When I was going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving weekend I imagined funny and smart piece, that I would post about Colonial mansions, jazz, French Quarter, coffee and best on earth - Cafe du Monde – beignets. But it wasn’t Garden District that had shaken up my mind. It is difficult, to write about something, that you know so little about. That you just saw once, and most you can remember, are emotions, that it had brought.
Over month after my visit, I’m still thinking about Ninth Ward.
November 26th. Wet, penetrating cold. Heavy, gray sky, as we were crossing bridge covered with rust. Black van was joggling from time to time, as we were trying to avoid wholes in the road. This is the place, where dam first cracked up. Sebastian, my guide and host shows me a huge concrete wall.
District that suffered the most during Katrina and Rita hurricanes, after five years, still looks like after bomb explosion. It’s basically extinct. Empty houses. Smashed windows, tattered walls, roofs torn off. Through wholes in the walls you can see furniture, turned over, household equipment, objects. Leftovers of memories. Houses without their owners. Buildings with no future. Interiors without people are becoming only wooden mock-ups. Dirt and overgrown sidewalks. Trees broken apart, bent fences. Ground over here is furrowed. Like earth moved couple of times. On most of the houses you can’t see the level that water reached – cause they were under the water, completely. Inscriptions written by people, who needed immediate help. Sometimes names, dates, crosses. Signs calling tourists to leave the district. Macabre tourism. Now travel agencies are bringing tourists over, in couches, passing through “extinct” district. After hurricane amount of inhabitants of New Orleans itself, has reduced from almost 500 000 to 239 000. Here and there, you can see new buildings appearing. Brad Pitts Make it right foundation hires creative architects, that are designing new, ecological houses. According to official sources Katrina had taken 1500 lives. Officially, cause victims of heat and exhaustion weren’t counted. Unknown number of people, who were shot by the police, while trying to get food and essential stuff from shops. How many of them were dangerous burglars ? Who may know. We stopped for a while. 300 000 people, city. Silence. Not a single sound. Not even a bird. All-embracing, awful silence. We get off the car, I grab my camera, feeling bad about it. Even worse, when coming to New York, and taking pictures of Ground Zero. First one taken – the view of gray foundations, of a house that used to stand there. Because city is built on a swamp, most houses are built on concrete foundation, [wooden construction would collapse very quickly] Nothing is left over this house, just seven, small, square shaped foundations. Stories of people who drowned, amount of hopelessness that it’s hard to imagine.
Building that used to be Medical Center, now stands empty with furniture thrown out, with huge wholes in brick walls, and glass sticking out of windows frames. Rumor has it that patients were etherized over here. it seems that the doctors didn't have much choice, do it or let them drown" It seems that the doctors didn’t have much choice, do it or let them drown. it seems that the doctors didn't have much choice, do it or let them drown"it seems that the doctors didn't have much choice, do it or let them drown"It’s so unbelievable, that it happened in a country, which spends 100 billion dollars a year, for war, on the other side of the world, and has one of the best trained armies. Five years after, many people can’t come back home, cause there’s nothing to come back to.
Even after unbelievable tragedy like this, New Orleans hasn’t lost its character. People are genuine, the nicest, food is delicious, music still plays on Bourbon and French Quarter is one magic. It seems that Ninth Ward will have its sound back. Made of rare spirit city, for me is another lesson to learn. One of the most important so far.