Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The weekend before last, I drove down to New Orleans for a night to check out the state of the city almost a year after Katrina.. it is, in a word, still devastated. I stayed in the French Quarter, which is remarkably unchanged since the last time Eddie, James, and I made our triumphant arrival back Freshman year in college.. hurricanes, daiquiris, open containers, Krystal... although Larry Flynt does seem to have a couple more establishments.
After an evening in the quarter - I drove over to the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood comprised of mainly of black home owners - and one of the areas hit hardest by the hurricane and now almost completely abandoned. It's block after block of ruined, empty homes, abandoned cars, and rubble. It's reminiscent of a modern day ghost town, with the occiasional "FEMA trailer" parked in a front yard. The areas surrounding the Ninth Ward are also in bad shape - most of the shops and restaurants (including fast food joints) are largely destroyed and untended. I drove into St. Bernard's Perish as well, which is just to the east of the Ninth Ward. It too is largely devastated, but a lot more people have come back and are living in the FEMA trailers.
After visiting those two areas, I drove up to Lakeview, north of the French Quarter. Lakeview is more affluent than the other two areas, but is still in pretty bad shape. On my way there, I stopped at a local diner, and ended up spending a couple hours hanging out with a few construction workers and drinking $1.49 double deuces of Red Dog. They had come in from Dallas and North Carolina just for the work. They spent their days gutting houses and drifting from job to job. The hispanic population in NO is also growing quickly, as workers migrate in to help do cleanup.
All in all, the state of New Orleans borders on surreal. The city is still devastated, there is almost no organized cleanup, and large swathes are basically abandoned, with a few people trickling back in here and there. The National Guard was called in the weekend I was there after five teenagers were killed. In the meantime, it's silly season in Washington - with Congress concentrating on such pressing issues as gay marriage, flag burning, the estate tax, and symbolic votes on Iraq.. at least we know where their priorities are.
My pictures can be found here. Another set of photos (better than mine) can be found here.
Posted by PAT at 9:04 AM