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Katrina Update: Bush's Friend in the Upper Ninth

/ David Greene, NPR
Ethel Williams stands in front of her house on Pauline Street. Despite two visits by President Bush, her property risks being condemned.

Ethel Williams lost her home on Pauline Street in the New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, President Bush visited Williams and promised that the federal government would help her rebuild.

We spoke with Williams last year, when she was angry at the federal government — but not at President Bush. She called the president a friend, saying she was convinced he would keep his word.


But Williams still has not had her house rebuilt. Her house, gutted and empty, is in danger of being condemned by the city. She now lives at her daughter's home across the river.

Like thousands of New Orleans residents, Williams is waiting for rebuilding money from Louisiana's Road Home program. She said her next step is to see if volunteers from Catholic Charities can do enough work on her house that it gets by city inspections.

Ten months ago, President Bush stood on Williams' yard, promising help from the federal government. When he came back again in August, he invited Williams and her daughter, Wanda, to sit with him at a church service. Wanda says plenty of people in town don't like the president. She remembers what many of her friends were telling her when she sat with Mr. Bush.

"They wanted me to beat him up," Wanda says.

But her mother isn't angry at the president — despite her woes, and the president's omission of the Gulf Coast from his State of the Union speech last month.


"Nope, I'm not angry with him at all," she says. Asked why not, her answer is simple: "Well, one reason why I'm not angry is because I didn't look him up. He found me. This wasn't something I asked for, and [am] not getting."

The president is scheduled to return to New Orleans next week, his first visit to the city in six months. The White House said it couldn't release details yet, and Williams said nobody from Washington has contacted her.

She says she's not looking for any more attention — but if the president wants to make another visit, she's not about to say no.

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