Standing in the front yard of Aniece Gibbs’ home in New Orleans’ Hollygrove neighborhood while the Seattle-based Ron and Don Show broadcast a live radio segment from her porch ranks as one of the most
unique experiences in my life.
I was listening to traffic updates for Washington highway I-405 and ads for Seattle based companies. Show hosts Ron Upshaw and Don O’Neill were talking about what the Seahawks needed to do to continue to be a force in the National Football Conference, a blasphemous topic in the city of Saints. In fact, Mrs. Gibbs was given a Seahawks jersey to wear with her name on it for the entire broadcast.
However, in the partnership between the generous and caring folks of
Seattle, instigated by Seattle resident Pam Eakes, and PRC’s Rebuilding Together New Orleans, football allegiances and hometowns were put aside as we all came together to celebrate Mrs. Gibbs’ homecoming.
I remember talking with Mrs. Gibbs the day after she moved home. For
me, it was amazing to see the bright exterior and the interior beautifully furnished with brand new appliances, a dining room table and a gorgeous
bed. I had been in the same spot four months ago, when all I saw was the bare framing and a hole from a damaged wall that looked out onto the street. “You know, I’ve never had much money, but I loved to show off my house to people,” Mrs. Gibbs said. “Thanks to those who helped me, the volunteers that passed through and Seattle, I can show everyone this beautiful house again.” She continued to give me a tour of her home while telling her story and dispensing advice. “I lost everything after the storm. All my material possessions, my mother, four sons, my brother, and then my husband. But luckily I wasn’t going through it alone. The good Lord helped me through and it’s me and Him for the next few years.” Her life after the storm has been filled with tragedies and setbacks, but her unwavering optimism and strength made KIRO 710 and the Seattle Seahawks want to help her in any way possible.
The live KIRO 710 radio broadcast of the Ron and Don Show, which beamed to half a million people in the Seattle area on April 11, was the fulï¬llment of a promise made when work started on Mrs. Gibbs’ house in November, 2007. Ron and Don promised to broadcast from her home once it was renovated by Rebuilding Together, and Mrs. Gibbs offered to cook gumbo and red beans for the celebration.
Throughout the Ron and Don Show Seattle celebrities relayed messages to Mrs. Gibbs and Rebuilding Together New Orleans. Seattle Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke talked on air with Mrs. Gibbs and commended the Seahawk faithful for supporting such a deserving homeowner thousands of miles away. Seahawk players Marcus Trufant and Nate Burleson also called in to thank the residents of Seattle and talked about the significance of cities helping cities. Actor Harry Shearer, known for his voice work on The Simpsons and as a New Orleans spokesperson, also gave a commentary about the city and talked about the importance of non-profit organizations like PRC’s Rebuilding Together New Orleans. Mrs. Gibbs gratefully thanked each one of them and hoped that God would bless those who helped her.
As the show ended around dusk with the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate KIRO 710’s and the Seattle Seahawks’ efforts, I looked around
at those who had been a part of the process since its inception. Eva Alito, the Rebuilding Together construction manager who supervised the renovation of Mrs. Gibbs’ house and gave weekly updates on the Seattle radio show, stood smiling at her handiwork, most likely remembering all the trials and tribulations of the process. Nearby, Gabe Fiorini, an AmeriCorps member who was the house captain at Mrs. Gibbs’ Fig Street home, sat taking it all in, knowing the impact that he and his volunteer team had on her life. Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Rebuilding Together’s executive director, Ron, Don and Mrs. Gibbs shared an emotional and proud moment as the commemorative plaque was unveiled, showing tangible proof of what a larger human community not confined by geographical boundaries can do.
The show ended, hugs were exchanged, and Mrs. Gibbs generously gave away pieces of her birthday cake. (She turned 89 the day before). Then she headed into her rebuilt house to sleep surrounded by familiar walls.
Thanks to Ron Upshaw and Don O’Neill and all the listeners of 710 KIRO, the fans and leadership of the Seattle Seahawks, the Preservation Resource Center staff and Rebuilding Together New Orleans volunteers and staff, Mrs. Gibbs is home again.