There are a few people, and I must say, just a few, that we have seen dressed in what reasonable people would say are normal clothes. Shoes, a button-down shirt, a suit jacket. Most people here, regardless of income level, race, or previous job, are dressing in "survival" mode. This consists of boots, cargo pants or shorts, leather work gloves stuffed in one back pocket, with a respirator mask shoved into the other. They also typically have a case of water and several MREs in the back seat of their vehicle, and rubber boots and a shovel on the floor. What is most astounding about this "survival mode" is who it affects. Waiters, doctors, lawyers, ditch diggers, truck drivers, bankers, all economic and social levels, all races, all ages. Driving through the CBD (Central Business District), the Garden District and the French Quarter, you can almost convince yourself things are getting back to normal, that it's just a missed trash pickup day, or a good sized construction project in the neighborhood.
But drive out Tulane Avenue, or any major street towards the lake from downtown, and the scene is like something out of a movie. Flooded cars and buildings covered with a chalk white film, left when the waters receded. All plants... grass, shrubs, small trees... dead after being submerged for a month in a toxic soup. The water line is still visible, and will be for months, five feet up on most buildings. Trash is everywhere, stacked up in front of houses, businesses and office buildings, just now beginning to dry out. There are flies swarming everywhere. Power is out, water is out. Two-story buildings show a bottom floor gutted to the bare wood frame, and mold covers everything else.
Citizens are starting to come back, but what are they coming back to?