On why people won’t leave, and the horror

From a New Orleans resident who returned to the city to save his friends:

I get to the outskirts of the city by about 2 p.m. — an upscale neighborhood called Metaire, where most of the money of New Orleans lives. To get that far already involved about half a mile of swimming. Everything is destroyed. The area isn’t just underwater, it’s more that the swamps have risen over New Orleans. There are snakes and alligators everywhere, and the more you see, the more you realize the city isn’t going to be livable for who knows how long.

Then there are the bodies. I first start seeing them as I cross from Metaire into what is called Midcity, the neighborhood you drive through to get to Jazz Fest and the fairgrounds. Until now, I’ve only seen a few dead bodies in my entire life. Some have been pushed against dry spots by, I presume, rescue workers. Others are just floating in the water. There are houses with red marks on them, meaning there’s someone dead inside. The most horrifying part of all is what happens when a body is floating in the water for two or three days. It’s barely recognizable as a person. When you see one, it’s riddled with mosquitoes and who knows what else.

The city is not at all empty as the news says it is. I find hundreds if not thousands of people in all the different neighborhoods, and they have no intention of leaving. First and foremost, they have nowhere to go. Many people don’t want to leave. They don’t trust they’ll ever be let back in, and they certainly aren’t going to allow their homes to be pillaged by people crafty enough not to get kicked out. Finally, they just don’t believe the argument that the city will be unsafe and infested with disease. …

Everyone is fearful for his future, and fear leads people to do amazing, extraordinary things. It’s a state of war. People don’t even know who they’re fighting, but they know they’re at war. Twice, I bike away at full speed from people that come at me. Before I leave the city, my cash, backpack loaded with food and change of clothes and my camera are stolen. The final time, two people robbed me of my water. They didn’t even ask for cash or my watch, just my water. It is desperation, and the last thing I could ever feel is anger.

I’ll never forget this weekend. I’ll probably spend years wishing I could. You just can’t describe what it’s like to see the hometown that you love, that’s a part of everything you are, littered with floating dead bodies, and to see “your people” firing guns at strangers and hating everyone and everything. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever felt or seen. It’s a war being fought against no one.

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