We’re back in New Orleans and settling into life here again. Things feel somewhat normal and completely abnormal at the same time. Can you say PTSD?
It was pretty eerie when we first got into town, driving through New Orleans East and seeing mile after mile of deserted, lifeless neighborhoods. I cried and cried when we first got here, just overwhelmed and heartbroken by the sheer amount of loss and suffering of so many people. As I'd been told, life in the Uptown/CBD/French Quarter area feels pretty normal--lots of people going about their everyday lives. The area isn't completely unscathed--lots of blue roofs, lots of fallen limbs and lots of debris in the streets. And pick-up of said debris is sporadic, at best. Still, pretty good, considering.
Drive about one mile north of our area into the flood zone, though, and it's a completely different story. It's hard to wrap your mind around 80 percent of the city being damaged by flooding until you're here and can actually see it. The flood area begins right around our former apartment on Baronne Street (before our brief experiment in home ownership), so neighborhoods that I'm well accustomed to driving/walking through every day are in pretty bad shape. Trash everywhere, abandoned cars on the streets and in the neutral grounds, spray paint markings on every building, trees lying on the tops of roofs, blocks that burned down during gas fires, etc. And everything is brown---brown grass, brown muddy streets, brown water marks on the houses.
Some businesses are open, but there are many more that are just big, dark gaping shells. It's depressing and fascinating at the same time, to see the damage done by the flood.
There are so many inconveniences as far as daily life is concerned. Grocery stores close at 7:00 p.m., drug stores and gas stations are few and far between. Fast food restaurants are non-existent, as they can't afford to staff them--not that it's any great loss not to be able to eat fast food, just another weird circumstance when you're accustomed to living in a city that used to operate 24/7. Most traffic lights are still out, so just about every intersection is a four-way stop.
I think one of my least favorite daily activities would have to be walking past restaurants/grocery stores that are in the process of cleaning up after the flooding--I have to walk by one on my way to work every morning that has a gigantic mound of rotting food and other trash blocking the sidewalk. God only knows when it will be picked up. Welcome to life in New Orleans.