All In The Same Boat

Plaquemines Parish Still Waits For Aid

Traveling 40 mile south of New Orleans, correspondent Byron Pitts found doorways to heartache and roads that lead nowhere in Plaquemines Parrish.

Abandoned animals howl for help and human survivors grumble for the same.

Among them are Jeff Edgecomb and Byron Prest, who like all their neighbors, lost everything they own.

"I'll be honest," says Prest. "I'm 42 years old and we lost it a few times. There's not one grown man who can say he didn't cry over this one."

Both men say they've yet to see a single representative from FEMA, except when they and their families were kicked out of the hotel to which they'd fled to in Baton Rouge. A FEMA team, it seems, needed hotel space..

Pointing to an elderly woman in a wheelchair, he said, " When you get 89 - or 90-year-old women that didn't' have anything. They get a motel room, but yet they get pushed out in the street by FEMA. That lady in the wheelchair? That lady in a wheelchair kicked out of the hotel and sent on her way.'

So Prest and the other men of Plaquemines clear their own debris and look for their own dead.

There are houses leveled to the ground and others pushed in the street, but as bad as it is in this part of Plaquemines, travel south and you'll see towns only reachable by air or by boat.

These were once fishing communities, crayfish to oyster. That stench in the air isn't simply dead animals, but livelihoods lost.

"We were the first hit and we were looking for assistance and we're still looking for assistance," says Benny Rousselle, Plaquemines Parish president. "I am frustrated and I am aggravated and we are looking for help."

Jay Freedman's looking for fragments of his life. He clutches a brick from what's left of his home: "I got here me a souvenir, that keeps me from crying. I hold on to it."

Freedman adds, "Catastrophic! Take that word and think about what it means and this is what it means. You're looking at it. It can't get any worse.'"

And it won't get any better, Friedman says, unless the federal government shows up soon. It took this region 20 years to recover from Hurricane Camille.

"'We're all in the boat together, we've got to get together to pull together," Freedman says.

Plaquemines is where glory still stands and faith still matters. Folks believe what the sign says: "JESUS IS COMING, even if the Feds never do."
  • Mary-Jayne McKay

More From 48 Hours

Comments