Wednesday, November 02, 2005


For a place that's not supposed to have any people New Orleans sure has a lot of cars. I-10 and its offshoot I-610 were jammed as we left the city tonight. They wanted things to get back to normal. At least rush hour traffic has.

(And that was before the accident outside the city that stopped us dead for at least an hour.)

We actually got something done today. Hooray! We shot one story and then shot another interview that might stretch into two more. They won't be great but, as I was reminded today, "these aren't news; they're information." Meaning that they're not really stories. But it's the first time since Saturday that I don't feel guilty for not doing enough to earn the money I'm making here.

We spent some significant time in New Orleans for the first time. Parts, including the French Quarter look undamaged. Others are totally dead. Block after block of abandoned homes with lines marking how high the water reached. Streets empty of people but full of trash.

Driving is difficult because so many of the traffic lights are still out. Stop signs regulate major intersections and I don't know how many of them I simply blew through because you don't expect to see stop signs on such big streets.

We went drove through the heavily damaged Ninth Ward on the way to our first story. There are still road blocks to keep people out of certain parts of town. I don't know if looting is still a concern but our ID badges got us through.

Stevedores at St. Bernard Port don't have to worry about passing checkpoints. They live on board a merchant marine ship and walk to work. The port shut down after the storm and could not reopen when it was ready because all the workers had been flooded out of their homes. They had found temporary housing but it was nowhere close to New Orleans.

That's where the MV Cape Vincent comes in. Based in Beaumont, Texas, it usually serves as a transport vessel carting military vehicles around the world. Now it's docked at St. Bernard Port and its cargo is not tanks or humvees. It's 18 travel trailers hosting about 75 dock workers. The ship was modified to add extra plumbing and ameneties such as washers and dryers. The workers live aboard the ship when they're not working.

"Where is your home?" I asked one we saw as he went to do a load of laundry.

"You mean where WAS my home?" he said. He had lived in the Ninth Ward. Home destroyed. Same with his roommate (trailermate?) from Chalmette. Nothing left. They didn't seem thrilled with their situation. They didn't sound ungrateful as much as they seemed shellshocked. Neither knows what he's going to do. "I take it day by day," the guy from Chalmette said. How can you figure out what's to do next when you haven't processed what happened last?

We also shot an interview with a guy from the EPA about how it's sending crews around the city to collect whatever hazardous home waste (more than a million pounds so far) they find. We might stretch that into two stories. Remember, it's not supposed to be interesting; it's supposed to be informational. And in large quantities.

Kind of like what you're reading right now.

Racing against the setting sun, we went back to the Ninth Ward to shoot more video there. A woman came across the street and introduced herself. "I'm Mrs. Kador," she said. "And I just wanted to come over and say hello." She had come from a bright blue building with murals painted on it. Her late husband wrote a song called "Mother-In-Law," she said. My father often sings the chorus and I mimicked my father's rendition and asked her if that was it. "Yes it is," she said, flashing a good toothed smile.

Dad laughed when I called to tell him about it. I should have taken her picture.

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