The significance of the day and the place is not lost on me. It's a many-sided thing.
The neighborhood, as I've shown, is being eliminated to make way for a Veterans Affairs Hospital. As I've said, I don't believe anyone out there is opposed to bringing veteran care back online in New Orleans. We just question why it had to be reconstituted in the midst of a historic neighborhood while the former VA Hospital site sits largely vacant in the Central Business District.
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Among the victims of the site was Wally Thurman, a veteran, ironically enough, who was driven out of his home on S. Tonti Street - a home he had lived in for his entire life of over eighty years - after he returned post-Katrina. He now lives in Metaire.
His family home lost its defining front porch early this morning:
November 11, 2010
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But it's more complicated than that. Because I know a number of those working for the contractors in site preparation roles are veterans as well.
And yesterday, down in the LSU Footprint, I saw Mr. Humble, a veteran who lives down on S. Roman, standing on a street corner watching as homes were dismantled less than a block away. The story isn't over for his house. And neither, in a way, is Wally's - what's left of it will be moved to a new location and rehabilitated into a house for someone.
So, thanks to all those veterans whose lives have been impacted - and whose stories weave into the chaotic, imperfect, and trying VA Hospital project.