Algiers Under Seige
There are an estimated 100 people still in their homes on the Point, and they know their neighborhood is one of the few lucky ones. In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, when it was apparent that the city across the river was in horrific trouble, this small community pulled together to take care of one another for the long haul. They certainly didn't expect to be facing down armed intruders today on their front porches.
I talked tonight to Julie and Patrick. They sheltered in a tall hotel (known as a vertical evacuation), and then were able to return to their home on the Point. They'd prepared as they'd been told, putting aside supplies and food.
The first day or two after the storm, Julie tells me, brought them closer to their community than ever. They met neighbors they'd only waved to in the past, and everybody settled in to keep things going against the day all could come home.
She's wonderful to talk to, by the way - lyrical with her manner of speech. So hearing what's going on now, from her, was surreal.
There have been quite a few shooting episodes today on the Point. Depending on who you ask, there are two? four? more? dead. So far, the dead are all looters.
They've barricaded their streets - downed tree limbs on one end and a neighbor's vehicle on the other.
They are targets. Sitting ducks. And they know it. There is total social breakdown across the river, and the madness is spreading. There is a sense of impending disaster, personified in the hysterical, desperate survivors from ravaged New Orleans.
There are small groups of armed residents walking the streets in Algiers. I understand completely why they would want to do that - but it's amplifying the anxiety. And as Julie put it, "We've loved living here. This sickens me, and I don't want to have to kill anybody. We should be trying to help one another."
They came through Katrina relatively unscathed, while so many others are suffering horribly. They feel that they've been forgotten utterly as a result. There are armed looters walking openly on their streets, and they are facing them alone.
Somebody needs to get some help to these folks. Many of them want desperately to get out, but they can't see a path to safety through the incredible violence surrounding them. Are there no authorities left on the West Bank? Is everybody gone?
For Algiers, the storm is coming again.