We enjoyed our last breakfast in the bright, clean common room of Hands on USA and said our goodbyes. We drove the short distance from Biloxi to New Orleans and pulled of Rt 10 onto Franklin Blvd at about 10 am.
What we saw was nothing like Biloxi. I really don't know how to describe it. This was a poor community before the hurricanes, but it was alive and filled with people. As we entered the 9th ward it felt like we were driving into a ghost town. Where Biloxi had maybe 60 percent of its businesses closed the 9th looks almost deserted. Lots of damage, less violent than in Biloxi but most of the damage and debris looks untouched. Most traffic lights are out, not that there's any traffic.
The Common Ground 'Convergence Center' is meant to house the mass of expected volunteers and act as a central dispatch for work crews. The center is located in a warehouse that has had hasty repairs made to it. No power. Showers are half done. Xmas lights strung through the halls are powered by a touchy generator. Its disorganized, but we are also early.
The good news is that I get to use my tools right off. Rossana and I help on half a dozen projects to help get the center up and running. We set up the car port we brought with us and instantly doubled the cooking area. Sleeping arrangements consist of several open rooms with matresses obtained from some prison. The place HAS been cleaned and still reeks of pine scent. We decide that some privacy would be very nice and spend an hour trying to find the area set aside for tenting. In the end we found it, a former day care center that CG cleaned out and renovated in exchange for free use for three months. It's empty as few people seem to have brought camping gean. We set up and drove back for the orientation meeting. It started late and was poorly run. These are mostly college age kids here. Lots of energy and enthusiasm. They want to make the world a better place. Some have hippie names like Starhawk and Sunshine. We cover the group, it's mission, what they hope to accomplish!
and the general plan of attack. We were told that indeed the cops here can be assholes. Several CG people have been arrested on BS charges.
Tomorrow will really tell. We saw and did a lot today. After the meeting we had an healthy meal prepared by an organic farmer to thank us for our work.
No pics as there is no wireless, just my phone. I got my first scare just before turning in. Rossana went to use the porta john while I carried our backpacks to the side yard where our tent is. Suddenly I see the bright blue strobing lights of the NOPD by the front of the house. My heart skips a beat and I run for the front of the house tearing my utility knife and leatherman tool off my belt frantically so I won't be percieved as 'armed'. But by the time I get to the front I can see that the cop has actually pulled over a black motorist a bit down the road. Rossana was shaken too.
This is a whole different ball game.