August 29th, 2008
01:36 PM ET

Bourbon St: Population 3

Editor's Note: Anderson Cooper 360° is in New Orleans tonight, as Tropical Storm Gustav barrels toward the Gulf of Mexico, expected to reach Category 3. We'll look at whether New Orleans is ready, after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina exactly three years ago today. Watch our special report tonight at 10p ET.

Ed Lavandera
CNN Correspondent

One picture I have stashed away seems to capture the enormity of Katrina. It sits in a stack of old photos from my travels across the country. It’s a picture of Bourbon St. The lights are out, except for the moonlight glimmering off the top of some French Quarter buildings. And the street is empty. I mean totally deserted, just me and two colleagues walking down one of the most famous streets in the world. I should call the picture “Bourbon St: Population 3.”

It was a late night just days after the storm hit. I remember standing there and thinking (hoping really) that this moment would never repeat itself.

Since then, I’ve told friends imagine standing in New York’s Times Square in total darkness and you’re the only person there. Think about it for a second… That will never happen. I think you could have said the same thing about Bourbon St. Any second of the day on every day of the year Bourbon St. was, and now is again, filled with lights, music and people. Even if it’s 5am the population of inebriated revelers staggering home is way more than 3. Within weeks the lights came on again, the sights and sounds of Bourbon St returned. But I’ll never forget that dark and silent night.

Of course the story of Katrina is much greater than the temporary shut down of Bourbon St., but to me it’s a symbol of the darkness and loneliness many of Katrina’s victims suffered.

Filed under: Ed Lavandera • Hurricane Katrina
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Norma

    Thanks for sharing. This picture is very personal to me. This is a similar scene to the one I remember of my street, when we for the last time closed the front door of what was our home for 30 years in New Orleans. We had to leave the city 6 months after Katrina and our hearts felt a deep stabbing pain that has not yet lifted. Thank you for all your excellent reporting and profound empathy with the people of New Orleans. Let's pray that this new storm will spare the now more vulnerable city of additional destruction and suffering. With Katrina we learned that for the most part we were on our own and left without effective government assistance and intervention for the mending of a tragedy of this magnitude.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:18 pm |
  2. Jason

    I remember this day (three years ago) like it was yesterday. I was on my bachelor party in New Orleans and had 12 of my closest friends with me before the storm hit. You may ask why I didn't leave but I couldn't, the train that brought us into New Orleans wasn't coming back to pick us up. So we waited out the storm and after four days of hell on earth we all made a decision to walk out through the water. It was a wild ride that had our lives threatened by local law enforcement officers time and time again. We got lucky and eventually found a ride out of town but it was not an easy thing for any of us. Needless to say, I haven't forgotten that week and I never will.

    I hope this time around they can save those who want to be saved.

    August 29, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Stacy

    At the time, no one knew that the colossal lack of oversight would eventually dovetail into the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, real estate and the mortgage lending industry.

    Many of Americans might have been shocked by this, but there were some of us who could see these things on the horizon. The media did a phenomenal job with their coverage of hurricane Katrina and our criminally incompetent government. When it comes to holding our leaders accountable in regards to some other issues though? Not so much.

    August 29, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  4. Brian

    I too have been in St Bernard Parish since the storm hit. It was truly devastating how quiet it was. Out of all the poeple who lived there prior to the storm, only about 8,000 had returned a year later. All the businesses were wiped out. They have made progress and it is encouraging to see people moving back.

    August 29, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Manon Leclerc

    I've been staring at your picture for many minutes and I can hear the music, people laughing, dancing, talking and drinking...That's what Bourbon St. is all about... I can't imagine being on it and not hear or see one little thing... But then again, I've been to St. Bernard Parish 8 months after the storm and it was oh so quiet even during the day...

    August 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
  6. JC- Los Angeles

    The Katrina catastrophe was one of the first times I can remember where the media beat the Federal Government to a scene and exposed our nation's leaders as unqualified, check collecting frauds.

    At the time, no one knew that the colossal lack of oversight would eventually dovetail into the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, real estate and the mortgage lending industry.

    Looking for inspiration, the great people of New Orleans and the Gulf coast showed us what resiliency, perserverance and rebirth is all about; we owe them great thanks for their inspirational examples.

    August 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm |
  7. Tina

    I'd pay a 150.00 to get the ball a rolling.

    August 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm |