February 1, 2005

Snapshots from The Abandoned City:"Everybody is in need. Everybody has just been wiped out."

What has happened down here is the winds have changed,
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain.
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time.
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.

YESTERDAY a friend called about the news. "The mayor of New Orleans just ordered every person there to abandon the city. Not evacuate, but abandon. There's a difference here. It's like, 'Okay, nobody's gonna be living in this city for a real long time.' "

"This was not how it was supposed to happen, but this is how it did...."

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The river rose all day.
The river rose all night.

The hole in the levee allowing Lake Pontchartrain to dump into unflooded portions of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish had not been mended. The "bowl effect" was going to be achieved, with the city filling with water, maybe all the way to the brim created by the walls built to protect it.

Cohen sounded defeated by the implications. Toxic contamination, structural wasting by weeks of submersion, the horrific liquid funk that would harbor insects, disease, more death.
The possibility that the city itself would be uninhabitable, even once the breach was blocked and the water was drained and the destroyed trees and houses and corpses cleaned up and the looters at last in retreat, seemed utterly real and likely to Cohen, and, no doubt, many of his listeners.
In addition to all of the other horrors befalling New Orleanians during the flood was the creepy discovery that red ants form themselves into floating clusters to avoid drowning. As Dante Ramos and I paddled along Carrollton Avenue on Wednesday, I saw two glittering, golf ball-sized masses of ants floating beside our canoe.

Some people got lost in the flood....
"The rescuers in the boats that picked us up had to push the bodies back with sticks. And there was this little baby. She looked so perfect and so beautiful. I just wanted to scoop her up and breathe life back into her little lungs. She wasn't bloated or anything, just perfect." "I can still hear them banging on the ceiling for help. I heard them banging and banging, but the water kept rising."
At 91, Booker Harris ended his days propped on a lawn chair, covered by a yellow quilt and abandoned, dead, in front of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Mr. Harris died in the back of a Ryder panel truck Wednesday afternoon, as he and his 93-year-old wife, Allie, were evacuated from eastern New Orleans. The truck's driver deposited Mrs. Harris and her husband's body on the Convention Center Boulevard neutral ground.

And there it remained.

Some people got away alright.
With only a skeletal fleet of 25 rescue helicopters based in Louisiana and Alabama, three-man crews of the United States Coast Guard, including rescue swimmers, are flying nonstop and have rescued more than 1,250 victims in the flood-swollen region.
I put on my sun tan lotion and went out in the yard of the house where we're staying in Baton Rouge and I raked a massive pile of leaves and limbs from the yard and swept the driveway.

Doing yard work and hitting the jungle gym on the Day After. Pretending life goes on. Just trying to stay busy. Just trying not to think. Just trying not to fail, really.

Gotta keep moving.

The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines.
LOWER PLAQUEMINES PARISH -- Metal buildings twisted beyond recognition. Neighborhoods almost completely destroyed and submerged, the only clue that humans once lived there being the telephone lines that rise above the floodwaters.
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.
Houses and businesses that weren't shattered by the windwere submerged in several feet of water where the river flooded its banks. The only sign of life were a few stray cattle that clung to what little firm ground remains, and the rescue boats searching for anyone who might have been foolish enough to think they could withstand the storm.
Louisiana, Louisiana,
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

Empire. Buras. Triumph. Boothville. Venice. The farther south and east one flies above what used to be La. 23, the deeper the water gets and the more total the destruction. While homes sit underwater, fishing boats lie scattered about like flotsam, presumably deposited there by high winds and storm surge.
Louisiana, Louisiana,
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

Oil slicks dot the river and the floodplains that surround neighborhoods and orange groves while refinery drums sit half submerged. Trees that weren't felled by the wind now stand naked of their leaves, as if winter arrived in a sudden overnight burst.
President Coolidge came down in a railroad train,
President Bush got a close-up look Wednesday at Hurricane Katrina's path of devastation, as Air Force One dipped below the clouds down to 2,500 feet over New Orleans with a view of the Superdome and other flooded neighborhoods.
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand.
"There wasn't a lot of conversation going on," McClellan said. "I think it's very sobering to see from the air. And I think at some points, you're just kind of shaking your head in disbelief to see the destruction that has been done by the hurricane."
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame what the river has done
To this poor crackers land."

"Everybody is in need. Everybody has just been wiped out.''
"Will New Orleans ever be the same? You're talking about a major city that has been made uninhabitable and large parts of it have been destroyed. What do you compare it to? Dresden? Berlin? Those cities came back but it took a long time. It took years and that was with a lot of American aid."
She said parish officials have made pleas for help from the outside.

"It never came,'' she said. "We just never saw it.''

"Everybody is in need. Everybody has just been wiped out.''


Posted by Vanderleun at February 1, 2005 8:25 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

The headline on today's Times-Picayune, from which many of these snapshots come, is "Hitting Bottom."

I look forward to the day when New Orleans is back on it's feet and thriving and jiving -- and I'm here reading the lyrics to "New Orleans Wins the War."

Thanks Gerard.

Posted by: Steve Barton at September 1, 2005 11:05 AM

Thank you Gerard.

Posted by: Jim Gilbert at September 1, 2005 11:33 AM

"Thank you" seems so inadequate. Makes me ashamed of the many times I've griped about nor'easters. Will head down to the local ARC chapter house tomorrow to donate blood as well as cash. God bless you.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee at September 1, 2005 5:30 PM