All that's left on some blocks in this town of 900, and some of the neighboring communities along the levee, are concrete stoops. That's it. Churches and stores simply vanished and a big chunk of the road that is so important to maintaining Louisiana's rich oil fields is washed away. Sturdy wood frame houses that survived when the wind got strong and the water got high in the past were ground into kindling, reduced to mere smudges of color on the sloping sides of the river levees.
Also pointed out is the damage that has been done over the years to the natural hurricane protection systems, the wetlands. We will be rebuilding, and we will be putting up a new levee, but we also should look at some past mistakes, and make sure those are not repeated.
The Plaquemines that Judge Perez ruled looks like a cursed place now. Cattle roam untended on deserted streets, and pecan trees -- once tall and majestic -- lie down in the fields, toppled and broken. The lush groves that produced satsumas, sweet oranges coveted each harvest season by Louisianians, have gone brittle and brown, burned crispy by 14 feet of salty water that came through a 200-foot-wide break in the marsh levee.
On the other side is wild Louisiana, part land, part water, a place that was vanishing even before Katrina, and that environmentalists are begging harder than ever for the federal government to restore. "As a child I always used to think, 'What's beyond this?'" said Duplessis, who remembers going for swims in the Mississippi with his father. "The ducks would fly off, and I would always wonder where in the world they would go."