Friday, September 09, 2005

The corpse on Union Street

The best writing and most provocative story so far on Katrina's horrific aftermath? Dan Barry's Sept. 8 New York Times piece, "Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street." It brings the helter-skelter ghastliness of New Orleans' deathscape into redolent focus by exploring a flat-lined place through the grisly touchstone of a corpse left mostly unmolested on what would have been a bustling street corner on a sane day. Talk about FEMA and shelter-hopping all you want ... the story of Katrina is right here.

An excerpt:

"In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.

"... Maybe the slow acquiescence to the ghastly here -- not in Baghdad, not in Rwanda, here -- is rooted in the intensive news coverage of the hurricane's aftermath: floating bodies and obliterated towns equal old news. Maybe the concerns of the living far outweigh the dignity of a corpse on Union Street. Or maybe the nation is numb with post-traumatic shock.

"Wandering New Orleans this week, away from news conferences and search-and-rescue squads, has granted haunting glimpses of the past, present and future, with the rare comfort found in, say, the white sheet that flaps, not in surrender but as a vow, at the corner of Poydras Street and St. Charles Avenue."

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