Thursday, September 29, 2005

More notes on the aftermath

A man keeps calling in to the one radio channel, asking for help in finding his father's body. His father died on September 11. The caller identified the body, which was taken out and shipped to a temporary morgue at St. Gabriel, Louisiana. St. Gabriel officials confirm that the body arrived, but now no one can find it.

A reporter talked about a scene she cannot get out of her mind: She saw an uptown woman walking down the street, carrying some pet taxis. There was no one else around. When an SPCA truck went by, she flagged it down and begged the driver to take her cats, for she knew that the rescuers would make her dump them on the street. She kissed each of her cats goodbye and put them on the truck, then stood alone on the street, sobbing.

Perhaps the strangest story is that of the "cat lady" uptown who didn't know there was a hurricane coming, and was surprised when her power went out and trees started falling down. She finally realized there was a hurricane, and resolved to remain in place with her 34 cats. Someone gave her a radio and some food, and her only fear, she said, was that the rescuers would find her, and force her to leave and abandon her cats. Because a giant cedar fell in front of her house, the rescuers never knew there was house there at all. The woman remained in her candle-lit house, and said she had everything she needed. An artist, she is now painting on roof tiles that fell from her neighbors' houses. One of her cats disappeared, but returned several days later.

I keep wondering what it would feel like if I still lived in New Orleans. I know that my old neighborhood didn't flood, and I can imagine myself going back and feeling fortunate. But I still cannot grasp what the city looks like, and I will never see it at its very worst.

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