Published: January 23rd 2008December 28th 2007
Cameron’s importance before September of 2005 centered around shrimping, the petroleum industry, and being the seat of the parish of the same name that abuts Vermilion to the west. While all three still play their essential roles, the wind-driven destruction of Rita lends to Cameron an ominous sensation that the storm struck its lethal blow only three weeks ago. Cameron is the swamp version of a ghost town whose primary sign of life is connected to the grey angular monsters of natural gas platforms rising from the Gulf.
Cameron is still reeling. Dangling pieces of rusty sheet metal flap from the steel beams of obliterated warehouses. Homes were so completely wrecked that only their foundations remain from which entangled copper wires reach up but connect to nothing. In what used to be the front driveway, the pole of a basketball hoop is bent inland at a forty-five degree angle, a reminder of Rita’ powerful wrath. Bare trees are half the height they used to be. Frames of rotting vehicles, having been tossed hundreds of yards into the marsh, seep deeper into the wetlands. They still have not been retrieved. Electrical circuitry spills out of smashed gasoline pumps at the ruins of
Left as a complete loss...
a Shell station. The barren lot at the corner of a side road and Highway eighty-two has not been touched. The pumps either lean forward or back, ready to completely fall over at any time. The hoses and nozzles lie limp on the ground. They are damaged beyond repair. It seems that Shell hasn’t gotten around to cleaning up its own mess.
Townspeople have created crude junkyards at street corners for storm-damaged. They sit in the open air crushed on their sides or piled atop of one another. The wind whistles in the chilly air. There are no children playing outside to offset this sad and lonely image.
Except for petroleum workers, Cameron is silent. Nothing stirs but truck traffic from the ferry or helicopters landing at an airstrip, having arrived from the offshore platforms. The local motel is open, but no cars are parked in front of any rooms. A few people enter and exit a convenience store. But even it is not a permanent structure. Like the mobile homes, little is staked down in Cameron unless it can quickly be put on wheels and evacuated. Otherwise, it is given up for lost.
One hundred sixty Kershaw Lane
Not at this Shell station....
is still an address in Cameron. The street sign clearly designates the correct turnoff. Although weeds have grown over parts of the pavement, the lane is like any other but for one glaring exception: The Kershaw home, or what remains of it, is in the middle of the road. The frame of the five-room pink sided home was ripped off its foundation and thrust intact to the north. It slammed into two trees, which are firmly lodged inside the exterior wall. To stake a claim of the wreckage, someone spray-painted Wayne Kershaw’s name and phone number on the front. I do not know what happened to him or his family. Yet by the looks of the mess, Wayne came back after the storm passed, salvaged the very little he could, and walked away never to return. Tipped over corroded appliances in the front yard have been left behind. Sheet metal leans against a television set with toppled furniture nearby in the rear. On an unrecognizable appliance is a collection of belongings that, when in its right place would make a house a happy home. There is a cordless sander, a small blender, tidily arranged plates and saucers, and a pink
When Did it Hit?
Two years ago? Or three weeks ago?
and purple Barbie pouch meant for a little girl. The pouch is covered in a thin layer of dust. Does that little girl miss carrying Barbie and Ken around in it? How many guests enjoyed coffee on those saucers? Just how good were those pies Mrs. Kershaw made in the home the whole family had to tragically give up as a total loss? I stare at them and the lifeless interior of the Kershaw home and for the only time since coming to Louisiana I am terribly sad. I have developed a highly crucial affective filter over the years. It is a travel accessory as important if not more so than any pocket knife or guidebook. I have proudly bragged how it has protected me from becoming emotionally attached or adversely impacted by misery, disease, and overall mayhem. In the case of the Kershaw home, my affective filter was starting to falter.
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