It's crisp and clear here where we are camped on the Tchefuncie River in St. Tammany Parish, which flows into Lake Pontchatrain. Big cypress trees line the banks and grow out in the river shallows. The big lake has a 25 mile long arrow-straight causeway leading south to New Orleans, where the levees broke.
Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move
- Led Zeppelin
Katrina rolled over the Louisiana bayous 100 miles southeast of New Orleans on the way to smash the Mississippi coast. There wasn’t much on the news about this area and I wanted to see and document what happened.
We drive though New Orleans, past the convention center, and 80 miles down the peninsula toward the Gulf. There appear to be very few repairable structures. Large shrimp boats ended up in fields. FEMA trailers are everywhere. Katrina came though this area at full strength. The refineries and heliports that carry workers to the rigs are about the only things that are repaired.
At the very end of the peninsula a sad collection of broken music boxes, a porcelain Santa, and various small figures are placed on a seawall. A boy’s bicycle and an upside-down SUV are in the rubbish near the seawall.
We drive back to New Orleans and have dinner in the French Quarter. This is Friday night so we want to try the mango daiquiris. The businesses in the quarter are back, but the tourists don’t yet know that the city is open for business. We were the only diners in the restaurant we chose.