A member of our discussion group sent us a copy of this letter from a colleague who had visited New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm.
I feel like I've seen one of the most amazing spectacles of my entire life. A friend, kind enough to drive both ways, allowing me to lay back and reclined for the trip, took me to see New Orleans.
I lived there for a few years, as did my folks.
My old house was untouched. A big old place that stood tall in the storm, where I rented upstairs as a grad student.
Then from my knowledge of the neighborhoods and culture of New Orleans from my many years of social work there, I took over the driving for a while and toured the city.
I have NEVER seen anything like it in my life. I had two cameras with me but didn't take a single photo. Somehow, photographing it seemed like photographing someone's funeral in church, not respectful.
The water line on some buildings at 10 and 12 feet. Whole neighborhoods for miles and miles ruined.
Ghetto level neighborhoods destroyed, and weirdly, oddly enough, in the middle of a terrible part of town, a city block filled with FEMA trailers being fitted out with sewage and electricity. (What if it floods again?)
I ate at a McDonalds which I had to go way out into Metairie to find. We were the only “Americans” in the place. Every nationality you ever could think of was there all on cell phones.
In New Orleans plant life was brown from the killing waters.
One kitty cat visible. ONE CAT in the city of New Orleans visible.
No birds, except a few pigeons ... and one Pelican.
NO CHILDREN “NONE!
Disabled cars, entire office buildings contents, trees, garbage, appliances ... stacked neatly like some psychotic garage sale was about to happen.
One City Police Car seen in two hours.
The Hummers with the Soldiers (4 per truck) patrolling (MPs.)
After 30 minutes eyes begin to burn horribly. Throat sore after an hour. Sinuses clogged this morning. Mold. Dust.
Not a single dog.
Not a person walking on the streets or sidewalks outside of the French Quarter and Metairie.
Only construction workers, clean up guys, “flag men” directing traffic around bull dozers, tractors, etc.
No people. Just the few “workers” “
Blue tarp roofs in a neighborhood is a GOOD sign ... they didn't bother to put tarps on the houses (hundreds and hundreds of houses, thousands) which were flooded and ruined.
The windows were busted out of many houses from within “the out flow of water I'm told blew them out.
Too many tens of thousands of broken, dead, or ruined things ... it became like a mosaic. You wanted to rub your eyes to make it seem real, and nothing could bring it into clear focus, and then you realized “everything is coated with a film of filth that is about as transparent as those plastic painter tarps. A film over everything making everything dull, non-glossy, faded ...
I found myself trying to see, straining to see better ... but I was seeing ... just what I saw was so tragic!
You may share this with anyone.
I know now the horror of those folks from New Orleans ... they need compassion, big time. The nightmare is beyond belief.
Many houses still unentered ... marked with an “X” and “NE” (not entered) “so there may be more bodies.
It was strange. Surreal. Painful. Heartbreaking.
It challenged me. What can we do to help the people of the storms? How can their lives be redeemed or salvaged?
Not many can go back to that horror and make it.