17 November 2005

life in new orleans these days....

a friend of ours just returned to her home at new orleans for the first time (friday 11/4 till friday 11/11) since katrina. her firm has an office in los angeles and she has had to move there to work full time. we thought you might be interested in a first hand account of life in the city...

sunday 06 november:
the quarter is like a ghost town. today, there was nothing open for breakfast, except the royal sonesta and breakfast was $16.95. most places are closed for lunch, even during the week. some have limited menus. ralph and kackoos has almost full menu, napolean house has 4 sandwiches and 1 salad on the menu.

friday 11th november after returning home to california:
Hi. I just got in, the flights were horrible. anyway, every place I ate at and visited the people thanked me and gushed all over me and told me to have all my friends and family come back to nola. they really need the business. it was a hard time fighting back my tears all the time. going into new orleans from louis armstrong we took a little diversion, my driver showed me the walmart that was looted, that was all over tv every day. it was devastating to see miles and miles of beautiful homes totally destroyed. it was like a horror movie. there was absolutely not one person anywhere, just the occasional humvee filled with soldiers rolling by.

there's no power in many areas. the streetcars are not running. most of the people I laughed with and joked with are gone to Texas, Kansas, New Jersey. many say they will not return. if you love new orleans, and I think you do, tell everyone you know to go there for the holidays. most businesses are hanging on by a thread and need the tourist money.

[was going to stay till friday 11/18] i just couldn't stay. it was too heartbreaking, but I will go back for the holidays and each time I go back I will stay a little longer. looking at the absolute destruction broke my heart. it is as if a part of me was taken away by the flood...

I couldn't believe the devastation. I was prepared for it. I knew what to expect but I felt like I was punched in the stomach. It was as if the heart and the soul of the city was gone. I felt like I was just a shell, with no insides when I was there. I can't explain it.

I was not the only one crying there. so many people felt the same way. We were like lost children looking for our childhood homes that we knew we would never be able to find. We were all lost, looking for something, not sure what it was that we lost.

Even the Mississippi has changed. It seemed calmer, as if its heart had been taken away, as if it were possible to drown a river. It just seemed like a river of heartbreak and tears. I walked along it every night. There was not one barge, not one ship, not one tug. It was as if all life had just disappeared.

I couldn't sleep at night. Whenever I tried to fall asleep I could feel the panic and dread of the people who drowned as the water came up a foot a minute when the levees broke. I thanked G-d that I had made it out alive, and that my family ended up alive and safe. I felt guilty at the same time, that I had survived, that I was still alive. But I know there was nothing I could have done if I had stayed, nothing except to die with them.

It was so strange, the things that made me cry. I couldn't get a streetcar to get to Temple Saturday and then I realized there were no streetcars, not one, anywhere. And I realized I had never seen new orleans without street cars, ever in my life before.

related post:
  • part 2 life in new orleans these days
  • ====