A friend of mine, the professor, was in New Orleans last week and reports:
“The French Quarter looked good – no real signs of damage though from locals I learned that some of the businesses had been down but were coming back. The surrounding areas were a mix. I stayed in one burb that looked great. Took a tour through another area where block after block was nothing but empty and gutted houses with nobody living on the blocks. Those areas has a stench about them that sticks with you long after you leave. In those areas there were piles of rubble from the gutted houses along the curbs awaiting pickup (waiting months for pickup). I have no idea where they will put all that rubble – maybe on the river and let the next storm blow it out to sea.
It is now hurricane season down there and though the levies are ready for a category 3 storm they’re telling people to evacuate/hide for a category 2 as all the rubble will become very dangerous projectiles.
The single most lasting sense I got was that in public (news and papers) they keep saying, “We’ll be back. We’ll rebuild.” That when they say this it is not so much a declaration of commitment and belief as it is to convince themselves. Right now 91% of the former population of New Orleans proper is gone elsewhere. Freeway traffic is what you and I’d dream of.
Overall a good trip. Glad I went.”
It’s like good fiction, except that it is actually a true report.