Monday, January 29, 2007

Day Twenty-One

The ONEders kept track of things today, our last work day in NOLA. The video takes a look at the memories and experiences made over the last three weeks. Click below to see what they captured.

Shane tried to start a movement to say that we should get up late today (7:00!) instead of 6:00. We thought we needed to move out early no matter what, as we HAD to finish painting Sarah’s Happy House today. We had decided to arrive at Sarah’s at 8:00 a.m. so that we could definitely, definitely get the job done. Jed was our appointed supervisor on this last day, so he set our time table. Shane tried to get us to agree to move faster than our usual two-hour ramp-up time so that we could sleep later. No one joined his movement, because people actually WANTED to spend two hours getting ready to go.

Shawny got up at 6:00 and found a clear day awaiting us, with only one small catch: it was 28 degrees out! She woke up Jed and pointed out that it was going to be too cold to paint at 8:00, so they decided to let people sleep for at least another hour. An hour later, things had changed. The temperature was 28.5 degrees. We were worried.

Still, the sun was starting to shine through and we assumed that things would warm up. Even at almost 9:00 it was still only 36 degrees, but we forged ahead anyway. Shawny’s sister had left us a bunch of hand and foot warmers, and today was the day to use them. We arrived in the Ninth Ward to discover that there was not quite enough paint left for each of us to take what we needed. Thus, we were at an immediate standstill.

Sarah was right there waiting and agreed to run after more paint. Instead, Chris and Shane went, and we all waited patiently for the paint and for the warm-up. Both arrived at about the same time. We tore into the job madly at that moment with Sarah standing by doing quality control. We discovered that we had been quite sloppy in a number of places, making the touch-up job very daunting. We actually got out tiny little water color brushes to get the details just right on all of the lines between the walls and trim. Jed ran around madly trying to keep the job flowing efficiently. (He succeeded.)

When we broke for lunch, Sarah had a surprise for us. Not only had she made barbecued chicken and green peas for us, but also she made a new team favorite: sweet potato pie. Her son had a tow truck parked in front of her house, so we used it to hold our first-ever flatbed picnic. By then, the sun was shining, and even though the temperatures were still pretty chilly, we felt great.

We kicked back in after lunch, sharing ladders to reach the high parts, laughing hysterically even when things weren’t hilariously funny, and paying close attention to every little detail on the paint job. We knew that good enough wasn’t good enough, so we really tried to get it perfect. We got close.

It took us all the way up to dusk to get the whole job done. Sarah was so thrilled that it practically lifted us off the ground. To boost our spirits even more, Sarah us a delicious batch of Pralines, which was a wonderful surprise. Different people took pictures with Sarah in front of the house, including group shots of most of the teams.

We all looked at the house when it was completely painted and noticed something for the first time. Sarah’s was the only house in sight that no longer had the markings of the search and rescue teams from September 2005 spray-painted on its front. Everyone’s house has a series of symbols on it, telling who searched it, when, and -- in barely-decipherable and somewhat eerie numbers -- what they found. Sarah’s house was marked when we arrived, but our presence and our efforts helped her to turn that corner and to start a new era for her Bartholomew Street home. We hadn’t really noticed how important this change is (or how prominent those markings on the other houses are) until we were done.

Sarah is incredibly proud of her “new” house, especially of the colors that she chose. Some of us told her that our mothers or other supporters had praised her house and she went through and asked us one by one what our mothers had said about it. Different neighbors came from all over the area to tell us that they would miss us when we go. Most of them were people we had met over the course of the month, but others were brand new to us. Even though we hadn’t been introduced, they had been following our progress and they knew that we were “those California college kids” who were working in the Ninth.

We forgot to mention yesterday that when we were painting, a tour bus came by that was taking visitors through the disaster zone. They slowed down as they approached Sarah’s house (and us) and the whole group moved to the windows on our side and started taking pictures. We had long discussions about what we thought of those tours/tourists, with mixed emotions about what good they might be doing. Today we noticed several more such buses, so maybe they have been passing all month long without us really noticing.

At the end of the evening, we painted Sarah’frontporch mailbox in the colors of her house and Kate did a beautiful job of repainting the house number on it. She stood and held it and even had us take pictures of her with it. We’re very proud that Sarah’s house is now marked by people who love her and that all it tells passersby is her address.

Tonight we all went into the French Quarter together for a wonderful dinner at The Chartres House. We talked about going into town and just taking time for ourselves, but we all agreed that we wanted to stay together. Even when we finished dinner, we decided to move as one through the Quarter. We have an early morning tomorrow, as the Verrips brothers need to start their long drive home. Courtney has decided to join them to help them with the trip. Knowing all of this, we gave up on our night on the town, in favor of being back at our NOLA “home.”

Packing up will be a long process, but we are ready to head for home. We miss the people who are reading these pages and we are eager to get some serious sleep. We are leaving some ruined clothes behind, but we are bringing lifelong memories and lifelong friendships home in their place.

We invite you again to join us on Thursday, February 15th for our multimedia presentations on the Saint Mary’s College campus in the Soda Center at 7:00 p.m. We’ll write tomorrow about our trip home, then maybe one more time about our reflections on our experience. Thanks again for your interest and support.

Soraya finds herself in a tight spot as she finishes up painting. She spent most of the day on the roof committed to making it look like a professional had done it.

Emily and Justin spent much of their time on the roof adding the finishing touches to Sarah's house!

Elijah was the first visitor to the "Pee, Pee, Tee, Pee Salon" where he got his hair "did" by the fabulous Shawny Anderson.

As we commute from Algiers Point to the Ninth Ward we pass the Superdome, and we remember the history that took place at the dome and its significance to the city.

Chris and Emily take a quick break from lunch to smile for the camera.

Vince and Linzy paint below the colorful rainbow at Sarah’s beautiful home in the upper ninth ward.

Lisa and Lauren joined us for most of the afternoon. Don also came over to say goodbye and lend a hand.

Kelly, Vince, and Linzy prepare our assortment of lunchtime treats. Today we had barbequed chicken made by Sarah, MRE’s, macaroni, and homemade sweet potato pie.

Linzy and Feke meticulously paint the details on the garage. At the end of the day such careful attention to all the details of the house paid off.

Soraya paints on her back (Michelangelo style) while Megan, Juan, and Kate work on perfecting the front porch.

The final job we completed at Sarah's house was painting the mailbox. Here we see Kate painting the mailbox the same bright colors as the house!

At the end of the day, the Knucklebusters pause for a photo with Sarah Mercadell. It has been a pleasure, blessing, and honor to be able to work on her house during our trip.

At the end of the day the Transformers pose with Sarah and her neighbor from across the street, Red. We will miss both of them and wish them all the best with their rebuilding.

The group poses for one last shot in front of Sarah's house! After three weeks of hard work, it was a good feeling to celebrate the completion of Sarah's newly painted home.