Memorializing Katrina X marks: why some people saved their home's 'Katrina tattoos'

Memorializing Katrina X marks: why some people saved their home’s ‘Katrina tattoos’

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Memorializing Katrina X marks: why some people saved their home's 'Katrina tattoos'

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"It’s just a fact, something that happened in our lives," said Carol Shoemaker when asked why she memorialized in ironwork the X mark spray-painted on her Chalmette home in the harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina.

"I’m not denying it, but I also don’t dwell on it," she said. "It’s behind a hedge. It’s not like a tattoo that I see everyday, but it’s part of the history of house."

To mark Katrina’s ninth anniversary, NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune asked readers to tell us if they saved their home’s "Katrina tattoos" — the spray-painted X marks left by first responders and the military — and if so, why? There was a common thread through most of the responses: The X serves as a permanent reminder of the moment when homes — and lives — changed forever.

For Shoemaker, the storm hit at a time of big transition. Just a month before Katrina, she had sold her Warehouse District condo and moved to Chalmette to be with her fiance, Dr. Jim Shoemaker, a chiropractor practicing in St. Bernard Parish since 1985. The couple had planned to elope the week of the hurricane, but then Katrina shut down the airport.

In the storm’s aftermath, 15 feet of water flowed into their home. The chiropractic clinic didn’t fare much better.

Months later, the Shoemakers finally were able to have a wedding (in Disney World), but "we were getting married with nothing, like two 18-year-olds," said Shoemaker, who was 44 at the time she walked down the aisle.

As they began to rebuild their lives, the couple launched a friendly competition to see who could remodel the fastest. She would tackle the renovation of the house, while he put the clinic back together. "I think I beat him by a couple of weeks," Shoemaker said.

In summer 2007, she began looking for an artist to render the home’s Katrina X in ironwork. "My husband is the team chiropractor of the Big Easy Roller Girls," she said, […]