Lower Ninth Ward


Erin Dickman

People roam the streets of Downtown New Orleans, Louisiana enjoying the day before the afternoon storm.

Erin Dickman, Social Media Manager

Everything was calm in the outskirts of New Orleans. The weeds in between the cracked pavement were enjoying their day, standing tall, and the clouds lethargically lay out in front of the sun. Tiana enjoyed August due to the unpredictable weather- it was the only aspect of New Orleans that she ever enjoyed. She admired the relief the rain brought. In the summer, each day would build in heat and humidity: breathing would begin to feel like drowning; vision would begin to decive itself as the visible heat rose in waves from all viable surfaces. Then, when all hope seems to be lost and drowning is the only option, the gray cloud comes to save the day. Unfortunately, nature is the only entity that can send in the savior, and it alones decides when restoration is needed, but inside the home is the most threatening place of all where nature could not send its savior even if it wanted to. No one is ever there to save Tiana; no gray cloud ever comes to wash away the heat of her father’s fury.

The birds that once settled so gently on the dilapidated roof tops of the Lower Ninth Ward now fluttered around in a panic, as if they were fleeing from the city before they could catch the most contagious disease around here: poverty.  How badly Tiana longed to have the abilities of birds: to escape whenever she chooses; to not be confined by money or material items. Her family lacked both a television set and a car, but Tiana liked to believe that if they did own a car, she would jump in and never look back.

The heat boiled the air, and Tiana searched the sky for her gray cloud. It was arriving dutifully on time. Leading the crowd of clouds, as if pulling them by a string were four black crows, leaving only their bare skeleton of a nest behind.

“What da hell are ya doin’, Tiana? We don’t have ‘nough damn money to pay fo’ ya to get sick from the rain. Get ya ass in here befo’ Papa gets to it first,” Mama screeched down from the top of their few splintery stairs. She was an angry woman: perhaps due to stress of keeping her children fed or due to Papa.

Tiana obeyed because there was no other option. She watched her thin, chalky legs move one after another with a sort of amazement. It was a miracle her brittle, bruised legs could withstand each impact with the ground. In the daytime was the only time the purple handprints were visible against her dark skin which was another reason why Tiana preferred the clouds as they permitted her to forget the shadows of her parent’s anger. Ever since she was young, Tiana knew there was a better life to lead somewhere else, but she knew it existed somewhere her brittle legs may never reach.

The wind began to howl, teasing the idea of knocking the entire house down while the rain demanded to be let in. The storm was worse than the usual afternoon relief, and Tiana’s younger sister Jada was in the fetal position on the dirty floor, sobbing because she had acquired the unfortunate fear of storms. Papa considered her cries a nuisance, so he shut her up to capture the little sanity left in the home. Papa himself was always yelling at Tiana, Jada, or Mama; he was a man that could never be pleased.

The window where cobwebs draped and the carcasses of insects that could not escape rested displayed a dismal scene as the waterfalls outside formed pools a few inches deep. Shingles of the neighbor’s beaten house flew away from their roof taking the places of the birds in the sky who had long escaped the Lower Ninth Ward. It always amazed Tiana how the birds and the other animals had better instincts than the “developed and intelligent” human. How ignorant, how vulnerable humans are in their own natural habitat. After the pitch black night settled in, the duo of wind and rain refused to cease. Water rose by the inch every half hour, and Tiana was soon trapped by the weather she used to love. She understood the dangerous and fatal intent of the entity outside their home as the water crept slowly upward as it climbing closer and closer to capturing the only souls left in New Orleans. The salty water finally made its entrance into Tiana’s home. She looked around and realized the ones she began with are the ones she would end with. The family huddled together in the center of the living room carpet as their tears streamed down like the rain outside- they were bonding for the first and only time. The water continued to creep into the house, destroying everything it came in contact with; however, the family remained seated and determined, each member with a mission. Instead of trying to escape their doomed fate, Mama and Papa no longer had to worry; they no longer had to care about each other. The hurricane was their selfish relief: What was life but a sequence of almost drowning in the Louisianan humidity anyway?

All of her past, Tiana just wanted to escape, and now in her final breaths she realized her one wish was finally being answered. In her final breaths, she hated that she would be set free. In her final breaths, she only wanted to remain on the ground. But in her final breath, she was not able to argue with nature.