Something I’ve only seen pictures of becomes more real than I could’ve imagined when we arrive, seven riders and a guide, at the infamous Lower Ninth Ward. The hard, hot ride down floats off behind us like a hat taken by the wind as we bike through what used to be a congested neighborhood. Now lay empty lots cleared of the destruction, the devastation concealed by green grass and inviting trees.
But every now and then a house destroyed will come into purview, becoming clearer as we get closer. Finally, in front of it, we have a view in, where it is eerily dark and bright at the same time. Dark is what used to be the interior, crashed upon the ground as if still in motion. Bright is the sun unfiltered in a house with no doors or windows. This is a reality unattainable through pictures.
Aaron Viles, our knowledgeable volunteer guide from Gulf Restoration Network, brings us to the very spot where the levies were breached. From our vantage point, looking from afar at the neighborhoods we biked through to get here, it is a strange trickle of sweat that begs me not to acknowledge what I’m seeing. That at this moment I look through the eyes of the rush of water which was the beginning of Hurricaine Katrina for New Orleans.
Next stop is Bayou Bienvenue, where we learn about the destruction of the wetlands from an inflow of saltwater. John Taylor explains that the motives of shipping industries caused the death of the cypress population that used to house the thriving swamp instead of the now wide expanse of river. He went on to explain that had the swamp been healthy and hearty, Hurricane Katrina may have been subdued enough to not have even reached the city.