I spent all day Thursday with three good friends and it was one of the worst days of my life.
We were finally able to get into New Orleans and begin the process of checking on our churches. Freddie Arnold from our associational office had secured a pass that got us past police checkpoints, and with Ed Jelks and his wife Glenda (I told you previously he is a church builder for the state convention), we spent the day visiting over twenty churches.
I’ve been worrying about how to tell this. We confined our visits to Orleans Parish, the portion of our city which is officially New Orleans. We drove down deserted streets with no traffic lights, with destruction on both sides, downed trees everywhere, homes boarded up, every store and every business closed. Not some and not most. Every last one. From the time we entered New Orleans at 9:30 am until we moved into Metairie over 7 hours later, we did not see one place to buy a coke or go to the rest room.
No birds were singing. One or two stray cats showed up and ran away. We saw an occasional worker cutting trees or stringing electrical lines. I think we saw a homeowner or two working in their yards, but nothing more. The silence was eerie. This is a major city populated by hundreds of thousands of people, but none were around.
Every house and business wore racing stripes, lines to indicate where the water had risen and stopped, then lingered. Lines placed there by the filth and ugliness carried in the water. The fortunate homes wore their lines low; most sported them like belts, at mid-level or even higher.
Boats were scattered everywhere. The water was gone, but the boats remained. Good boats, many with motors in place and supplies lying on the floor, just sitting there, by the side of the street or under the interstate. I suppose anyone who wanted one could hitch up to it and drive away. We saw life vests discarded, and debris and refuse washed into corners by the fences. And the libraries. Have you ever seen a library after a flood? Not a pretty sight. Books that have been mutilated and desecrated and muddied and ruined forever, scattered across the floor. Mildew and mold on the loyal volumes still holding their position on the shelves. Dark, dank, depressing.
And now the churches. You wanted to know about the churches, and I have stalled too long.