The flooding covered eighty per cent of the city, leaving dry only a mile-wide sliver of high ground that recalled how New Orleans came to be known as the Crescent City. The mansions of Carrollton and the Garden District, the tall office buildings of the Central Business District, the French Quarter, and the rougher neighborhoods of Faubourg Marigny and Bywater were squeezed between the floodwater and the river. Those in dry New Orleans during the first week of the crisis hardly ever saw cops, or anyone in authority. Except for some orange-and-white Coast Guard helicopters and a few choppers from the Louisiana National Guard, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday went by with little sign of the police or outside help. To those left in the city, it felt as if government at all levels had vanished, as if not only New Orleans but the nation itself had disappeared. Lurid rumors filled the void. A creepy compulsion to believe the worst distorted what New Orleanians saw, heard, and felt, what they chose to do, and what they would remember.
Looters smashed their way along Canal Street, a diverse commercial strip that divides the Central Business District from the French Quarter, grabbing discount clothing, DVDs, and sneakers. Saks Fifth Avenue was sacked and burned. Burglars along St. Claude, the main commercial avenue bordering Faubourg Marigny, cleared taverns’ cashboxes and liquor shelves. In the suburbs, where thieves could use cars to haul booty, they made off with guns, bicycles, and stereos.( Collapse )