Thankful for New Orleans – Day 16

Remnants of the X-code on a renovated home in the Bywater

Day 16 – Katrina X-codes

This probably sounds strange, but I am thankful for the X-codes that remain on some of the homes in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, rescue teams searched neighborhoods that had been damaged by the storm for those who might have stayed behind. An X was painted on the front of each house that was searched, and each quadrant of the X provided specific information. The top quadrant showed the date of the search, the left quadrant designated the name of the rescue organization, the right quadrant told whether or not the home was entered or if any hazards were present, and the bottom quadrant indicated the number of people, living or deceased, found in the home.

Iron replica of the X-code

So why would I be thankful for these somber markings? I think it is because they capture a moment that forever changed the city, and as a result, provide a little piece of it for all to see. You can not walk the neighborhoods of New Orleans, especially the Lower Ninth Ward and the Bywater, without encountering at least a few of these markings. If you were here during the storm, it takes you back to a time of fear and uncertainty, and if you were not, I assume it makes you think about what that time must have been like. Sobering, yes, but they also represent perseverance, and for that I am truly thankful. Neighborhoods that were devastated refused to be defeated, and they rebuilt. While many owners removed all traces of the X-code, others chose to embrace them. I think of them as a badge of honor…a symbol of the tenacity of those that made it through and came out stronger.

Faubourg St. John home with a heart masking the X

Neighboring home with a heart-covered X

Prominent X-code on this small Bywater home

If you are looking for X-codes, you may be surprised by what you find. Some houses obviously have undergone a complete renovation but chose either to paint around that particular area, leaving the X-code untouched, or repaint it where it was originally placed. Some chose to paint over the X, but have had it recreated in metal and mounted on the house where the code once resided. Others have painted over most of the X with cheerful designs that, to me, show happiness where there was once despair. And, of course, there are  those houses that have not been repainted at all…some which are inhabited and others that will eventually be taken over by Mother Nature. I love searching for these tattoos from the past, and I am thankful that they so uniquely depict the resilient people of New Orleans. 


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