5 years ago yesterday, Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the American Gulf Coast.
A year after the flood waters had receded, New Orleans was still a ghost town. I walked alone through the famed Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, along what used to be a paved residential street.
Most houses had been completely washed away. Those that still stood– in some mangled form– bore bright orange symbols spray-painted by search teams to indicate things like check date and body count.
This was my first visit to the place that had been dubbed in less harrowing times the “Big Easy.” I was anything but at ease.
In fact I still find it difficult to describe the goings on in my head and heart as I passed heaps of brick, abandoned cars, and makeshift front yard graves. It was a combination of awe and soul-wrenching sorrow so heavy that all I could think about was leaving.
But I couldn’t. New Orleans hadn’t been our destination, but Meadow and I ended up staying there three days longer than we had planned. It was in our blood now.
I left the politics of Katrina to the pundits when I wrote my Dispatches from the Gulf Coast series. Instead, I focused on my own apolitical observations during that road trip. I haven’t been back since, so I don’t know how everything looks today. No matter– my impressions of that region will always be colored by that first visit.
Below is a video montage I put together a few years ago of the trip. It’s choppy and of sub-par quality (I think it was my first attempt at video editing), but I thought it a good day to re-post it.