Clayton James Cubitt: Operation Eden
Fearing the worst, Clayton Cubitt began "Operation Eden -- "A personal chronicle of what hurricane Katrina has done to my poor proud people" --as the hurricane bore down on Louisiana. Cubitt is a photographer who goes by the name "Siege"; he's also an expressive writer. 8/29: Betsy, Camille, Katrina:
I can't breathe today. My mind is focused on that red swirl, right now mindlessly, purposelessly tearing up what I love. Most of my family lives in its path. I haven't heard from most of them. My last contact was with my mom, in a voicemail she left me yesterday morning at dawn, telling me she was evacuating. It ended, her voice breaking in tears, 'Pray for us, brother.'He returned to the region soon after, taking pictures and writing about what he saw. After his mom was injured during cleanup, he took her to a clinic. 9/18, "Sour Times":
The eastern edge of the eye is the area you don't want to be in. It's the area that is right now over the home I bought for my mom this year. Is she safe? My little brother? Is the roof of her home, which she called Eden, now upturned in some swollen black swamp? Are my childhood photos driven by the blasting winds like nails into a pine tree nearby?
My family, mom, my little brother. They have so little, is even that now all gone?
Are they safe?
In 100 degree heat she sat there, and I watched as what was left of her dignity and pride slowly drained out of her. I could see it happen, right as she apologized to the doctor for having unshaven legs, but we haven't had running water this whole time, so I feel bad you have to touch them. The doctor was charming and said nonsense don't apologize, but it was too late, and Katrina and the 100 degree heat evaporated my mom's reserve of dignity and all I could do was watch, because dignity drains much faster than you can fill it back up.9/27: "Ragged Hymnal":
We listened to Johnny Cash's Hurt on the way back to our shelter, and my mom silently cried a little, and I put my hand on her shoulder and couldn't say anything, because Johnny already said all that needed saying.
My sweet aunt and uncle still struggle in Slidell. There's eleven of them forced into one house now, with all the kids and in-laws. FEMA still has no timeline for temporary housing. A mythical program exists in the dreams and hushed whispers of victims waiting in the FEMA lines. Legend has it that FEMA has secured thousands of shiny white trailers for people to live in while the world is rebuilt. Trailer cities are coming for the homeless. An Eldorado with dwellings where only two people live in a room together. My aunt and uncle are on the List. Right now, lists are Life.Via Stryker. Mr. Cubitt also maintains a separate operation:eden fundraising site where you can donate money, or buy or bid on things (warning: not all work/child safe) to help him help his family get back on their feet. He explains "Eden":
But she wonders how they're going to do it? The place across the street used to rent for $700, and now it's a steal at $1750. Somebody's making a killing. All the housing's blown away. Supply and demand. Carpetbagging a new Reconstruction.
"Can I do anything for you? Anything? What do you need?" I say.
"Pray for us, baby." She says.
But I never was much of a prayer.
My mom raised me and my little brother alone, working three jobs, and I promised myself I'd take care of her when I could. This March I was finally able to make good on that promise, when I used my life savings to buy her a humble trailer she had fallen in love with in Mississippi, and gave it to her for my birthday. It was the first thing she'd ever owned, aside from junker cars. She named her humble trailer "Eden", and was as happy as I've ever seen her, which is pretty damn happy.