Thursday, September 08, 2005

First Hand Account of Lakeview By Canoe

This was the most surreal experience of my life.

The neighborhood that I've lived in for fifteen years is under water. A lot of water.

My father and I took a ride out to the Lakefront today, I had been yesterday and he had to see the neighborhood that he grew up in first hand. He needed to see it for himself.

We made the circuitous journey through marinas and condos until we reached the intersection of West End and Robert E. Lee. There were two soldiers from Massachusetts (Thanks Massachusetts) and a search and rescue guy from Oakland, CA (Thanks Oakland). The guy from Oakland had been in the city since the first Tuesday after the storm. He told us that they were still even now picking up survivors from the Lakefront -- but that phase was winding down. Today alone they had pulled out six bodies... from Lakeview.

As we walked around, we discovered a canoe. So we went canoeing. Our house is down on Catina near Harrison, about 10 or so blocks. We started out paddling through the Robert's (pronounced Roe-bears) Grocery parking lot, passing between around seven or eight cars left in the lot. The water was up to the windows and they were parked on the raised divisions between the rows. One car had the license plate DGOOZER.

The water is disgusting. It stinks. It's soupy. Their are different colors in it. The freakiest was the areas where it was clay grey on top, but when the paddle would disturb it, a black plume of nastiness would fight its way to the top only to be forced back under by the grey. Other parts were more typical of Lake water, but it was all foul.

Remember that our family has four generations in Lakeview - we love that neighborhood and acted in NO way disrespectfully - As we paddled down our street, the truly bizarre nature of this new world was hitting us in the face.

Oddly enough, in many ways, it was kind of beautiful. We were paddling through the canopies of majestic oaks, their reflections still in the water until we passed. The only problem was the rooftops and second stories. Seriously your mind has a hard time grasping what it's witnessing. For moments it would appear that we were simply paddling down a bayou or an engorged river. I even started having memories of the last time I had paddled around with my Dad on a trip in North Louisiana when I was 10 or so.

Those memories would crash though the second we would snag on something, and after a moment, realize it was the roof of a van, or someone's grandmothers antique chair.

There were several boats around, floating. We saw at least three jetskiis bobbing around. Even a Hobie Cat. And garbage, lots of crazy floaty stuff, DVD's, gas cans, little keep-safe type boxes, books - I was hard pressed not to pick one or two of those up in order to check out the title, looking for some mystical message. I dared not. The water is ill.

On several occasions, our expedition got thrown off by enormous downed trees blocking our path, and twice we had a blackhawk hover over us making sure we weren't in need of saving or in need of being shot for looting. Without the helicopters, it was dead quiet, other than the sound of birds who will probably all die from drinking this water.

As we finally approached our house, I expected for both of us to breakdown... but I think we're all past that now down here. We've hardened I think, or maybe are still not comprehending what we're seeing. The permanence of it. The massiveness of it.

We paddled straight up to the front porch, and just sat for a few minutes. My grandmother's antique brass planter that we use as a mailbox sat next to the door quietly, lapped by water. The window immediately to my left looks into my three month old Godchild's room. All the clothes for him until he's three, all of his stuffed animals and future toys, his antique crib sat right there through that window. I didn't look in. I couldn't.

We paddled our way through to the backyard. A large woodsy area where I've had countless crawfish boils. Crazy beer drinking parties. Barbecues. Or simply just sat and read the Sunday paper over coffee. The brand new porch that was finished three weeks ago sat and looked back at us. The only damage on the entire house from the actual hurricane was one torn screen on that porch. One torn screen. ONE TORN SCREEN.

This house that we've lost. This home that has sheltered four generations of my family has been lost due to a levee breach.

I thought of many things while paddling back to higher ground... I worried for the grand oaks and pines, our mature urban forest, how long can they survive with their trunks covered by 14 feet of water? How toxic is this water? Will the EPA demand it all be bulldozed? After the water recedes, will any family be allowed to return and collect their silver, their heirlooms that could be salvaged? How many dead had we paddled by in those short ten blocks? Would we ever see any of our neighbors again?

After returning back onto Lake Marina Ave., we spoke with several groups of soldiers, most from Massachusetts and all young. They treated us with the utmost respect. They were kind. They were watching out for our safety and the safety of our homes. They were all heros.

When I shook the hand of one soldier, probably 20 years old, and thanked him - he replied to me... "We're honored to be here."

As we walked back on the levee towards the Jeep, Dick Cheney's helicopter was landing. On the top of the levee journalists and reporters were starting to line up for his photo-op. My Dad and I didn't even have to ask each other if we wanted to stay and watch.


Blogger jnfr said...

I'm so sorry. I heard a report on NPR today that most of the oaks can't take water around their roots and won't likely live. But they were optimistic that New Orleans would replace their oaks, given time, because they are so beloved.

7:42 PM, September 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry.

At some point, when you are able, when you are ready, I would suggest writing down all your memories of that house...everything you and your family can remember. Put everything in a nice leather scrapbook with pictures. Ask others to contribute.

My aunt and uncle's young adult son died unexpectedly and they did this and it provided an outlet and some measure of comfort for them.

Just a thought...


7:52 PM, September 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry about your loss, thank you for sharing an insiders perspective of what is really taking place down there. Best of luck to you and your family in the future

9:11 PM, September 08, 2005  
Blogger merijoe said...

Can you reach my apt at 5923 Catina? My cat is still there after two weeks, Left on a business trip to california a few days prior to evac orders expected to be away a few days. that was 2wks ago. My poor kitty-Voodoo.

10:12 PM, September 08, 2005  
Blogger Rod Renegade said...

I admire what your doing, and your complete account. Simply amazing!

10:20 PM, September 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your postings. The horror of what has happened has consumed me since the levee broke (a lot of us thought, a week ago Monday, that Katrina had spared NO). I cannot grasp how painful it must be, not knowing of your friends and neighbours. Thanks for sharing your very personal experience to someone lucky enough never to have to worry about it happening to her.

10:30 PM, September 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you go near Harrison Ave. and Canal. My grandparents lived on Louis 14 off Harrison Ave, by St. Domincs Churh. Did you notice damage near there?

They are no longer with us, but like you the happiest memories I have are from that house and that neighborhood. Any info is appreciated. I can only begin to understand your loss. I am sorry.
Joan in Dallas

11:17 PM, September 08, 2005  
Blogger CathiefromCanada said...

Merijoe, I sent you an email about
They now have a database running where people can post the information about their pet and then Petfinders works with the ASPCA to try to get the animal out. Good luck and hope Voodoo is ok. Let us know with another post on this blog if you get news.

12:27 AM, September 09, 2005  
Blogger CathiefromCanada said...

Somebody yelled at Cheney today "Go fuck yourself, Cheney, go fuck yourself".
Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

12:29 AM, September 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why "f" yourself, Cheney? Does he control the weather? When did he become the mayor of New Orleans? The ultimate responsibility of this lies with Louisianna politicians who failed their citizens.

6:58 AM, September 09, 2005  
Anonymous hoz said...

So that's what they were shouting. I saw the interview on TV and heard someone from the crowd shouting. It seemed like they were escorted away pretty quickly.

8:10 AM, September 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

troy! Oh my God! i cant believe it. i knew it was true, but to actually see it. i am so sad. me and Allison went see your sis a while back when the baby was born, oh that was so nice to sit on that back porch. i mailed her a box of baby goodies 2 days ago, i hope she gets it today. hopefully it will cheer her up a little bit.

love you!


8:41 AM, September 09, 2005  
Blogger Ilaine Upton said...

You are doing an excellent job!

Very evocative writing.

12:32 PM, September 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I keep on posting the same message....if this were a terrorist attack or a small nuke..would the feds ignore until somehow someone could communicate the need for help. Totally ignoramous...Lover of life for all things

12:33 PM, September 09, 2005  
Blogger Natty phlegmmo said...

Well, I'll bet Patrick Leahy enjoyed the heckler's comments.

2:52 PM, September 09, 2005  
Anonymous Brad said...

"The ultimate responsibility of this lies with Louisianna politicians who failed their citizens."

No, that's ignorant and buying into the hype. The local politicans saw where the wind was blowing -- literally and figuratively -- and did their best to prepare and mitigate. The hurricane was inevitable, but the federally-underfunded levy projects couldn't withstand a level 5 hurricane, and FEMA is running in circles.

The federal relief efforts have failed them time and time again throughout this disaster, and the Whitehouse has been trying to -- as usual -- push the blame elsewhere in their constant image campaign. Hence, the photo op, and the cursing.

3:21 PM, September 09, 2005  
Blogger Manda said...

your blog is amazing. i feel like i'm partaking in something incredibly deep just reading it. keep your chin up and take care.

8:36 PM, September 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report on the area. A friend's parents are in the 6700 block of Ponchartrain Blvd and haven't found any news on them yet. We've found her name on a survivor's list, but her home is also under water according to the Google Maps, so we have no idea where to locate any of them.

Keeping all of you in our prayers.

11:47 PM, September 09, 2005  
Blogger Aisha said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

9:44 AM, September 10, 2005  
Blogger BayouMaMa2 said...

Thank you so much for sharing. We can only see it through your eyes. I live in St. Charles Parish and I still can't believe that my "neighbors" are having to go through all of this suffering. I will miss running "to town."

I met a man and his son at the Dr.'s office when I had evacuated. His name is Jerome and he lived in the Lakeview area. He was sure his home was flooded. My heart felt heavy for him...still is.

One of my best friends attended Lakeview Christian Center. She is presently attending church via the web due to the flooding of their building.

Again...thank you for putting this experience into words.


1:28 PM, September 10, 2005  
Anonymous MaMaRae said...

This is a terrible time. If you do go out again and pass 6731 West End would you snap a photo, it' my 75 year old parents' house. I know they would feel better just seeing it the way it is. They just want to know.
I am sorry for your loss but by sharing these photos, in a way you are giving others some peace of mind.
Know that you as well as all of you out there are in our prayers,

7:16 PM, September 11, 2005  
Anonymous Richard said...

Did I hear that Lakeview has been deemed to be razed (bulldozed)?!
Once wood frames and piers have been submerged for more than 24 hours, the wood "ferments" (?) and loses its strength. Or is it the toxins in the resulting water and sludge. Anyone know what's going on ? Will be be able to get back in to retrieve our contents ?

1:44 PM, September 15, 2005  
Blogger Easton Ellsworth said...

Extremely sad. Thanks for providing this account - it's very moving and I hope future generations can learn from it.

3:37 PM, August 18, 2006  

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