I'm home from my 'devastation tour' of Cozumel--where I went scuba diving for five days--Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans. Cozumel was squished by hurricane Wilma last October, as Gulfport was by Katrina. New Orleans wasn't squished, though, it was just emptied.
Streets upon streets of empty houses, windows broken, cryptic symbols--which we assumed revealed if there had been bodies found inside--left by rescuers and searchers on doors, useless automobiles in the driveways. In the affluent neighborhood of Lakeview there were people tending to repair work, here and there, and we saw many FEMA trailers in the driveways on blocks, connected to the sewer system by white pipework. In the upper Ninth Ward, there were fewer FEMA trailers but more casual walking around by pedestrians who didn't seem to be hurrying anywhere. But, in the Lower Ninth Ward, there were neither FEMA trailers nor any people to be seen, and whereas in other neighborhoods most of the debris had been cleaned up, there piles of trash remained. There is no doubt that the Ninth Ward is not going to be rebuilt.
It was post-apocalyptic and ghostly. My mom was quiet as she and my uncle David looked out at their childhood home. It was clear to us all that New Orleans would need twenty years--more than a generation--before it doesn't feel like a ghost town.
Driving through in the car was different than seeing it on CNN.