Thursday, October 20, 2005

Post-trip pictures

I've promised to upload more pictures, so here we go. I've literally got thousands of pictures of this event, and there's no way I can put them all up, so I'll do a few at a time and eventually run out of server space.

Anyway...

So my last day in Louisiana, I ended up going back to New Orleans in order to introduce my replacement, Carolyn, to the air sampling crew, so that they could get on the same page. It ends up that Troy-who I worked with every day in the office-was about to take a little vacation, and he, too had a replacement who would need to meet everyone. Gina (who worked in the office too) was putting together a picture show of all the things EPA is doing out there, and came along to document the air sampling stations that we were building. So we took a field trip. We caravaned over to the Metarie Technical College (where the whole operation ended up moving on the day I left), where we had a meeting. From there, we went downtown to see what it looked like. While there, we ended up at 'tent city' which the federal government (namely FEMA) had set up. Let me tell you something. When the government gets going, serious stuff happens. This camp was blocks big and had air conditioned tents, laundry facilities, bathrooms, you name it.

We were used to eating MRE's (meals ready to eat) while out in the field. Now, while MRE's are made of food, they're no seven course meal. We heard that there were better eats at tent city, so we checked it out. All rumors turned out to be more than true! We went to the lunch trailer, which was a semi truck literally filled with sack lunches. It was amazing. We were given giant sack lunches, which, seriously, could have sustained us all day if necessary. There was a sandwich with like 2 inches of lunch meat between the bread, a can of juice, a can of V8, a can of Chef Boyardee pasta, a candy bar, fig newtons, a big jug of Powerade, and condiments (I know I'm forgetting stuff--at the time it felt like we were opening the horn of plenty). Anyway, here's all of us, happy as pigs in...well...just happy to be eating actual food:
(Gina and I are giving props to the sack lunch genie, who magically filled an entire truck with tasty lunches for aid workers)

Anyway, our food comas over, we headed out to the lower 9th ward, because we knew that it was almost dry, but wanted to see exactly what it looked like. It still smelled like a bog, and with daylight running out, it was very quiet and still very somber.

I suspect this was a block of homes, but you can see that one house floated and landed on top of some stuff.

Apparently, there may or may not be/have been a body in there. Maybe the rescuers smelled the corpse of a dog (or a rotting refrigerator) but who knows, it's still eerie:

More of people's lives in a giant, destroyed pile:

So much stuff inside that front door, and the rescue markings indicate that a dog was found and probably rescued:

The barge which floated over the levee:

The giant skid mark which I think the barge made as it came over the levee:

What I call the 'drive thru house', a home that had floated partially across the street. What you can't see is that the wall on the other side of the house (where those folks are standing and looking at) had fallen down, and you could look right into what used to be someone's living room:

Said living room (I wonder if that clock kept running or had stopped...I don't remember what time we were there, but it was later in the afternoon for sure):

A home that floated and then landed on some cars:

What used to be someone's bathroom:

Now this one was strange. We walked about a block from where we parked, because some parts of the Lower 9th ward are impassible by car. And we came upon a pool of floodwater (one of the several which pockmark the ward, as the pumps can't get to these pools, they must evaporate) which had some egrets swimming in it. It's hard to explain, but because of the silence of standing in the middle of the desolation, all we heard was the sound of these birds splashing in the water. It's something you'd expect to see and hear in a forest, and it sure sounded like it but to see them in this setting is just weird:

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