Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Heading South (Click on Photos to Enlarge)

"Go down to Buras and you'll really see what Katrina did." So said another set of Tulane parents whom we met, all of us with freshmen daughters in tow, on the Jazz and Jambalaya Riverboat Cruise the University hosted for new families last Thursday night. This particular family was from Buras, much of the way down Route 23, where they are in the oyster business. (Hear that, Paul?) Their house is unlivable, so they are residing in their 65' cabin cruiser and thinking about turning down the trailer for which they've finally been approved, since the boat is quite comfortable. I had hoped, in pre-Katrina days last summer, to travel down Route 23 to the National Wildlife Refuge at the end of the finger-like pensinsula stretching southeast of New Orleans. They told me I would probably not even be able to reach Buras but that I should try if I really wanted to see what Katrina had wrought.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and I headed south, a little nervous since I am entirely unfamilair with the area. I did, in fact, make it to Route 23 pretty much entirely by chance, but make it I did. Of the dozens and dozens of vehicles speeding down the highway, I was almost the only passenger car. Truck after truck followed the road south -- most of them going much farther than I was able to since I was, indeed, stopped and ordered to turn around at a checkpoint about 10 miles north of Buras.

The trip is a bizarre one. There are stretches of highway bordered by lovely small estates, with pastel-colored stucco homes sporting long verandas worthy of Southern Living cover photos and carefully manicured lawns. And then there are the stretches where Katrina altered everything.

Boats rammed into bayou banks, boats hurled on top of each other, boats upside down in ditches.

Buildings surrounded by fallen trees, buildings with roofs and siding ripped off, buildings crunched and sagging into twisted skeletons of their former selves.

Houses flattened, or blown off their foundations and up to the highway.


Must Move Your House.

Asbestos No Removal.

Call So-and-So.

John and Lucille, 1141 [Disappeared] Lane

Rebuilding Do Not Bulldoze

Report Animal Sightings Please

The trucks that accompanied me south looked like little matchbox playthings in contrast to the sheer vastness of material that must be removed and landfilled and somehow replaced.

I was struck repeatedly by indications of how much courage and determination will be required to rebuild this area. The homes were not vacation mansions on stilts such as those built by northerners and city-dwellers along the Outer Banks in defiance of all reason and sense. These were the homes of small businesspeople and their employees, the homes of people who loved to make their lives along the Gulf. I'm sure you don't have to be someone like me who's dreamed of a life along the water to be pained by the sight of houses, docks and boats blown to bits, and the hopes and expectations of Gulf families along with them.
Paul mentioned yesterday that the osprey looks mythic. To me, he seems in this photo to be challenging us:
Fix it.


Lisa :-] said...

I cannot even grasp devastation on tehe scale you describe. You see it on the news, hear people talk about it, and it just doesn't seem real. Thank you for sharing your trip.

tess said...

As you get into lower Plaquemines, St. Bernard and Jefferson Parishes, you not only have fishing industries but cattle( thousands of head were swept away) and agriculture.
What most people fail to realize is that the ecconomic structure of So E Louisiana was wiped out. One month later Rita wrecked havoc and delivered a similar blow to So W Louisiana.
Our population has lost their livelihoods as well as their homes.
On the lighter side, did you see any of the Katrina watermellons? They are growing everywhere that took storm surge! No one can explain where they came from. Our mellons are grown in Washington Parish which is north of Lake Pontchartrain.

Carol said...

Beautifully written yet again, Robin. Thank you for sharing your impressions. The media can only paint a picture so far; it takes "outsiders" like yourself to finish the portrait.

Paul said...

Magnificent work, Robin. You are ight about the osprey.

You surely know that ospreys often lose their catch to bald eagles that wait and watch and take advantage of their toil. There's a political statement in there somewhere.

betty said...

What destruction; we forget until it is reminded to us the devastation and the despair.


alphawoman said...

It saddens me that all the beauty and history was almost blown away by Katrina. And that it is taking longer than any of us realized to fix it back to the way it was. And that that will never happen.

emmapeelDallas said...

I am so grateful to you for these posts, as they show a side the media never seems to capture.


MariesImages said...

Sad to see the devastation.
Nice display of photos in this entry.