Wednesday, March 22, 2006
New Orleans Day Four -- Thursday, March 23
We turned the music off. We stopped talking. We heard the damage in the Lower Ninth Ward would take our breaths away and bring tears to our eyes. We heard this neighborhood comprised mostly of low-income African-American people once had spirit and character.
Everything we heard is true.
This neighborhood, built up below the Intercoastal Waterway, is so completely destroyed it does not look like America. It looks like footage from Iraq. The path the 30-foot storm surge took is obvious. Right below the levee breach there is nothing but grass and slabs of concrete. Where those homes went is beyond me. What happened to the people inside is a mystery. What happened to most of the residents of this neighborhood remains a mystery. According to residents, 2,700 people are still missing. They are presumed dead, and most of those men, women and children lived in the Lower Ninth Ward.
The only cars we see driving through the dirt and paved streets today are filled with tourists -- gawkers if you will. The Lower Ninth Ward has become a photo opportunity so amazing and devastating I felt guilty staring, like I was invading lives. But it's unavoidable. The neighborhood is the new Ground Zero, a place set aside to represent the best example of hell I have ever seen and would ever want to.
We had to leave. We drove off in silence. During the last three days, Michelle and I have spent most of our days working in flooded out homes with people who care so deeply for other Americans they gave up their time to drive here to help.
New Orleans -- seven months after Hurricane Katrina -- needs so much assistance, so much help and so much positive energy. The people want to rebuild, to go on, to try and give America back a city known for its culture and uniqueness. This is a desperate time in Louisiana, and Hurricane season 2006 is two months away.