NEW ORLEANS, La. (WWL-TV) – Four months after a powerful tornado ripped through parts of New Orleans East, blue tarps dot the landscape, some houses are down to their slabs and Entergy continues to replace power lines knocked down by the twister.
We also found many neighbors like Carlos Hite on Schidler Drive, back in their homes after months of rebuilding.
“The roof, the gutters, the overhang, the porch, my curbing, the front door, the side door and the patio are new,” Hite said.
Hite lives a few doors down from the Suburban Baptist Church on Chef Highway.The tornado knocked down the church’s main sanctuary building. But, Pastor Jeffery Friend remains optimistic about the future of his church and his tornado-damaged community.
“New Orleans is so resilient,” Friend said. “Where other folks would say I’m not coming back. It’s all just a question here of when and how. It’s never been a question of if.”
Pastor Friend said he’s blown away by the help his church continues to receive. Sunday, more than 100 young people from the Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama held a block party and concert in his parking lot.
“Obviously, it been several months since the tornado,” Hunter St. Baptist Music Minister Dan Odle said. “When we rolled up and first met Pastor Friend and saw the need here, we were overwhelmed by the devastation and the incredible job ahead of them.”
The kids will be at Suburban Baptist all week, gutting, hanging drywall and getting the remaining buildings on campus ready for worship services.
“We’re hoping to just get in here and do the dirty work to do the things that are hard, that are difficult and that take a lot of resources, a lot of people,” said 18-year-old volunteer Katherine Parslow. “We have a lot of hands that are ready to get to work.”
“We really felt like we could make a difference here,” Odle said. “They had a need and we had kids who want to serve. We’re excited to be able to spend the week serving this church and help get them back on this property.”
Pastor Friend said the tornado experience reaffirmed in him, the light shines brightest in the darkest of times.
“Even though my sanctuary is now a slab, we are not down,” Friend said. “The light hasn’t even diminished.”
For now, Suburban Baptist is holding services at the Baptist Seminary in Gentilly Woods. Pastor Friend hopes to begin holding services in one of his remaining buildings later this year.