The following words and pictures were written and taken during my trip to the New Orleans area to clean up after Hurricane Katrina. It has been over a year since the storm hit and the area faces at least another four years before it is completely restored (thanks to the work of various organizations, this is down from the fifteen year estimate originally given).
11/18/2006 - It's a little after one in the morning, central time, and I'm in New Orleans. We're camping in an old elementary school. Driving through, signs of storm damage are obvious. On approach to the school, the Hoovervilles of trailors are set up and fenced off. Houses sit in ruin, and several have trailosrs set up in the front yard. The school itself is fenced off, the fence crowned with barbed wire. The bottom floor of the school has been gutted and the top floor shows the spartan conditions that the students had been learning in pre-Katrina. Our beds are box springs and mattresses on the floor, but it still gives us a roof over our heads. Just arriving here has made me feel so blessed.
That Evening - The day is done and the results are in. After all was said and done, we had cleaned up three buildings. We woke up at 6:30 and were working by nine. The first house had remained almost untouched since Katrina. Mold ran rampant. There was still food in the pantry and water in the washing machine. A black goo had formed in the fridge. Our first task was to remove everything from the house, including the food, carpet, and floor boards. Everything. Then came the walls. By the time we were done, only the ceiling and frame were left in tact and there was a debris pile over six fee high outside. After lunch, we moved on to our secound house. Our objective this time was to remove the ceiling from an already-gutted house. Along with the rotted remains of the fiberglass insulation. Part of the house still had water in it. This water had come to resemble the ooze from the fridge. Our third building was a two-story duplex. The watermark was four feet from the floor. On the secound story. The lower level had been gutted, but the upper rooms still had the belongings of one's life left behind.
I'm sitting in the gym at the old schoo now, though, honestly, it looks more like a military instilation than a school. But in spite of all the horrible surrondings, there are glimmers of hope. Several of the homes are decorated for Christmas.
The title of this post comes from a Blindside song and is in recognition of the fact that while the city is now calm, there is a long way to go before the disaster can be considered over.