Monday, 3 November 2008

Damage, Death, Sadness and Quiet in New Orleans, Louisiana

In November of 2005 I took a horrifying walk through the devastated city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had hit. One of the first things that I noticed was that there were not as many people around when I last visited. The city used to be lively and full of happy people, but this time the few people I saw were just focused on getting through another difficult day. The streets lay quiet and full of the depreciation of businesses that once were bustling with customers. As I walked along, I saw that the water damage was definitely eminent in certain areas. There were water lines on the structures of buildings and on the exposed walls of residential housing. The air even smelt of mildew. Walking further, I became aware of all the garbage piled on corners and on the front lawns of houses. People were outside trying to pick through it all to see if anything of value had been thrown away.

I went down a street that I visited years ago that had gorgeous houses and a picturesque view of the ocean from their backyards. Kids used to play in the streets laughing and parents used to sit on the front porches chatting with neighbors. This time when I walked down the street I instead saw just the structures of these houses, furniture thrown on the front lawns, and FEMA trailers on some properties. The beautiful view of the ocean was overshadowed by the horrifying destruction that hit this street. On the walls or on the front doors of the houses there were spray painted numbers indicating the deaths of the people who lived there. One house read “3 dead and 1 dog”, which meant three people and one dog were found dead. It was hard to keep my composure and I began to hate the view of the ocean that lay before me. It was a constant reminder of why things were the way they were in New Orleans.

One of the last places I visited had to be in the car, so I went for a drive. The highway that leads right into the city was one of the ways that the water from the levees spread so fast. As I drove along I saw the water damage on the dividers and on the trees that surrounded the highway. When the first levy had given way for the water to invade the city of New Orleans, there were some cars on the road with people in them. I tried to imagine what these people were thinking of when they saw millions of gallons of water approaching them, but I did not want to picture it. It was unimaginable.

This city was full of sorrow and of destruction. Even in November of 2005, not much had been done to help the people of New Orleans. The area that once was full of happiness, music, culture, and life was now full of damage, death, sadness, and quiet. Hurricane Katrina had taken its power to the fullest extent on this city and it would be a long time before it would ever be the same.

By Victoria Ebbinghousen of SPC


Rachel Wifall said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Victoria, with all its vivid imagery. Did you know that Casey Groves is from New Orleans and he's written a play called Excavating Katrina. We did a dramatic reading of the play this past summer.

Jonathan Taylor said...

Hi Victoria - gosh, what a horrific experience. The idea of painting on the doors the dead is truly disturbing.

Debbie Ebby said...

Hello Victoria: Reading this posting made me feel like it was yesterday that we did that trip. You truly have a gift for writing. Love Mom