I was at the Wasabi restaurant parking lot of New Orleans when Captain Greg Henry picked me up for a two hour drive to Grand Isle. That spot on the ground, he told me, was the highest point of land during Hurricane Katrina.
Five years ago, around this time in September, I understood the gravity of impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans, and other Gulf residents. Only by television was I able to see people on the rooftops of their houses desperately seeking rescue and aid from others; anxious families waiting in the streets for any help at all; and an entire American city drowned amidst the failures of its local, state, and federal government. Over 1,800 people were killed mostly from the states of Louisiana and Mississippi and the disaster cost about $135 billion in damages. 40% of Louisiana residents killed by the storm died of drowning.
Indeed, during that ride off Pontchartrain Blvd. I saw the immense walls being constructed as a barrier against floodwaters from any future storm, and intended to prevent the same disaster from recurring. This time, however, a new seemingly invisible disaster was occurring, and for all we know is still happening: ecological/financial damage resulting from the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill.
The explosion off of the Deepwater Horizon occurred on April 20, 2010. 11 people were killed in the disaster, and several others injured.Spewing oil from the leaking well continued into the month of July, however, doing untold damage to marine life. Almost five billion barrels of oil were spewed into the ocean.
Since then, BP has helped in the often criticized and scrutinized clean-up and oil capping efforts. The White House put forward a moratorium on new deep, offshore oil drilling projects in an effort to prevent a future incident.
Between July 19 and July 23 I spent time at Grand Isle, Louisiana—one of the places greatly affected by the oil spill. In that time I met and interviewed many people with something to say concerning the oil spill’s effect on their lives.
Though I will provide comments and observations on the economic and governing aspects of this crisis I want to focus more on examination of those most affected by the spill. Speaking with residents, fishermen, and business owners I feel that I have not only seen what has happened to those living through this, but the effect it has had on an entire way of life. I have also used photos to document my personal observations of the beaches, town, gulf residents, and their frustrations.
Leslie Kaufman, “Search Ends for Missing Oil Workers,” New York Times, April 22, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/us/23rig.html?fta=y