Katrina Plus One Year, Part 3 - The Lifeless Lower Ninth:

At least the barge is gone. When the Rude Pundit was in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans this past December, a huge barge sat in the middle of the street closest to the levee. It had destroyed every house it had swept across, smashing them to piles of torn wood and drywall. Now the barge was gone. The wreckage was also absent, with only the foundations and front steps left behind of an entire block of homes. But at least the barge was gone.

In one of those so-ironic-you-wanna-throw-up moments, two white guys were digging through the rubble of a house on Claiborne, pulling out different wires and cables, looking for copper ones, perhaps. The Rude Pundit said to his companion, "Look, looters." His companion begged to differ. They were, she said, just searching through an abandoned house for garbage, not plasma screen TVs. "Or bread," the Rude Pundit responded. The pair found what they were looking for, coiling up some wire, picking up a framed picture, a spice rack, but deciding to leave it. Neither of them was on lookout. They didn't care if the cops came. And then they tossed the wires in their Camaro's trunk and sped off.

Throughout the Lower Ninth, more houses are gutted, but there is little, if any, reconstruction. The crushed cars that had been under fallen houses are piled in small stacks of four or five. And, like Lakeview, the streets are passable. But the only real life here is found in the cars of tourists weaving around, dumbfounded faces, photo taking fingers, and one or two city utility crews and a van of white teenage workers from an activist group.

We stopped outside a gutted church (what a word, "gutted," your insides ripped out) and went in. The Rude Pundit's companion pointed to a stack of dishes and said that she heard story after story about people who lost nearly everything but great grandma's china, which somehow became gently encased in mud. "Like Pompeii," the Rude Pundit offered. The church was hollow, but someone had propped up a painting in the corner of Jesus standing in a river. Or a flood. The decadent air was barely breathable as we wandered around that dark and fetid space. No cross, no altar, no seats, just echoes.