Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Katrina exhaustion, Rita amnesia.

The joke in Louisiana is that Americans are suffering from Katrina exhaustion and Rita amnesia. I think there is a lot of truth in that humor. One of the last places I visited was Cameron, in southwest Louisiana. This little town is right on the Gulf and most of it was blown, swept or washed away by Rita.

The local school was destroyed. It’s been untouched since the storm. This was the first school that I surveyed and it was very sad, sitting silently in its wreckage. I wondered in this rural community where all these kids were now going to school. I’m sure they are dispersed all over the area. It’s hard to tell when this school will ever be rebuilt. Recovery here has been slow coming, but the residents are quick to point out what is being done has been accomplished with their own sweat equity.

The beach in Cameron echoed my experience in Waveland, Mississippi. The homes that were on the Gulf are simply gone. There is hardly even any wreckage. Just some concrete slabs, a few traffic signs and what’s left of the roads.

The school auditorium.

This school courtyard became a catch all for storm surge debris.

School courtyard.

There used to be a road here.

Beachfront living, all to himself.

Just in case you didn't think I was actually there. After all we live in a James Frey non-fiction world.

Monday, February 20, 2006

One house, one family, one story.

Our friends Pat and Michael’s house flooded in NOLA and they lost everything they owned. I stopped by to look at their house, which isn’t far from Lake Pontchartrain. They had about eight feet of water in their neighborhood, up to their roof eve. They only things they were able to save were some Christmas decorations that were in the attic and some crystal that amazingly wasn’t crushed.

From the outside of the house it doesn’t seem to be too damaged. But once you pass through the front door what you see inside is simply shocking - utter and complete destruction. It’s as if the house was shaken like a snow globe and then covered by a filthy murk and mold that is spreading like ivy all over the house. What’s hard to reconcile is the random nature of the destruction. Some things were tossed and shredded like the couch and frig and others remained quietly in their place like Pat’s glasses on the kitchen counter.

What’s left now is an eerie setting. You look around at all this violent destruction and yet there is a peaceful calm to it all. It’s quiet and still. What once was a happy home, full of a lifetime of possessions has become a tomb of sadness and loss. And this is repeated at the house next door, down the block, to the next neighborhood and the next town, across the state line into Mississippi. Thousands of families have had the same experience as Pat and Michael. They simply have lost everything.

I had dinner with them last night and while this has been an emotional rollercoaster and sometimes frustrating experience, I was amazed by their sense of optimism that they will recover and move on with their lives. How do they cope? Pat said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Notice the teddy bear on the hanging from the chandelier. He just rested there after the water subsided.

Pat's glasses on the kitchen counter.

The pool. I almost stepped right in it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

February 18, 2006

It’s Saturday night. I’m in the Hampton Inn off highway 10 in Baton Rouge and it’s the first time in over thirty days I’ve had free internet access in my hotel room. So to celebrate, I decided to just post some photos that have no relevance other than they are neat to look at. I’m too tired to be thoughtful, so indulge me. I hope you enjoy my random thoughts via these photographs.

Mother Mary comfort me.

Can't go to NOLA without taking a photo of a cemetery.

I love a challenge.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Did she or didn’t she?

This barge has become a celebrity in the lower ninth ward. A guard posted nearby, guesses anywhere from 100-300 people a day are stopping by to take a look at the barge that broke the levee. But did she break the levee or just roll into the ward after the levee burst? This is a question perhaps only Jerry Bruckheimer and his team could answer. In the meantime the curious stop and wonder about how such a large, heavy boat, could simply come to rest in a residential neighborhood. Even when you see it, it’s still hard to believe it’s real.

Levee repair in earnest. Hurricane season starts in a few months.

The other celebrity in the lower 9th is this house. Yes that’s a house on top of an upside down truck. There are others just like it in the neighborhood but for some reason this one has captured everyone’s attention. A rap star from NOLA filmed his latest rap video in front of the house. When I took this photo 10 people must have rolled by and snapped away.

The ninth ward near the levee break.

A less famous house on top of car.

The feedbag

The creepy addition to the neighborhood since I’ve been here last is a crew of black crows buzzing around looking for snacks. God only knows what they are eating. I admit I was so freaked out by them that I refused to get out of the car for a couple of shots and remained in the safety of my soccer mom van. I used a lot of baby wipes after this visit to the ward.

This is one of those arty shots that forces you think about how horrible the whole tragedy is and how nothing was spared. But actually I saw many stuffed toys that made it through the storm. I’m not sure why. What are the bears trying to tell us?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

French Quarter

Galatoie's open for business. This is good news.

Cafe Du Monde open for business.

Good news

Tulane Hospital started taking patients on Tuesday. To celebrate this momentous occasion they had an emotional ceremony on the now famous rooftop of the parking garage. It was from there that they evacuated 2800 patients, staff and visitors via helicopter. From infants on ventilators to the critically ill they didn’t loose one single patient. As you can imagine the staff that so heroically serviced their patients were filled with memories and sentiment as they stood on that roof deck once again. In dramatic fashion a medical helicopter flew in the flag that was draped over the hospital during those post-hurricane days and when it was re-hung, there was hardly a dry eye on the deck. This is a remarkable step in the long-term recovery of New Orleans and is a testament to the resolve of the men and women of Tulane hospital to once again open their doors to the patients of the city.

Hanging the flag.

In only six months they went from a gut job to state of the art emergency treatment rooms.

This is the before shot. They are still working on the rest of the first floor.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sunday February 12, 2006

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Plato

I spent today touring part of the Gulf coast in Waveland, Mississippi. The destruction here has simply wiped out this small coastal town. It’s hard to imagine that there were actual neighborhoods standing here. I’ve come to appreciate the statistic that damage from Katrina spans 90,000 square miles. Witnessing the suffering this storm has left in her wake seems to have become a journey with no end.

This is the grocery store in Waveland. The sign in front of it thanks all those who helped the citizens of Waveland recover from hurricane Camille that hit in 1969.

This building was on the boardwalk. Notice the couch is still in place.

Rule number one for evacuation, always drive the Rolls.

Mardi Gras parade, Slidell, LA.
Lake Pontchartrain borders Slidell and as a result the town suffered massive flooding. Just two blocks from this parade route are hundreds of houses ruined by the water. But the Mardi Gras parade rolled on and everyone seemed to be having a good time including the kids, grabbing beads and marching in the parade. As they say, “Laissez les bon temps roulez.” “Let the good times roll.”

This FEMA trailer is located in a Slidell neighborhood flooded by ten feet of water. When I stopped to take this photo I met the co-owner, Will. They are in the process of gutting and renovating their house. They decided their FEMA trailer needed a little Mardi Gras decorating. The chandelier is from a neighbor’s home. Will told me they are very grateful for their FEMA trailer. At least there is one satisfied customer.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

You can post comments now.

Thanks to Amy, I changed the settings on my page so now you can post a comment and you don't have to be a blogger. Sorry about that. I’m new to this whole thing and just trying to figure it out. Which is why I posted most of the items today in the wrong order. Maybe I’ll get the hang of this some day. It doesn’t help that the only internet connection I can get is at the Whole Foods and they are closing up for the night.

Plaquemines Parish.

Saint Ann’s Catholic Church was about 300 yards to the left before the storm. Look below the hanging part of the door and you’ll see a tree stub. That’s what remains of a giant magnolia tree that caught the church and stopped it in its tracks. The firemen just cut the tree down and are using it for firewood. I checked and found no ruby slippers.

Interior shot of St. Ann’s. The sun cooperated for this shot. I’m not certain but it looks like the water line is in the cove of the ceiling which would make it about ten feet.

This is a shot of the interior of the apartment.