New Orleans is Dead



New Orleans

Neighborhood: Letter From Abroad

12 December 2005

It has been some time since I have written an update concerning New Orleans. In truth my delinquency is due to the fact that I have been extremely busy in the process of cleaning up. You know when I am busy when you do not receive a rambling of text ranting about the shortcomings of Government.

Through October and early November my parents, youngest brother Allen and I slopped our way through the house which was inundated by five feet of flood waters. In the process we removed all of the furniture, clothes and other household items which you have acquired over the years but have seemingly forgotten as these items become just part of the everyday mundane detail of household ambiance. As we hauled everything outside little things, long forgotten in time, emerged from the funky water, and gave you one last gazing gasp at time long forgotten.

I was struck, particularly, by a series of letters which I had stuffed somewhere between a bunch of books on a shelf in my room. I found them in a bunch, bound by an elastic band, lying underneath the wreckage of a sewing machine. Aged a decade and a half, I began to wonder about peers of my youth, long since forgotten, from my high school days, who once wrote me religiously, to inquire about my Louisiana endeavors. There were letters from girlfriends whom I had lost contact with years earlier. After a few moments of peeling apart saturated loose-leaf, I reminisced about the days of the past, then I heaved every last sheet out the front window towards the mounting pile of trash on the sidewalk. Such was the case with so many other items dear to one’s heart.

After the task of removing a refrigerator filled with decomposed food – which nearly killed my father, brother and I – we began busting down the plaster walls. All this work was in vain, the obvious solution is to demolish and, perhaps, someday, maybe we will rebuild.

There are numerous logistical reasons why rebuilding in New Orleans is impractical. By far the largest prohibiting factor in rebuilding New Orleans is the state of the levees. New Orleans is more in danger of flooding that ever before – and this jeopardy will not abate any time soon. Some may question why, and that is a very good question. The reason behind the future flood danger lies in the incompetence of Government (on every level). It is absolutely appalling to witness the snail’s pace by which levee reparations are progressing. I witnessed this work today as I viewed, for the first time, the area flooded by the breach in the now famous 9th Ward.

Along the levee there were no pile drivers, no army of men, only a handful of bulldozers pushing dirt around. The huge barge, that you have seen on television, probably seven stories high, still stands upon houses where the cadaver dogs are indicating there are bodies.

Never in my life have I ever seen houses picked up off of the ground, concrete slab and all, and just tossed about like a pile of legos dumped from a child’s toybox. Looking out from the levee breech, to a distance of approximately five blocks, everything has been flushed away by the water. Beyond that distance houses have been slammed together in a telescoping fashion. These are the images you have not seen on television, but the destruction has been at least mentioned in the headlines.

What I want to focus upon for a few lines here is the general vitality of New Orleans. A few weeks ago I read a piece in the Washington Post which painted a picture of businessmen downtown returning to work clad in suits and ties. The article gave the impression that everything was returning to normal. I respect the Washington Post, but in this particular article they missed the boat.

Through my observation of what once was and what now is, out of those who have returned to their New Orleans offices, one out of every five might wear a suit to work one or two days a week. Traffic throughout the city is the key indicator to how bad the situation is – there is no real traffic. More eerie than anything else is the outskirts of the City: the majority of New Orleans is a ghost town. This, I fear may never change.

After all the lights were trained upon the St. Louis Cathedral, where a grand speech was given to this Nation on “how this great City will once rise again,” New Orleans has been left in the dark to fend for itself. There is no army rebuilding levees, the FEMA trailers trickle in one by one in such a gross display of inefficiency that only Government could be responsible. Each trailer, rather than being brought in by rail or barge en masse, is hauled in via Interstate by guys driving pickup trucks hogging the left lane. Everything in New Orleans is at a virtual standstill. There is no housing, therefore there are few workers. No one is rushing in to rebuild until they can be guaranteed some sort of flood protection equal to or better than existed before the storm. Ultimately, New Orleans is dead.

As far as myself, I am in the process of trying to do what I can in the rebuilding process. Two friends of mine and myself are attempting to form a business which will begin with demolition and then ultimately transition to rebuilding. But we are only three. New Orleans needs one-hundred thousand times the three of us. Few are up to such a challenge.

I am going to attempt to post some photographs of what I have seen today. Perhaps I may place some photographs of the house. I will keep you all posted if I get this task accomplish. But I warn you that pictures do not do justice to the scene.

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