For a quick weekend, we were able to sneak down to the Gulf coast to visit a friend. During the weekend, I was able to see first hand the damage that Katrina had done and it was stunning. I was glad to see it because the television images made it all so surreal. Even the airport where we arrived still had holes in the ceiling and the carpet had been totally removed (no doubt soaked and ruined by storm surge.) We drove down the coast of Mississippi were many buildings have already been demolished, so there’s nothing on the coast. No traffic. No houses. No nothing. Not even street signs are left. We passed a Waffle House where the roof and walls had been washed away, all that was left attached to the foundation was the stools bolted to the ground.
We also drove down into downtown New Orleans and around the Superdome. We saw where the refugees gathered when waters rose around the dome. I didn’t notice it at first, but underneath the freeway viaducts, rows and rows of abandoned cars, no doubt flooded, lined the ground underdeath. Cars after cars, I could believe how many there were. Where the levees broke, the waters had receeded, but the apartment complexes were totally abandoned. Whole buildings were fenced off and empty, giving parts of New Orleans the feel of a ghost town. I read today that the population was 600,000 in New Orleans before Katrina and currently it only numbers 140,000. Optimistic figures have it only doubling to 280,000 in the next five years.
It wasn’t all disaster this weekend. We saw a lot of reconstruction and a lot of rebuilding as people slowly begin to return the town to normalcy and it was encouraging. We did a little part in getting the economy back on its feet by frequenting some resturaunts and bars in the French Quarter. No, we weren’t building houses, but hey, it’s a little bit of help. Maybe we can return and do some work here or in Mississippi soon. One of the highlights of the weekend was going to the Strawberry Festival in the small town of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. The festival had all the requisite fair items, including carnival rides, food, music, and even a Strawberry festival queen. As I walked around the festival I wondered how many people their had been forced out of their houses, still had tarps on their roofs, or still were housing friends and family forced to move out. Nonetheless, it was good for everyone there to get out and enjoy a nice spring day. The storm has passed and daylight has returned.
Check my Flickr account to see some of my pictures from the weekend
The national media which covered the events on an overbearing twenty-four hour basis here have long since gone and moved on to other crises, but the untelevised fact is that recovery in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana from Katrina will take years. Many charitable organizations are still greatfully accepting donations for hurricane relief. I recommend reputable organizations like The Red Cross, The Christian Relief Fund and Samaritan’s Purse