An Archive of Jacob Appelbaum’s Post-Katrina weblog


How long does a body have to sit in the sun?

Posted in algiers,fema,Katrina,media,medical,neworleans,photos by jacob on September 12, 2005

Found body

This man is three blocks from the house where I’m staying. Algiers is a poor area and it’s not getting the help that it needs.

Do you see this body?

This body has been sitting here for over a week. This place isn’t like Iraq. People need to stop saying that New Orleans is like the middle east. In Iraq the body would be cleaned up within hours and the tea boy would have settled me. This man has no shoes on, you can see his socks. He’s dead. He’s rotting in the hot sun.

This is in an American city.He’s already been discovered by DMORT. They marked the trash can and sprayed a big X over his body as if it wasn’t obvious by the smell alone and then they left him.

I want you to let that sink in for a moment.

A man in an non-flooded area of the city is dead. He’s laying on the ground for over a week with no shoes on. Was he killed for his shoes? Was someone really so in need that they took shoes off of a dead man? Was he running and somehow lost his shoes? Why do I care about his shoes anyway?

Why isn’t this man cleaned up? Why isn’t this man given the proper respect of at least a body bag? Why do other areas of the city have no bodies? Why haven’t the houses here been searched? How many bodies are in this area?

Today while walking down the road I found a dog in a bag. A dead dog inside of a plastic bag. It was leaking out into the street and was covered in flies because it had started toliquefy.

This is a health nightmare and it’s a perfect example of classism. This area isn’t worth while to the authorities to spend time cleaning up. When a policeman saw me taking these photos he started talking with Joel. When I came back to the area where the policeman was Joel was talking about taking photos of the body in hopes that someone would be motivated to come remove it. People have been calling and telling the police for over a week!

The police officer was nice. He didn’t bother us about the photos. Then something changed, I didn’t think he was so nice after all. I realized why he didn’t care about the photos. It took me a moment but then he laughed about someone coming to pick it up when we asked. That’s why he didn’t care about the photos, these aren’t his people. These are the people from Algiers and the authorities don’t care.

How can anyone say they have respect for this community when there’s a body laying in plain view?

On September 11th we remember Americans and what America stands for.

Found body 

42 Responses to 'How long does a body have to sit in the sun?'

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  1. Tonio said,

    This is important reporting. We’re not getting these images in the mainstream media. Please keep up the great work!


  2. […] Jacob Appelbaum’s weblog » How long does a body have to sit in the sun? […]

  3. j. said,

    i appreciate that you’re in the city and reporting back to those of us that aren’t, but when criticizing the city for not responding immediately to removing this body, as foul as it is that he’s still there, keep in mind that this is one of the reasons why they wanted the city _completely_ evacuated.

  4. jacob said,

    J.

    I would totally agree with you if you’re weren’t in the wrong. Algiers has never been under the mandatory evacuation. Over 7 days is unacceptable.

    These people have no where to go, no way to get there and nothing to do when they’re there. This is their home and it wasn’t destroyed by the flood.

  5. Jason Scott said,

    Why, because when they have every single person evacuated, they’re going to turn on the huge dome-vacuum and rid the place of everything? Jacob’s quite right to be outraged about this.

  6. Judy said,

    I may be wrong, but the way I understand DMORT’s methods suggests that the X indicates the presence of a body and the absence of living individuals. They go house to house, shelter to shelter, checking for people to save. If they find people, they get them out. If there are dead, they mark an X. There are so many ‘X’ that they can’t waste the time to dispose of them and instead continue their search for the living.

    Which isn’t to say that this situation isn’t a digusting display of what’s wrong with our system. It is. But that’s just how bad things are.


  7. […] Tonight, I read a very disturbing report (not for the squeamish) from one of the people I met at BarCamp. In this case, the analogy to conditions in Iraq wasn’t pulled out of thin air — he’d been there for some time quite recently. […]

  8. Heiko said,

    Ok, let’s say there are at least 1000 guys searching and rescuing, (that’s a low estimate and makes me wonder what the other 39,000 dudes are doing if THIS is the priority), and they’re going house to house.

    They’ve been doing it for at least 5 days. Lets say they can do 10 houses per hour…times 5 hours per shift solid. That’s 50 houses per shift, per guy…times 5 shifts = 250 houses per guy…times 1000 guys = 250,000 houses…so again…why are there still bodies in the streets???

    And surely, somebody has to pick them up eventually…so why not pick them up before they all (excuse the reality) turn to jelly and the heads roll off?

  9. sbarrett said,

    It is very unfortunate that the bodies have to lay out for so long. However, putting maximum effort into finding the living and getting them food and water has to be a priority.

    If just one more person died because they shifted any amount of resource to body recovery, it would be totally unacceptable.

    Yes there are over 39,000 people working in the area, but you wrongly assume they are all looking for individuals. The majority of those people are tending to and helping the living. They are moving supplies from place to place and getting people help. Everyone is so up in arms about people sitting around on bridges for days yet the same people complain that more has not been done about retrieving the dead.

  10. Heiko said,

    “39,000 tending to and helping the living”? Gee, that would make it 3.9 helpers for every civilian. Does that sound realistic to you?

    Maybe it’s because half of them are so busy securing the place with an M-16 in one hand and their dick in the other, they barely have time to think, let alone help anybody.

  11. zenji said,

    I can understand everyones sentiment: outrage, anger, and criticism. However, if you are not on the ground in NOLA, you don’t really have the proper insight into what should be done. I supremely respect what Jacob and Joel are doing, but I would say THEY don’t even have the proper insight…because they only have their personal perspective and life experience to guide them; how many disasters, crisis’, and mass destruction events have they reported on? Not a whole lot. They aren’t charged with handling this catastrophe or managing the resources. They don’t know what efforts ARE being done beyond their zone of visibility. To make judgements on this limited information is improper and hysterical.

    Heiko, I’m sorry, but abstract algebra is not helping anyone. 1000 living survivors? Are you stupid, ignorant, or a troll? They’ve evacuated 30,000+ from the city limts since after the storm hit and they find more all the time. There are thousands upon thousands of folks in need of help. Do you have any idea what logistics are, and how many people it takes to care for and remove a wounded person from a conflict scene? Guerilla warfare often has its intent to WOUND enemies, instead of killing them, because of the greater drain on the infrastructure to care for and handle the living wounded.

    Go donate some blood or water or something, but you’re just wasting your effort here. 10 houses an hour? Where did you get this number, besides pulling it out of thin air and whimsical fancy? Get real…their are FDNY firefighters on the ground in the French Quarter, some of whom literally survived the collapse of the North tower 4 years ago…and *THEY* can’t believe the devastation and carnage, both human and physical, that is left behind by this storm.

    It’s real easy to sit around and complain via your keyboard. Jacob and Joel have a valid point and position when complaining about what they see and experience first hand…but even they may not know everything. As for the cop not taking them seriously about Algiers? It sounds tragic. He probably *is* the insensitive ass they believe him to be. He may also be overwhelmed with what he is doing, and it’s how he responds. Who knows? None of us…not even Jacob and Joel, and they *met* him; but they are in a better place then any of us to say…

    As for removing the one body from an unflooded portion of the city…sorry guys. *Disaster area.* Living humans take prescedence over removing the dead any time. The effort to go collect the 1 body is probably too much of an impact to existing work elsewhere. Yes, he’s a human who perished through unknown circumstances. It’s tragic, horrible, disgusting, and disenheartening. But if they are so concerned about it, why haven’t they buried him and marked the spot? *I AM NOT* criticizing Jacob and Joel…but I offer that statement as food for thought.

    But’s its also one more person that is beyond help; the people who need help, who perhaps SHOULD have evacuated and didn’t, who might not have been ABLE to evacuate, who have survived thus far…THEY require the rescue efforts. They are the ones who are possibly saveable. They deserve the attention of this RESCUE effort. We aren’t really in clean up yet. They are STILL trying to save people. Cleaning up the dead who are NOT actively threatening the living (through disease and corruption) can not come before rescuing those who still need help.


  12. […] Link (Via Jacob Appelbaum’s weblog.) […]

  13. BruceH said,

    About the shoes….

    I notice that the man’s socks are relatively clean on the bottom. There does not appear to be any of the ground in dirt that one would expect had he been walking around without shoes before he died. Therefore, somebody took his shoes after he died. We will probably never know why, though there is no reason to suspect foul play at this time. Probably somebody just needed shoes and took an available pair from a man who no longer needed them.

  14. Paul said,

    That has to be one of the saddest things I have ever seen. even though its a million miles from me its still shocking to see the lack of humanity over there.

  15. Zaha said,

    Thanks for getting this all out to us. I think, as you do, that it is outrageous that the authorities aren’t cleaning up bodies more quickly. I think this has to do with the fact that their intent is to clear the city. Perhaps they think that leaving the bodies around will help them do so. Perhaps there are just so many bodies that those designated to deal with them – mortuary crews in hazmat suits, at this point, are overwhelmed. But just so you know, for your own peace of mind, dead bodies do not pose a significant health risk. Certainly they smell horrific, attract flies, and don’t help the morale of the community but it is unlikely that they will spread disease.

  16. Mikey said,

    I have to thank you for documenting what you’re seeing down there. I’m in Chicago and though we get national media images of the devastation, there’s really nothing to compare to first hand accounts. It sort of makes my everyday life issues seem sort of stupid. Please keep up the great work.

  17. scott said,

    Help the living before the dead! Simple idea

  18. Chris said,

    I work for a state agency (that will remain unnamed) and am on standby to go help out in the affected area, doing clean-up and distribution of supplies. We have not been deployed because we have been told we are not needed. So, it is not a matter of “helping the living before the dead”, as if there is a shortage of help. If FEMA is turning away help, there is no excuse for bodies rotting in the street.

    Simple idea.

  19. Greg said,

    If there was no flooding in Algiers, why did this guy die? My assumption was that, except for the old and infirmed, almost all of the deaths were due to drowning. He doesn’t look that old, and if he’s laying in the street, I have to guess he probably wasn’t infirmed.


  20. […] Jacob Appelbaum’s weblog » How long does a body have to sit in the sun? […]

  21. Kevin said,

    I don’t know what to think, but I know this would not be tolerated (and wasn’t) in more affluent areas. I remember reading about one town having more dead moved to warehouses there, via refrigerated trucks, than the entire population. In fact, one woman said she’d rather they arrive dead,”I mean, how would we feed them?” And the crime…

  22. Brian said,

    I find this a sickening side of America that doesnt bear scrutiny, just truly deplorable. Shades of the ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’, when this happens to the once greatest Nation in the World!

  23. Gen said,

    I think zenji’s comments regarding the situation are the most thoughtful and fairminded, I can’t improve on that. I think you’re wrong to accuse the policeman of lack of respect for the community. Many people, myself included, probably find it somewhat disrespectful that you took many photos of the body and posted them on the internet. If you’re really concerned about the removal of the dead, and not just the shock value of the photo, you should contact someone in charge and volunteer your services for that detail.

  24. Heiko said,

    Yes Gen, I think you’re right. Maybe we could be really respectful and not take any pics of dead people, or those in desperate situations, like in Iraq, or even back in Vietnam…and then we’d just turn off that silly internet and all get a good old nights sleep without ever having to confront reality. Real cozy like.

  25. mike said,

    Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Go get a shovel and bury him yourself. Mark the grave. Six feet is traditional, but a few feet should be ok. If you haven’t seen dogs or rats eating the man, then two feet of dirt should be alright. (means a three to four foot hole, depending on his size)

    Or you could load him into your car/truck/handcart and take him somewhere that is aceepting bodies.

    Best thing to do would be to get a pickup and go around picking up bodies along the way.

    Well, best thing would be to burn the bodies as you find them, or once you get a pickup loads worth, but we seem to be, as a society, a bit squemish about that. Really though, for disease and vermin control that’s the best thing to do. The dead are so bloated and decayed (sumer heat, high humidity) that identification is going to be next to impossible without comparing dental records, and most likely those records are under water now.

    I don’t understand the mentality of folks that see something that needs to be done, will not do it themselves, will bitch about it not being done, and will expect someone else to come in and do it.


  26. […] This really bothers the shit out of me. […]

  27. Alain said,

    Booh,
    I didn’t know this could happen in America. I’m depressed, that’s not the way I used to look at the States.
    Alain from the (good) old continent

  28. jacob said,

    Mike,

    You’re a funny guy. You say you don’t understand but then you pass a judgement.

    If you read further in the blog you’ll notice that it’s against the law to bury the body and we’re trying to *help* the community, not put strain on it by becoming a detained citizen.

    The body was removed by the authorities after Amy Goodman showed how impossible it was for someone to take control of the area.

    I totally understand your mentality and I don’t think it would work here. Trust me, I’d rather pick up the body and bury it myself. I gave it much thought and decided against it when I was told that it was unwise.

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