pico: Coming home (Katrina Blog Project)
I hesitate to use the expression "like a war zone," because I've never been in a war zone, and I don't want to devalue the gravity of that. But here the destruction just sinks into your head in ways I can't explain - it's the pervasiveness of it that's worse than the magnitude. On the lawn next door, I looked inside an abandoned vehicle full of dirt, water, papers, and a teddy bear. The little things of everyday life are scattered everywhere, mutilated. Not a single house isn't covered with people's private lives, but the mix is so heavy and widespread you can't even associate the objects you see with the houses they're near. [...]From the December, 2005 part:
S. is another high school friend of mine whose fortunes have been up and down since graduation. He started working at a funeral home a few years ago as a sales representative, mostly selling flowers and coffins. Now, thanks to an increased demand and slimmer workforce, he's been put on the line dressing corpses. Recently he got the corpse of someone he knew:Hey, do you guys remember so-and-so? He committed suicide; I had to dress his body the other day. He was 30 years old. Apparently he stayed behind and survived the storm, and he got pulled into working with rescue teams. After a week, they found him face down in his trailer with a bottle of antifreeze.So, like I said, the suicide rate is up with a vengeance. Stories especially of police officers who've taken their own lives are rampant. [...]
We ran into the rest of our family down the road in Violet, at our aunt's house. Here, among the other sites, there was a fridge in a tree, and at this point, you had to laugh. My grandmother was visibly exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and for the first time, she started railing on the politicians. My gradmother is not the type to get angry. "The government abandoned us," she said, between clenched teeth. The people of St. Bernard are getting more and more worried with each day: no one knows what's going to happen, if everything has to be destroyed, if anyone can ever move back, what kind of timeline there will be... nothing.
While my mom, dad, and my cousin went into the aunt's house, we sat outside in the heat, which is getting unbearable: the sludge is drying into a hard, cracked clay that covers everything - grass, sidewalks, roads, houses - with a creepy grayish color. They asked if we'd driven through Lexington; they had just passed through, as well. In a lowered voice: "Did you see the house with the 7 on it?" We hadn't. That comment ended the conversation, and everyone stared at the ground.
Go there for the rest, and lots of photographs. Via eRobin's 8/22/06 entry "Katrina Blog Project at Daily Kos"; there are more links to other Katrina-related diaries there.
My cousin started telling us about his experiences during the hurricane, some of which I knew, some of which I never heard until then. He stayed in his house during most of the hurricane, only coming outside during the eye. He and his neighbors who stayed were scanning the damage from the first half of the storm, when one of them noticed something odd.
"Those boats shouldn't be so close to the highway." By boats, he meant he could see masts just on the other side of the highway, miles away from water.
As soon as the words left his mouth, the wall of water came rushing around the highway bend. They scattered, some to their cars, some to their homes. My cousin ran inside to grab his dog and cellphone, but before he could grab anything else, the water had already forced its way in through his front door, and was rising fast. He took the best option and ran (waded/swam) outside to his boat.
He spent the rest of the storm huddled at the bottom of his boat while hurricane winds battered the hell out of everything around him. He told us he bawled like a baby.
After the storm, he tried to get his boat of the canal. It was clogged with so much debris - roofs of houses, trees, vehicles - "you could almost walk across it." He took his boat around, looking for survivors. Until the water started going down, he was deputized 5 times ("Until then, I didn't even know what the word 'deputized' meant.") and sent all over the Parish picking up whomever he could.
Many of the people were taken to shelters, of which there were few, overcrowded, and badly stocked (if at all). They broke into a doctor's office to get the last remaining tetanus shots. Many people were kept in the gymnasium of a local high school - but the water had risen too high for the entrance, so people had to lie down in small boats while they passed under the front door.
The stories kept coming. He found an abandoned truck, with a dead dog still in the dog cage hooked into the bed. The drivers? "Probably lying around there somewhere, in the woods. No one would leave their dog like that. Most likely, they got in their truck and thought they could outrun the water. They couldn't." They weren't the only ones who tried it, either. "Some people were smart. Instead of trying to outrun it, they turned left and drove straight onto the levee, 'cause it was much higher. The rest?..." He shook his head sadly. [...]
"Where were our people? The Canadian ships, they were there in two, three days. I didn't see any of our ships? Why couldn't our people get down there?"