Ten Years Later, 6 In The Morning Anchor Returns To New Orleans Home

Thursday, August 27th 2015, 11:19 pm
By: News On 6

President Obama is in New Orleans to recognize ten years of hard work rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.

"Today this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city," he said.

The president toured the community center in the lower ninth ward - the hardest hit part of the city. He also got to see the $14.5 billion new levee system.

There's a nearly two-mile-long surge barrier and a water pumping station, 200 floodgates and a three-mile-long floodwall.

Obama also toured neighborhoods and met with families affected by Katrina.

News On 6 anchor Rich Lenz and his family were among those who were affected and for the ten-year mark of Katrina, he returned to his old neighborhood.

8/26/2015 Related Story: 6 In The Morning Anchor, TPD Officer Reunite 10 Years After Katrina

People, not numbers, are always the real story of a natural or man-made disaster. Katrina was both, however, the numbers are pretty staggering.

Consider this, according to the Tulsa County Assessor’s Office, there are 200,000 single-family homes in Tulsa County right now. In 2005, 300,000 homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina – one of them belonged to Rich and his family.

Some home movies are harder to watch than others, especially when it involves the demolition of the home where they were shot.

A year or so after Hurricane Katrina, Rich and his wife watched the “Demolition Diva” bring down the home they lived in since moving to New Orleans in 1994.

It took less than an hour to reduce twelve years of good memories to dust and debris.

But like so many other parts of the unique, remarkable city, 5551 Chatham Drive has risen like a phoenix from the ashes, and now, a quaint, new raised bungalow is built on the footprint of Rich’s house.

John Starr purchased the lot in 2006 and built his house three years later. He’s the 31-year-old principal of a magnet elementary school that opened to fill the education void post-Katrina.

“When Katrina hit it, kind of, made me decide to come back, even more, to come back to the city and go into public education,” he said.

John and Rich share at least one common neighbor, Ann Hebert lives just across the street in a beautiful home she began building after Katrina.

8/27/2015 Related Story: After Clearing Debris, Bartlesville Disaster Team Helped Hurricane Katrina Survivors Heal

She and Rich have known each other since their kids were in kindergarten.

"I just couldn’t take it,” she said. “I was just like, ‘tear it down, take it away.’ So, literally, the next day we had a demo crew over there and they just bulldozed it right away,” she said.

Ann had a front-row seat for the demise of Rich’s old home. It began with him pulling out every stick of furniture, appliance, toy, clothing, you name it and he dragged it out to the curb.

The house was stripped down to the studs and became a makeshift set for a series of music videos based on songs Rich had written about the storm.

“The Bowl” is one of New Orleans’ many nicknames, referring to the high ground of Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south.

Those areas didn’t flood, but everything below sea level – “The Bowl” – was swamped; but that was then, and residents, like Herbert, are living in the now.

"I’m very proud of the neighborhood, of the city. When I hear the negative comments I take it personally ‘cause I think it’s amazing what we have accomplished. The city is bigger and better and more beautiful than ever,” she said.

Now the only thing left of Rich’s old home is just his old address in ceramic tile.