McCusker and I went to Interstate 10, chronicling the plight of a long trail of suffering refugees who had walked through the polluted waters surrounding their homes from neighborhoods across the city. Spera, the music critic, wrote about a body in the middle of Convention Center Boulevard, highlighting a rescue and police operation so overwhelmed it would ignore rotting bodies in plain sight for days to come. Perlstein teamed with Lee to write of how the city's criminal justice system had been obliterated as the evidence room was flooded.
The team had been staying in the abandoned house of photographer John McCusker's mother. There was sad news from New Orleans yesterday about McCusker and the toll Katrina had taken in his personal life:
A photographer for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans who has undergone severe personal trauma since Hurricane Katrina hit was arrested Tuesday after trying to get police to shoot him to death. Police said he claimed he was depressed after he found out he didn't have enough insurance money to rebuild his Katrina-damaged home.
They said he was seeking "suicide-by-cop," but police who found him tasered him instead.
Earlier published accounts had revealed that he had recently taken a leave of absence from the paper and was undergoing therapy.
John McCusker, the photographer, was being held under psychiatric observation and faces unspecified charges.
In this follow up AP report, police say they can relate to the post-Katrina stress:
James Arey, commander of the police department's SWAT negotiating team, said he can understand why McCusker seemingly snapped.
"There are all these things you're trying to deal with in your own life - not enough insurance, family problems, your health problems," said Arey, who does not know McCusker. "And then day in and day out, we get to see the wreckage of our city and people's lives. It's not easy to handle."
The article says police in Orleans and Jefferson Parish are answering more calls for domestic violence, drinking, and fights than before Katrina. According to the article, "Involuntary commitments to mental hospitals are up from last year, and suicides in Orleans Parish have tripled since Katrina."
Mental health experts say it will only get worse, and that the approaching one-year anniversary of Katrina "will spark new feelings of loss and more emotional and physical stress." Unfortunately the city isn't equipped to deal with it:
Along with the general stress, there are more people with chronic mental illness not getting medication in the area now, Arey said. There's also far less professional help for them.
The city's crisis intervention unit at Charity Hospital - the primary center for such emergency treatment before the storm - has been closed since Katrina. That limits the options for police after they pick up someone in need of psychological help.
"There's almost no psychiatric services in Orleans Parish now," Arey said.
This is a sad reminder that not only are the people of New Orleans struggling to rebuild their city, they are still struggling to rebuild their lives.