Death and Dismay Surround Me

We are in the middle, literally, of the worst natural disaster in the history of the US. Katrina has destroyed much of the coastline and killed thousands in the process. The city air is thick with the bacteria and filth spewed forth when the water rushed into the city. Today I did the unthinkable. I got a tetanus vaccine from a woman who I didn't know... sitting on the back of an suv..... parked in the dirtiest environment I have ever seen. The Louisiana Health Board had sent ten of them to vaccinate volunteers and media for free. I was relieved to feel that sting as the serum was forced into my body.

Today we spent much of our time in the Quarter and the CBD.... Both of which are dry and very dirty. It was interesting and by the end of the day it almost started to feel like New Orleans. The people were pleasant, there was no shooting, no killing and aside from the stench, no visible signs of the thousands that lay still beneath the black water or high in the attics of houses.

We even stopped and had a drink with a great old man on St. Louis Street who talked about how wonderful the Quarter would become once the outlying projects and troubled neighborhoods were leveled. At the end of the day I started to think to myself that all was not lost. That New Orleans was still intact.

But on our way out we found a way onto the I-10 high rise to the east. So we decided to survey the worst from the air.

The worst is an understatement. Along the interstate thousands of water bottles, MRE packages, trash and human waste lay along the shoulders as a grim reminder of the people whom had suffered there. Baking in the sun on a cookie sheet made of concrete waiting for help to arrive, waiting for someone to carry them out of the hell they were living. For me, being there suddenly made the entire situation very real, very immediate and very saddening.

Below, the black toxic water lay still over the 9th Ward like a heavy blanket of death and disease, folding itself out over some of the most impoverished people in the nation.

As we look out across the city we see the signs of escape.. the walls beat out of attics and the holes cut in ceilings to escape the rising water pouring in from the breached levees. But for every escape you can count there are 10 houses that show no such signs.

We ride in silence down the highway.. media, medical and security forces swarm back and forth. There is no order to the situation. Traffic moves both east and west on both sides of the span with little regard to laws or direction of travel. Riding the the left hand lane is a bad idea.

And then it hits us... like a slap in the face. There he lies on the side of the road. A black man... a body. Someone's father. Someone's brother, Someone's son. A kind soul with good intentions has tried to cover him in a black plastic garbage bag. But he is a large man and the attempt was futile.

We do not stop.

Bodies are the story of the day. What to do with them, where to move them, how to store them and other questions wallpaper minds of everyone down here. Even those who do not speak about it. Today we heard that the pumps may be jammed with bodies and therefore are not working like they should. But this one man.. this one lost son is here alone. With no one to pick him up.