superdome, or on Bourbon Street, or in front of the Café du Monde -- and everywhere else in between

One place they aren't is in the Lower Ninth ward.

I was there a few months ago, and there was nothing, really, to celebrate there. The signs of Hurricane Katrina, seven years gone now, were still there.

Yes, there are portions of the area that have been rebuilt. And in the unlikely event that I ever meet Brad Pitt, I'll shake his hand, because the homes he put up are really, really nice.

But I remember driving around the Lower Ninth one afternoon, several months ago, and being a little sad. Not surprised, just sad.

There were vast swaths of property overgrown with grass and weeds. It looked as though these lots hadn't been mowed in months, maybe years. Probably years.

I was able to point out to some friends of mine where, seven years ago, houses had just been blown off their foundations by the unimaginable force of the levee bursting. I recalled the first day I had come to the Lower Ninth with a contingent of very skilled builders to restore the home of Stanley Stewart. I consider Stanley and his family my friends now.

But that first day, as I drove around alone, while the other guys were working, I recalled seeing a set of concrete steps. Painted green. On the top step, a dog was dozing. His world had probably been flipped upside down by this crazy storm, but he still had a stoop on which to sleep. I only saw him that first day, though.

This time, anyway, the area wasn't nearly as bleak as it was six years ago. The signs painted on the doors of some of the homes indicating whether or not there were dead people inside had thankfully been removed.

But the hardware store at the end of Tricou Street, where the Stewarts lived, was still just a hulk of a building. It was a pretty sure bet it wasn't going to be rebuilt any time soon.

And in fact, what I saw a few months ago was the new face of the Lower Ninth. I think, in time, there will be improvements. In time, there will be houses and kids and more cars and more people. It won't be the same people because some have moved and some are dead.

And if I want to be pragmatic about it, the downtown portion of the city is pretty much back to normal. There are great restaurants and bars and the French Quarter is the French Quarter again. And I'm sure the Café du Monde is serving those powdery confections that turn the floor white again.

I am also sure the folks headed down to NoLa will have a great time this week. If there is one thing for which New Orleans has a well-deserved reputation, it's for having a good time. But my heart is still in the Lower Ninth, and I wish things were better there.

Derek Gentile is an Eagle staffer. Follow him on Twitter:


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