We ducked under branches and sagging street lights and I could see into second story homes. But this wasn't Mardi Gras, there was no party, no lights and no streets packed with revelers. Two years ago today, I hitched a ride on an airboat and took virtually the same route down Canal Street that I had become so familiar with from my yearly ride in the Mardi Gras’ Endymion Parade.
On the airboat, we passed Jefferson Davis Parkway and cut over to Iberville, where eight feet of water consumed homes, restaurants and lives. Water was literally everywhere. Bodies floated by and some were hung up on the top of stop signs. Occasionally, we could see someone swimming, even dogs trying to make it somewhere — anywhere — to dry ground.
One home still sticks in my mind — a man had spray painted a message to his friends on the outside of his second story. It said he was fine and others in the home had headed for a motel. In our airboat, a nurse stood as we approached the home. He yelled out to see if anyone was still inside — hoping that the message writer had come to his senses and left.
To our dismay, the man emerged with his wife. They were both in their late 30s and were adamant about "not giving up." As our nurse pleaded with them to come along in the airboat, a toddler, only clad in a diaper, walked out onto the second story balcony, which at this point was only a foot above the contaminated water.
That's when the nurse erupted. He said words I will never forget: "Don't do this to your child. If you want to stay in these conditions with water that will make you sick, no food, no water, no bathrooms, that's your choice. But ma'am, you are threatening his life!"
The family would eventually take our advice and pile into the airboat with us. The boy’s eyes will always be in my mind — I snapped a photo of him as he looked my way. He was scared, shocked and uncertain of what lie ahead. He didn't have to talk.
Since Katrina, I have been back to New Orleans several times, once with my family who also enjoyed the Big Easy prior to Katrina. I took them on a tour of where we had reported from and also the places they had enjoyed on their frequent trips. Both my mom and dad agreed that no matter how bad it looked on television — and we all know how bad it looked — the destruction is much worse in person. It is so hard to grasp how much was flooded; we can talk about it, show it, but unless you go and see blocks after blocks of neighborhoods still without a soul, it's hard to grasp.
I should also mention that it's not only the Ninth Ward that was hit hard; other neighborhoods throughout the city are still fighting to return. Some middle and upper-class locals suffered extreme damage and FEMA trailers can be seen parked on front lawns. My best friend, who is third generation from New Orleans and the person who got me involved in Endymion, was the only one not flooded on his street. He was lucky I guess, and in the past two years he has helped play an integral part in the rebuilding process.
New Orleans is fighting to come back, and we all want it to be like it was before Katrina … but even better.
• E-mail Adam Housley to give him your suggestions!
Adam Housley joined FOX News Channel in 2001 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. Most recently, Housley reported from President Ford's funeral. He also reported from Nicaragua and El Salvador on the war against drugs and scored an exclusive interview with Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega. You can read his full bio here.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.