The Rebuilding: Starting from Scratch

How do you jump-start a Louisiana parish without money, even people? And let's not forget the snakes

Inside the ExxonMobil refinery offices he commandeered after Hurricane Katrina, where temporary telephone wires dangle from the ceiling alongside sticky yellow flytraps dotted with dead flies and mosquitoes, Henry (Junior) Rodriguez is deliberating on the future of devastated St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. As he downs a bag of chocolates that constitutes dinner, his considerable paunch on display, the parish president rehearses his upcoming appeal to Congress: with no taxpayers and no businesses, St. Bernard has money for just one month's payroll. Rodriguez wants help from Washington--or else. "Do people realize we produce 30% of the nation's gas and crude...

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