Two weeks later and they’re just now getting around to collecting the dead.
They collected Alcede Jackson on Monday, relieving him at long last of a duty in death he never requested in life: to be a poor man’s Piet for his broken city.
They collected Alcede Jackson, finally.
They took nearly two weeks to do it, making their way through streets in Uptown that were never underwater, to the worn white house at 4734 Laurel St. Mr. Jackson’s body had been laid out on the front-porch bench – as though for an interminable outdoor wake – waiting to be transported to some semblance of dignity.
Anyone could see his body from the street, and many did. It cried out for retrieval, lying there under a baby-blue blanket mottled with cigarette burns, a bouquet of dead flowers resting nearby, as 90-degree days came and went.
And the body of Alcede Jackson stayed on the porch. Stayed and stayed.
At some point, a search-and-rescue team stopped long enough to paint a large, neon-orange X on the front of the house, along with the inscription “1B,” for one body. The team did not write the date of its visit, as is customary, but did leave a single blue rubber glove on the Jacksons’ tiny patch of lawn.
On Saturday near dusk, the body was there, shouting to the reporters and the law-enforcement officials who had replaced the neighbors, long since evacuated, who might have known Mr. Jackson. Down at the well-manicured house that Mr. McEnery operates as the Laurel Street Bed and Breakfast – “Dedicated to Family Values” – the phone rang and rang, unanswered.
On Sunday in midafternoon, the body was there, loud in its exposure, in its smell. And questions hung in the air.
And it’s no picnic for the guardsmen serving you in the disaster zone.
As a Guard truck’s engine started, [Tulane University student Carey] Terry talked about the tough decisions the soldiers invariably will have to make.
A truck that Terry recently accompanied encountered a body on the road.
Because of contamination risks, the soldiers couldn’t touch the corpse, which had been decomposing for days.
The soldier at the wheel had two choices: turn around and abandon the mission or run over the body to keep trying to save lives. He drove forward.
Then, as [Spc. Joshua] Panter drove past a line of abandoned cars and debris on an elevated highway, he saw words painted on the concrete: “Help,” “Send Food,” “Sick Baby.”
There was no sign of what happened to the people. Did they get food? Were they rescued? Did they perish? Did the baby get help?
“Your mind can wander like that,” Panter said.