This photo essay tells a story about the firefighters of New Orleans and its surrounding communities. Firefighters give more than they receive and they are happy to do it. Those that live in southern Louisiana gave more than they wanted and had the rest taken from them by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent exodus and fallout. Still these civil servants are there working, giving and striving to rebuild while still protecting what they have.
This project is about the people of the fire service, not the destruction or the sadness, but the resilience and the love for the life they lead. There is a brotherhood that is inherent in the fire service. These men live together 24 hours at a time every 3 days. The people they work with become their family and their community becomes their extended family. When a fire company loses a building they are trying to save or are unable to save a life they take it very hard. A bad day at work for firefighter doesn’t go away once they get home, it can stick with them for life. When a fire department loses its community they have to be overwhelmed. How can they protect the their people and their homes when there are no facilities, equipment or able bodies to make that protection possible? This community found a way.
The firefighters of Southern Louisiana made do with what they had. They saved the lives they could and honored those they could not. They salvaged the homes and buildings that were salvageable and rebuilt the rest. Some stations are still working out of temporary trailer homes. Brand new equipment sits outside while it waits for the new facilities to be built. Destroyed and abandoned stations still exist and wait to be torn down while the priority lies in building new ones. These ghostly reminders can be seen everywhere in the form of homes, commercial buildings, and fire stations.
While the landscape has changed the people have not. These firefighters are happy to be where they are. They are more than happy to take in a stranger and show him their community, feed him and joke around all day until they are called to duty, then it’s all business until the job is done, and then it’s back to life as usual. A kinder, braver, more generous group of people could not be found anywhere on this planet. They have faced the unimaginable and they came out of it just fine.
It’s sad to see New Orleans in the state of disrepair it is in. It’s encouraging to see New Orleans in the state of repair that it is in. The people of this city are like no other culture. They are proud and humble, funny and sad, they will not forget who they are and they will not leave the place that makes them who they are. These people are strong and determined and they will bring their city back to its former glory. The firefighters of this city are no different.
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