Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One Year Holding On

Today is silence for me. Breathe in, breathe out. Respect for all that we've endured, thankfulness for all the help we received. Jaw set tight. It's still too enormous for me to get my head around, so I won't try. Words are often useless for me, and today, more so.

So instead, a simple photograph of my mom's Eden, one year on. She's sitting on the front porch of what will be her new home soon. It's risen on the foundation of the home Katrina destroyed, only steps away from her FEMA trailer, and every day she looks out the trailer window a thousand times at it, and her gold smile lights up, and she whispers "Thank you, Jesus."

It's been built by the sweat and love of volunteers from all over the country. From all walks of life they've come into the Gulf to help their brothers and sisters. Normal, average Americans, disgusted by their government's inaction, they've picked up hammers and done it themselves.

One day there's a moldering heap of rubble, the next day hippie volunteers from Burning Man bulldoze it and take it away. One day it's a flat slab of concrete, the next day a pre-fab home kit is delivered by One House At A Time and New Hope Construction. One day there's a jumble of materials, the next day a church group from Oregon shows up and builds the frame and shell. A little later a group from Pennsylvania shows up and paints it my mom's favorite shade of green, and puts a tin roof on so she can hear the rain fall at night. And not to be outdone, a group from Alabama comes over and sheet rocks the interior, then comes back and builds her a deck for good measure.

Like I said, too enormous for me to get my head around. So today I want to just sit and rest, and enjoy the look of pride and place in my mom's eyes.

We may have far to go, but we've come a long way.


Lucanos said...

I know that, from here in Sydney, Australia, I have only experienced the true side - not the media-twisted side, but the true, human side - of Katrina through your efforts documenting it and sharing it through this site.

Even from this distance, the experiences that your family, their neighbours and friends, and so many people down in New Orleans and the surrounding areas is overwhelming.

I am still disappointed that so many people calling out, with fair reason, for help was ignored by those who supposedly have the power to do something for so long. But I think that the fact that good people, as you said, from all walks of life, have realised that they have the real power, and they have been using that power through their hearts (helping your Mum and brother out with temporary accomodation), their wallets (through donations) and their hands (through working on these construction gangs).

As much as the initial response to this disaster was disheartening and disappointing, the fact that there are still good people out there who want to help others, kind of gives me hope for the future.

My best wishes to you, your family, and everyone affected by Katrina. You've come a long way in the last 12 months, and I am sure that the worst is well and truly behind you now.

Anonymous said...

So glad you're back! Your blog is on my website since the beginning.Big respect for what you've done and still doing!

Anonymous said...

I go to school in Oregon. I know there were a bunch of efforts out here to get some groups of people down there to clean out houses so people can rebuild. Do you know what church it was that helped her out? I probably know them too. All these people jumping at the chance to help these people out makes me really proud.

Anonymous said...


Your words and pictures make me want to thank all those volunteers myself. I can thank you for sharing this part of you.

Best wishes to you and your family,

Anonymous said...

CJC, we used to live in Slidell. We received 7 cents on th e dollar for our $100K house, sorry insurance co. We never got our FEMA trailer. Yes, $7,000 and NO help whatsoever from the bureacracy in Wash. D.C. We can't go back. I am going to miss our Crescent C. Keep up the good work, I wish I could be there rebuilding it with you and your family and all mine and friends. Thomasanne Williams thomwilliams2003@yahoo

Anonymous said...

I feel humbled by your words and photograph. They're so generous and gorgeous and bittersweet.

Best to you and your mom. And much respect, and love.

Steve said...

Your words (and the fact that you have let us all know you are alive and well) have brought tears to my eyes this morning. I love it that your Mom wont let a natural disaster or an inept and impotent government keep her from the town she obviously loves.Know that your family are always in my prayers, and always in my rosary.

Nobody Special said...

Just wanted to share a link with everyone. It requores Flash and the latest browsers, but its a video dive thru with a 360degree video camera mounted to the roof, so you can pan aropund as it drives through thr rubble.


I think anyone who wants to see the real deal, needs to give it a go if their pc can handle it. It's a look at things one year later and what people are still struggling with.

Anonymous said...

Clayton, I am so, so glad you are back. I've missed your voice so. I have wondered how you and yours were doing. I heard a few months back that a home was being built for your Mom and hoped that it was true. Reading this and seeing your Mom again, sitting on the front porch, made me cry. I wish you peace and continued strength.
Sister of Leslie, writer of KatrinaNetworking blog.

tommy debaser said...

Dont think i will ever experiance what the ppl of new orleans or the gulf went through an to be honest i hope i never have to.Your blog has been so hard to read but i made sure i read every word.Im not the type to cry but at times in this blog i could hardly stop.I know its not over but i did have a smile to see your mum is getting set up again.Im so many miles away in Scotland but it hasen't stop me caring.be cool an be safe man.....you an your family.

Wendy said...

Hi Clayton,
The house for your mom is wonderful. It is one of the few bright bits of light I noticed in Pearlington on my third visit to volunteer.

It is the volunteer spirit and the undying trust of your people that are getting it done. To quote a friend "we are going to show the world the town that cooperation and unconditional love has built".

Please know that even though Katrina has slipped from the frontpages and the minds of many, we know where you used to live - and we'll get you there again one day soon.

Attached is a link to my website. I have hundreds of pictures available to view, including some aerial from just after the storm, and videos from my visits.

God Bless you and yours,


clayton cubitt said...

your mother's strenght shows in each and every picture you take. she is a beautiful woman & you're a wonderful son to be so caring & compassionate.
posted by cpoetic on 9/2/2006 10:10:33 PM
What a wonderful photograph, Siege. You continue to honor your mother's courage through your images and your photographs.
posted by tallkey on 8/31/2006 9:48:37 PM
I know nothing of your mother, except what you portray in your photos and text on this site.

Long before you displayed photos of your mother, you described her in terms of her demographics and economic situation. But your photos show a woman with class and stoicism before anything else.

Your talent is relentless.
posted by teddy_brown on 8/31/2006 11:37:46 AM
fuck yeah, man. . . .

posted by drsoma765a on 8/30/2006 3:46:35 AM
your mother looks a d o r a b l e in this picture and even though i've only seen katrina through pictures, i know it's nothing like seeing it with bare eyes. thanks for sharing.
posted by starlips on 8/30/2006 2:56:07 AM
This brings tears to my eyes. Mostly because it's good to see your mom in a stronger place, but also because I can feel how hard it's been for her and the other countless survivors of katrina and of our government. Just through this photo.

It's so good to see/hear of how people can be good to each other when what we're used to seeing is how ugly people are to each other.

if there is anything I can do, please let me know.
posted by bklyncalico on 8/29/2006 11:10:00 PM

Anonymous said...

Clayton, I can truly understand what you and your family are going through. Your mother and I worked together before Katrina. I still talk to her on occasion to see how the new home is coming along. It's hard for me to get down to the coast, but I am hoping the weekend of Veterans Day will work out. The only memories that I have are the ones in my heart and a picture that I have had since before Katrina, of her, you, and Dalton, which stays on the side of my refrigerator, so each morning I walk in the kitchen, I see her smiling face. I have been following your blog since day 1. My prayers are with you and your family. God Bless you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,
Hy name is Kirk Hutchinson and myself a college roommate of mine-Larry Chalmers, a friend-Racheal, my two sons, Kinton and Koby, and Kinton's college roommate-Brian Fowler, headed to Pearington, Mississippi to help with disaster releif. While roofing a house on the 7th of July we were asked if we wanted to build a house from the ground up for, Glen, One House at a time, and claytons mom. There was no money for foundation Blocks and so between us and a church in Portland, Oregon we got the blocks. On Monday we set the blocks and started the joists for the floor. Tuesday morning we continued on the setting of the joists and then started the deck. Tuesday at 5:30 we put up the first of the 15 walls that make up the exterior of the house, at 6;30 we had two more up and quit for the day. (if you are from Oregon it is deathly hot and humid in Pearington Mississippi) The next morning we put up the remaining walls, except for number 15 so that we could move in the 14 interior walls. Then we put up the last wall. Time for the start of the rafters and the sheething. Thursday morning we started on the roof and interir work on electricity. A group from Washington put in the windows, tyvek, and a front porch, with assistance from Glen, whom helped all of us. Friday we finished the roof and worked more on the electricity. Two of our group left on Friday night, Saturday we did electricity, insulation, and Put the sidind on the front of the house. I have all of this in 35mm photos to send to Clayton and his Mom. I wish we could have finished it and it pains me that it is not done yet. We will go back if we must to finish the job, and we are taking a new team back durring Christmas to build a house for Miss Jackie one of the people that fed us lunch each day. May the work continue.

Anonymous said...

Although I live thousands of miles away in Europe (Spain) I truly feel sorry for all that the people of New Orleans suffered after Katrina. Your photos are absolutely lovely and bring into stark reality the situation that occured there.

All my best to you and your family for the future. I hope your mum loves her new home.

Anonymous said...

i wish i had been old enough to come down and help.

Bailey McCann said...


You struck me dumb today. I'm not sure why, today of all days, I should pull you out of the constant stream of tumblr/twitter/etc and soak up everything I can find.

You are absolutely beautiful. That's all I can muster at the moment.