Mold growing on the wall of a house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
New gallery up. Update to follow shortly.
UPDATE: September 27: The middle of the night is the hardest. I'll wake up suddenly. It's still dark outside. I wait for a few minutes before I realize that I am not tired, and can't go back to sleep. I squint at the clock. It's 4:07, or 3:18, or 4:39. This morning it was already 5:49. Almost time to get up; well, at least on a "normal" day. But we haven't had very many of those lately. I try to go back to sleep, but it's no use. I end up tossing an turning. Sometimes I drift back to sleep, but not before I have time to contemplate our situation: we're living in a small garage apartment, slightly off kilter. When you walk from what serves for a living room into the kitchen, you have to shift your footing to keep from losing your balance. In any other situation, it would be quaint. Don't get me wrong, we're happy to have it.
On the five or so trips I have made into New Orleans, I've been able to rescue various items from our house: some clothes, negatives and slides, a copy of last year's taxes, toys for Uma Rae, food from the cubboard. The first time I was loading stuff up, a Humvee came around the corner, going the wrong way down France Street.
"Oh, shit," I thought, "They must think I'm looting."
I took out my license to prove that I did, in fact, live at this address.
"I'm just getting some stuff out of my house," I said as they pulled up. The uniformed woman riding shotgun smiled. "Cool!" she said. I love the Oregon National Guard.
I've been having hurricane dreams, dreams about the flood, search and rescue, MRE's, the muck, the destruction. But suddenly I awake again, back in bed, and it's still the middle of the night. And I realize that most people no longer have a house. The structure still may be there, but it's filled with unspeakable muck from the flood waters that ravaged the city more than three weeks ago. I have wondered some of these neighborhoods: The Lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly, Lakeview, and St. Bernard Parish. The Parish is the worst, but all of these neighborhoods are almost beyond description. I ran into a Louisiana Army National Guardsman who perhaps put it best. I met him on the levee at the 17th Street Canal in Lakeview, not too far from a breach that caused much of New Orleans to flood. He was in full uniform, and had just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. As he took photographs with a small digital camera, I welcomed him home, and asked how New Orleans compared to his year in Baghdad. He shook his head. "Well, nobody's shooting at us here."
No sooner had all of the water been pumped out of these neighborhoods that Hurricane Rita passed by and caused the same levees to breach and began a whole new round of flooding. While nothing new was threatened, it must surely be demoralizing to the rescue workers and engineers, as well at the refugees from these neighborhoods. Those who were not fortunately to have family to flee to who have scattered to the far corners of the United States. They are in Texas, and Oklahoma, Utah, Chicago, California, Seattle, Minneapolis, and scores of other American cities, both large and small.
I have become something of a commuter of disaster, spending four or five days in New Orleans, then returning on the weekend to Jackson, Mississippi. On Sunday evening, it's back on the road returning to Louisiana. When I was working on "My Mississippi" in 1998 and 1999, I would return to New Orleans after a week on the road in Mississippi. As I crossed the state line I felt the lifting of a great burden, as if I was leaving my troubles behind. Now, as I leave New Orleans and return to Mississippi, I feel today's burden being lifted as I cross the same state line.
And as I sit in the relative comfort of our temporary home, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the this disaster. I just want to weep. To scream. The loss. The tragedy. The humanity. The only way I can deal with it, is to drive back in to Louisiana and get back to work documenting the storm. I have mounted a fourth gallery, "Barges, Breaches, Waterlines, Returnees, and more Muck." There will be more to follow, as I continue to work this horrific and historic story. It is one that my daughter will be able to tell her grandchildren. Keep in touch. Continued peace in the struggle.
c/o 801 Arlington Street
Jackson, MS 39202
ps. We're still trying to figure out who sent the bagels from H&H in New York. Come on. Fess up so we can thank you.....
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