Monday, January 04, 2010

Photo of the Day - Still Underwater:


Like I said in my post yesterday we got up on New Year's day and headed out for some sightseeing before heading to the Super Dome. This wasn't just any type of sightseeing, we were headed to the lower 9th ward. Honestly, I hate calling it sightseeing because it almost cheapens the experience and emotions we felt while driving around the area. The 9th ward was severely impacted when Katrina hit in August of 2005 and many of the areas in the ward remain just as the storm left them so many years ago. We didn't have a plan once we got there but just to drive around and see where the roads and sights took us. I think the expectations were mixed - some fear as to what we would see and run into in that area, maybe even some confidence that after all of this time it wouldn't be nearly as bad as it was right after the storm. I think we were all surprised in one way or another.

The drive was unbelievable and so powerful but there was no need for words or explanation. I knew that it would be in bad shape but there was no way that I could have prepared myself for the destruction still there today. One thing that specifically stood out to me was how some families had returned and were living a relatively normal life with well kept yards and Christmas decorations etc. and the houses on either side would be gutted and completely destroyed with the spray painted symbols left by the crews who cleared the homes while on their search and rescue missions in September of 2005. The destruction and disparity all at the same time was quite a bit to take in. We aimlessly drove around quite a few neighborhoods and in some cases what was left of them for well over an hour and a half. At one point we stopped and climbed up to view the Mississippi river. It seemed really odd that the river which seemed peaceful and calming could cause so much damage if the conditions were right.

Towards the end of our journey we rounded a corner and literally saw three or four blocks of what used to be a neighborhood completely leveled. All that was left were a few cinder block foundations and light poles. I have great respect for hurricanes because I have been through quite a few as a native Floridian. In fact, while in Gainesville I left our safe shelter and walked around during a few to actually feel the power of the wind and rain. Even with those experienes and living through so many storms seeing that kind of destruction this long after landfall is really difficult to put into words.

I did not take photos while we were driving around for a few reasons. It just didn't feel right taking photos of the destruction of so many homes and the pain that losing these homes and likely everything in them. There have been many amazing and award winning photos that I have seen that do an unbelievable job expressing the pain and loss that occurred after Katrina but my experience that day wasn't about taking time and being distracted by taking pictures, I wanted to feel it, not just shoot it so the gear stayed in the car. I knew I wanted to post about this amazing experience but I also knew I didn't take any pictures so I had to go back to the archives and find the above shot. This is a shot of the same angry river that took so much from the residents of the lower 9th but a different flood. This shot is from St. Louis in the summer of 2008 when we were in the area visiting family. It is not the best to show the destruction and pain that we saw in the rubble but it is kind of what I was imagining it was like after the initial storm surge and the water was at unimaginable levels.

It wasn't all doom and gloom driving through the 9th ward however. There were some very positive signs during our drive amidst all of the destruction. There were plenty of families refusing to give up and rebuilding their homes while creating as much normalcy as they could after such an unbelievable natural disaster. It was an amazing and powerful sight to see on New Year's day - both happy and sad but a strong reminder that even with unimaginable circumstances and destruction it is impossible to keep the human spirit down.

Thanks so much for checking in today for the photo of the day and I apologize for a bit of a long/emotional post but I really think it was a gift to be able to visit the lower 9th ward on the first day of a new year and wanted to share the best I can. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my post about the autograph Tim Tebow gave me after his final game as a Gator. Stay tuned & see you tomorrow!

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