BY LYNELL GEORGE
“The memory was never not close at hand: For decades, when Leona Tate made her rounds through New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward—running errands, rushing to work, or ferrying her children—she’d catch sight of a familiar building, its salmon stucco facade now definitely worse for the wear. For all these years, while she’d kept her eye on the history that was hiding in plain sight, she also kept the swarm of jagged emotions mostly to herself. When that same structure at 5909 St. Claude Ave. was shuttered in 2004, Tate felt a tug—not sentimental, more a sense of urgency. Her nondescript former elementary school building—McDonogh No. 19 Public School—had fallen into deep disrepair. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it had sustained enough structural damage that the school board calculated it a loss. When word circled around about possible end-game scenarios, it stopped her cold: “They talked about demolishing it, and it was like, ‘No. That is not going to happen.’”
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