Monday, January 22, 2007

Day Fourteen

The Fab Five had the video camera today. Click below to see what happened on a very exhausting day of gutting.

Morning was WET. It had rained hard all night and the field where we stay had standing water all around it. We were supposed to get up at 6:00 but we could barely move from the bus to the kitchen in the downpour. We waited until 6:30 to hurry around and get breakfast together.

As usual, we were super-late getting to work, this time with the unusual contributing factor of empty propane tanks. Somehow we walked away and left a burner on all day a couple of days ago and today was the day that our second kitchen tank drained. The breakfast team had huge batches of eggs all mixed up so we had to be sure they got cooked. Justin took the propane tank of the shower truck and fired up the stove. He was quick and so were the cooks, but we still left very late.

We were assigned a two-story house in the center of the city by our Catholic Charities staffer, Morgan. The first story seemed like a basement, though it was at ground level. The second story was the main house, with a series of steps leading up to it. It was a pretty big house with lots of different rooms arranged in a somewhat unusual floor plan. Almost all of the possessions had been cleared so our main job was to bring down the walls and ceilings.

We definitely know how to bring down sheetrock, but these walls and ceilings were a special challenge: they were plaster and lath, meaning that there were small narrow boards behind the face of the wall with plaster squished all between them and smoothed over the top. Some have chicken wire behind the entire contraption that complicates things even further. To remove these walls is much more difficult that regular sheetrock. It’s also very noisy.

We all went banging through the house with sledgehammers and crowbars, sending rocks of plaster everywhere. Once it’s all on the ground, it’s like working on a chain gang to lift and load the rocks that have been produced. The debris is very heavy as well, meaning that it takes a ton of hard work to bring down the plaster, the same amount of effort to get it into bins with which to move it outside, and even more exertion to get it down to street level and dumped by the side of the street.

Teams divided up jobs, with the Knucklebusters serving as our main debris runners all day long. Bryan in particular was the absolute champion of moving the debris. He was also the dirtiest one of all of us. Others took on specialized jobs as well, including Chris, who tackled a very complex kitchen demo that took him most of the day. Elijah and Shane were wielding sledgehammers all over that place and Juan, Megan, Soraya, Matt, and Tommy took on the tiled bathroom with huge grunts and loud cheers (including the famous Saints cheer “WHODAT?!”).

The baseboards were a special challenge in this house, as they were attached more permanently than any other trim we’ve ever seen. Feke, Shane, Elijah, Justin, Jed, and Shawny all messed with them endlessly, until Bree came along and found the foolproof method for removing them.

A few team members talked to friendly neighbors and got great interviews for their eventual final projects, some of which will be presented on the Saint Mary’s campus on Thursday, February 15th at 7:00 p.m. in the Soda Center. All are welcome to attend.

Tonight we had a special treat, as our friend Yvette and her mom Sandra demanded that they provide dinner for us. We tried to tell them that we really love eating tofu and texturized vegetable protein every day, but they somehow convinced us to eat red beans and rice with fried chicken instead. They even brought huge loaves of French bread and a big tub of butter. We were too tired from our workday to be appropriately effusive, but we were clearly, obviously, and sincerely quite content. Thanks Yvette and Sandra!

Tomorrow we will have to split into two groups so that we can finish today’s house but also make our way to Natasha’s Habitat for Humanity house again. We’ll all end the day at Natasha’s, where we hope to connect her to our present for her garden. . . .

Shawny, Megan, and Juan show the rest of our group the proper way to break down the walls.

Here it can be seen the ONEders together after a hard day at work. This is the first family photo to add to the books.

There were several signs on the front of homes all along the block we worked on today. They all stated they were either coming home or already there. It brings a little more hope back to rebuilding New Orleans community and all.

Juan stands in amazement over the waterline on the house. The waterline is higher than Juan is tall, 6 feet to be exact. The waterline does not show how high the water got but where it rested three weeks before it receded.

This is the before shot of the upstairs bathroom before the gutting process began. Below is the after shot. A lot of sweat and hard work went into clearing the house of debris.

Tommy makes a “smore to go,” melting the marshmallow with a lighter, for a great after-lunch treat.

Though injured, Kate still hammers away.

Linzy and Kellie bring the wall down.

A mirror found in the house. If you’re superstitious, we safely escaped seven years bad luck and saved this mirror from being broken.

Juan and Megan swing their crowbars in unison to bring down the drywall.

The sun shines through a window, lights up the dust in the air, and highlights a crowbaw breaking through a wall.

Shawny walks in front of an exposed wall that was removed due to mold. All of the damages must be removed in order to rebuild.

Bryan, Kellie, Tommy, Vanessa, and Feke pose for a picture in front of the dump pile at the end of the day.

Brianna Hardy tears away at the drywall in one of the rooms as Rachel Gaynon and Lindsay Swoboda shovel the debris in the background.

Morgan, from Catholic Charities, and Leo, our dedicated bus driver, stood and discussed the days plans before the work began. Morgan hoped that we would be able to clear the space before dark. We were happy to make that wish come true.

Bryan, as a member of team Knucklebusters, piled our debris across the street. By this point in the day, we had found our niche, and were quite efficient at the process.

There were many tasks throughout the day, including knocking down drywall, as demonstrated by Lindsay, and pulling nails, as Kate shows here.

Marveling at all that has been done, Juan takes five to make sure to keep hydrated. Water is such an important material that even neighbors were coming up to us and asking for bottles. We were happy to share.

Our pile of remains from the interior of the house seemed quite out of place in the colorful neighborhood. Our bus, however, fit right in!

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