Gary B. Speck


New Orleans – “The Big Easy” – home of Jazz, Cajun food, Mardi Gras, The French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and the end destination for thousands of Mississippi River barges and boats.  This name represents a city that until August 28, 2005 was a vibrant city of over ONE MILLION residents.  For a few years, it was the world’s largest ghost town – and now is on the slow road to recovery.


It is inconceivable and unthinkable in this day and age that a great American city can go from a flourishing city filled with life, promise and over one million citizens - to a ghost town, literally overnight.  We now know it can happen.  My thoughts and prayers continue to be with all the residents of the Gulf Ghost whose lives were shattered during the weekend of August 27-29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore and flooded some 80% of the city, and much of the outlying area.  In addition the slow response of government aid, the crashing economy and unscrupulous “contractors” and others “helping” have made the recovery effort more difficult.


As you can see by now, this vignette is not my typical presentation.  I have never before featured a Great American City in and for itself.  Right after the exodus from the drowned city, reality set in.  New Orleans became a Class E ghost town.  However, things are looking better and rebuilding has continued and a lot of the population has moved back. In my former life as a building inspector, I know through experience that there is more to bringing The Big Easy back to life than pumping out the water and slapping new drywall up.  New Orleans sits below sea level, the buildings are old, and probably filled with asbestos and lead-based paint.  All the structural parts of the surviving buildings have been soaking in an increasingly septic stew that stirred itself together from all kinds of nasty sources, a stew of pollutants that has infused itself into the very wood, concrete and bricks of the old city.  Even after everything is “dried out” we will be looking at a massive “superfund” style cleanup.  Plus with the weather being so humid there, the very real possibility of mold infestation is there.


Only time will tell what can be done.  I just hope and pray that New Orleans will come back, better than ever.  Whether the entire city will have to be relocated, or if it can be rehabilitated where it stands, that future is in the hands of folks who will truly have their work cut out for themselves.


At this point, we Americans should all open our hearts and lives and wallets to the victims of this national tragedy.  Instead of finger-pointing to who’s at fault, and for what, let’s all pull together and show the world what the American Spirit is made of, and help all these displaced folks, many of whom have lost everything.  Let’s publicly thank all the other nations of the world that have offered and supplied aid.  Let’s take that aid gracefully with true thanksgiving in our hearts.  Remember the old adage of “what goes around comes around.” Well folks, it’s coming around back to us.  All the giving we’ve done over the years is now being repaid.  We are a global village, and our brothers and sisters are reaching out to us.  Let’s accept all help with open arms. 


To all the nations and peoples that have aided and are still helping out in the relief effort – This American is very appreciative.  I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.


UPDATE:  On October 5, 2006 population figures were released showing that the population of New Orleans Parish is 187,525, nearly 60% less than the 454,000 that lived there prior to August 29, 2005 when Katrina slammed the area.  As you can see, New Orleans still has a long way to go for any kind of a full recovery.


UPDATE #2:  On Christmas morning, 2007, the newspaper mentioned that the population of New Orleans had reached 300,000, still shy of the 454,000 that lived here before Hurricane Katrina slammed the city 2½ years ago.  With this news, I have removed New Orleans from all Ghost Town USA lists (except for this page).


UPDATE #3:  On Jan 07, 2010, I checked the US Census Bureau population estimates, and the most recent one I could find was for 2008, showing 311,853 people in New Orleans.  It is still growing, so that is a good sign.


RECENT UPDATE #4:  The US Census Bureau posted the 2010 census figures for New Orleans as: 343,829.  Of the 189,896 housing units available, 47,738 were vacant, a vacancy rate of 14%.  Still a bit high, but not out of line with other cities of similar size.


New Orleans was our Ghost Town of the Month for September 2005.  It is remaining here as a sober reminder of how fragile even our big cities can be to natural disasters.



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FIRST POSTED:  September 09, 2005

LAST UPDATED: August 07, 2011




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