Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Color of Katrina

The color of the flood is not the blue of the Lake waters that innundated the city, or the day-glo orange or red spray paint that make the rescue marks on homes. The color is the brown the water left behind, strikingly revealed by Google Maps now that some areas of New Orleans have been updated with post-Flood imagery.

You can see the stark difference between the pre-flood photos west of the railway line--the sharp, dark green of trees and lawns, the crisp greys of the city strees from before the Federal flood--and the homogenous brown of the Ninth Ward after. Zoom into highest resolution, then browse to the east past the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (known to most as the Industrial Canal). You can see the homes scattered like an upset Monopoly board found in the mud, without regard for the grid of streets on which these homes once had addresses.

Eight, ten blocks, a good straight line mile in from the levee breach, you can still find houses pushed off their piers by the force of the water. Look at the closest zoom, and you can still see some streets with standing water, the unexpected Canal along Jourdon Avenue by the floodwall. The scene most resembles an after-action photo of the dropping of some terrible weapon, one of the arcade screens of modern warfare. Game Over.

Many of us have seen the videos of the 2004 tsunami shot by tourists , have witnessed on a small screen the incredible power of a tidal wave of debris pushing through a crowded neigborhood. There is no such video of the Ninth Ward, nothing like the film shot by a fire department crew in Lakeview shortly after the levee there began to fail.

Anyone in the lower Ninth Ward who did not leave would not have had a chance to aim a camera at the onslought. They would have been desperately fighing to live, too many loosing that battle. There will be no footage of the water sweeping down Dorgenois and Rochenblave playing on television this next August 28, as Anderson Coooper and Brian Williams try to remind America what happened.

All we have is this god's-eye view of the failure of man, the same prospect from the clouds that overlooked the unfinished Tower of Babel, a sight made possible for mere men by a wonder of modern engineering. I think of other engineering wonders; the Great Wall, visible from space without the aid of magnification. How did the Corps' engineers fail us so catastrophically?

As I stare at another little screen, I imagine the last images captured by the eyes of the people who lived on those streets, synthesizing my own memory of these neighborhoods with the videos of the tsunami, running a monstrous newsreel of my own imagining. It is as if the victims of the Federal Flood were reaching across and directing the camera, telling me: this is what it was like, what we saw, what they did to us. I can almost feel them crowd around me, the cliche of a haunting image made palpable, whispering as I type: Remember.

"....wispering as I type: Remember." Yes, that is it, isn't it?

Very beautiful, Mark.
Markus, a brilliant and honorable piece of writing.

Robin Kemp
Check out the Mississippi Gulf's like the civil war: Blue (tarps) and Grey (everything else). Looks like a war zone, too.
...I meant check it out on Google Earth.
A very moving post.

I was wondering if you would consider participating in a project to commemorate the 1 year anniversary of Katrina?

I am trying to organize an online project to commemorate the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My plan, which I call the Katrina Blog Project, involves getting bloggers together who were personally affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Beginning August 26, each blogger in the project will post a daily personal recounting of the events as they experienced them one year before. (I chose August 26 because it was the last "normal" workday for most people before Katrina hit.)

It is my hope that, if I can get a significant number of people to join me in this, that we can create a large-scale online re-enactment of the events of Katrina week in the words of people who lived through it. I do not think a major historic has ever been retold in this fashion, so we would be creating something entirely new.

I hope you will consider participating. The more people who join, the more important this project will be.

For more information, you can check out my guidelines here:
Thanks for considering my proposal.
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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