I recently downloaded Google Earth, and it’s been a good eight to 10 months since I’ve had it installed on my computer and I’ve used it. The good news is that there are now high-res images of a lot of places in Southeast Asia and the Middle East — places like Lhasa and Thimpu, which used to be blurry blobs on the screen. You can now peer into the king’s swimming pool at his outpost in Siem Reap, Cambodia, or marvel at the junta’s new military capital in Burma.
But as I zoomed from one point of the globe to another with the same enthusiasm I used to have when I would look up different American states in the World Book, I wondered what New Orleans looks like now.
Damn. With high-powered satellites, you can literally see how the flood waters drowned huge swaths of the city. Entire neighborhoods were wiped off the map (more often than not, one neighborhood was washed on top of another as if the houses — houses, I say — were simply toys that were blown over by a breeze). I don’t think the wall-to-wall television news coverage of Katrina did any justice to the amount of damage to some sections of the city.
If you use Google Earth, find downtown New Orleans (make sure north is pointing straight up), then follow the river east to the first major canal. At the top of the canal, just before it forks in two, look at the residential neighborhoods to the east. You can see where the water rushed out of the canal and rearranged people’s homes like furniture in a doll house. Zooming in only makes me feel more sadness.
I got to know two women who survived Katrina — I wrote about them in April. I nearly cried as they described their experiences.
We all need to keep New Orleans and her survivors in our prayers. Judging from the images on Google Earth, I can’t imagine how long the recovery of New Orleans will take.