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In New Orleans: From Raising Hell to Raising Kids

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A decade after Hurricane Katrina, Terri Coleman is teaching a summer class to incoming students at Dillard University—a historically black college in New Orleans. But 10 years ago, when she was about the same age as her students, she was not the kind of kid to get a jump on freshman year with a summer class. “I did a lot of drinking. I did a lot of drugs. I did a lot of watching reruns of Family Guy all day long while super stoned,” Terri says. 

When the storm hit, Terri was staying with her parents in New Orleans’ Gentility neighborhood. She still remembers the sound. "I woke up to...these crashing sounds like someone throwing dinner plates," she recalls. And then, the water came, "Like a light brown soup covering everything." In the aftermath of the storm, the landscape of New Orleans complimented Terri’s lackadaisical lifestyle. "The storm allow[ed] my kind of weird adolescent destruction to be socially structured and socially acceptable in some way," she tells me. 

Now married with three children and a graduate degree, Terri recently returned to her old neighborhood after spending a few years in Illinois. She tells me about her mixed emotions regarding what’s been lost in the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans. “Clearly I'm here for white hipster game," she laughs. "But as a class of people, I think they're really dangerous to the city."


Terri and her three children, Lollimae, Booker and Harland, walking between her parents' house and her newly purchased home across the street. (Rush Jagoe)


Terri with her family outside of their home in the Gentilly neighborhood. (Rush Jagoe)


Terri and her kids having breakfast at her parents' house, where they live for now. (Rush Jagoe)


"I'm really happy with my life. And I don't know that my life would be what it is if the world hadn't been erased. Like, if I didn't have this kind of clean slate, especially with the way I was right around the storm." - Terri Coleman (Rush Jagoe)


Terri Coleman's honors writing class at Dillard University.  (Katie Bishop)

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