Monday, August 29, 2016

Here lies Vera

One of the most iconic photos of the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina is a photo taken of a makeshift grave in the Lower Garden District, of a woman named Vera, who died of mysterious circumstances in the storm. She had stayed behind in her home rather than evacuate, and when she went out to a local store for cigarettes and beer, she never returned.

It's thought she was killed by a hit and run driver, though later autopsy reports did not confirm that. In any case, during the chaos of the storm, Vera's body lay unattended just off the sidewalk in a vacant lot at the corner of Magazine Street and Jackson Avenue, until neighbors made her a makeshift tomb. Surrounded by bricks from a damaged building, and covered with a spray-painted tarp, it read: "Here lies Vera. God help us."

From all reports, she was a lady about my age; she liked dogs, and she liked to party; she enjoyed wearing wigs of different colors and she was known and loved by her neighbors.

Vera's body was eventually cremated and she was laid to rest with her family in Texas. But her memorial remained on the corner of Magazine and Jackson. When a new building housing a restaurant was built on the site, the memorial was updated, and it still remains. I stumbled upon it yesterday, August 28. I didn't really connect that this weekend was the 11th anniversary of the storm, but seeing this memorial called it home for me.

There are always reminders in this city.

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