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Nocturnal Submission
Im not sure where the day went. I lost all track of time. Its strange living in the place where I am employed. I caught myself wondering earlier when it was time to clock out and go home. A funny little joke played by the subconscious mind....

We were able to break down most of the mammoth desk in the NOC. The only problem we ran into is the that there is an electrical conduit running through the outer frame. While we were not able to disassemble all of it, we made some decent progress. Will finish it up in the morning.

Some great news - I was able to locate Churchill - my fluffy, fat feline! From what I understand, he is in a shelter in Gonzales, just south of Baton Rouge. Jonathan, a coworker who is coming to relieve Shane (who has been here for 2 weeks) is going to stop by the shelter on the way in tomorrow and pick him up. Im not sure what rescue group to thank, but if I owe petfinder.com for creating a friendly database to facilitate the rescue and retrieval efforts of animals trapped in the area.

And speaking of animals, we had us some cow tonight for dinner! Someone was nice enough to stock our fridge with pizzas and a few steaks earlier this morning. Shane is quite the cook. Steak, potatoes, green beans, corn....It was yummy! Dont get me wrong, it wasnt Ruth Chris, but he did quite well with the few supplies we had. I do think that is the first time I've ever eaten a steak out of a styrofoam bowl, so it's definitely worth mentioning.

Anyway, its air mattress time. Hopefully the flying cockroaches wont sneak in the office where Im sleeping and carry me away!

- Daniel Gifford

Pauls Perceptions....
I haven't slept well since evacuating before Katrina hit. There's something about bouncing between unfamiliar beds that keeps one from getting any real rest. Now that I'm sleeping in a closet just off of the datacenter floor it's gotten really bad. I'm tired. I don't know how the guys that were here before me managed to cope.

This morning we finished tearing down the desk unit where I normally sit so that the broken window behind it can be replaced. I don't know how much the guys who assembled it were paid, but it was too much. They left out half the screws and I'm surprised that the whole thing hadn't collapsed once monitors were placed on it. We'll see how well I manage to reassemble it once everything settles down.

We decided to get some sunshine this afternoon and walk around the CBD a little. The amount of debris that has been cleared is phenomenal. I don't know where they are going to haul off all the junk. In the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 they piled all the debris in the streets, paved over the top of it, cut new doors into the second floors, and called it good. It's too bad we can't do the same thing.

The stench around Canal and O'Keefe was almost unbearable. Several hours later and I can still feel it's greasy film coating the back of my throat. Even though the streets are essentially clean it is still very disgusting out there. Our sauna-like restrooms don't seem quite as daunting as they did yesterday.

The destruction that the storm caused is breathtaking. Everyone has seen pictures of the Hyatt but viewing it in person is unnerving. The Superdome is huddled between City Hall and the Hyatt scalped with her bare skull rotting in the sun. Then there's the flooding damage. And the devastated shops. And the destroyed cars. And collapsed buildings. The worst part is that we walked relatively few blocks. The task of rebuilding will be more than a Herculean effort.

Daniel has been reunited with his cat. A rescue organization broke into his house, scooped him up, and Churchill ended up in Gonzales (down the road from Baton Rouge). Jonathan, the guy who came in to relieve Shane this afternoon, swung by the shelter on his way into town and claimed the cat. Churchill is pretty weirded out but in good health. You could see Daniel relax when he knew that his cat was safe. I am *so* glad that I took my cat with me when I evacuated.

There is a safe laying on it's side on the 9th floor of the parking garage. It looks like someone beat it with a sledgehammer until it cracked open. There are little jewelry boxes scattered around it. Building maintenance says that no offices were broken into so it must have come from somewhere else. Evidently whoever took it brought it up into the parking garage so they could mask the noise of beating the hell out of it under the roar of our generator. Pretty ballsy.
We finished moving desks in the NOC this afternoon. When the contractor comes in this week to start replacing windows they'll have clean access to the window bays. If we hadn't taken care of the desks my guess is that the contractor would have shrugged and destroyed them.

Shane will be leaving tomorrow and we're going to miss him. He can work miracles with a bottle of italian dressing and some chicken breasts. He should write a book, "Good Cooking for the Urban Survivalist".

Some of the office staff will start trickling in tomorrow. While things around here will not be 'normal' for a long time, at least we can start working on a routine. There's still a tremendous amount of work to do.

-Paul Counts

Reunions And Reconciliations....
Churchill, my little man..

I am ecstatic! I was reunited today with my "Little Man", Mr. Winston Churchill. I can't believe I was able to find him in the sea of lost animals, abandoned animals and strays that were victims of Katrina! This is huge for me. He and I have been through so much the last 5 years. I adopted him when he was small enough to fit behind the stove, under the fridge and in my combat boots (He got stuck there once for a whole day!). Now he's much, umm, errr, healthier.....

As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to locate him thanks to petfinder.com, a database for displaced animals. I recommend that anyone who has lost their pet due to this tragedy look there, and most important, don't give up hope.

The kindness of strangers has amazed me over the last couple of weeks. I had no idea I would be away from my house as long as I have been, and I know I am not alone for feeling that way. Once I realized that returning would not be possible for some time I began flooding the sites of animal rescue organizations with pleas to rescue my cat. I was so desperate that I left my phone number on several sites, in plain view for everyone to see - something I would NEVER do otherwise. I received some really odd phone calls from crazy-cat-ladies in Iowa, Kentucky and even as far as South Africa - it was insane and humorous at the same time... However, there was one lady in Delaware who was kind enough to keep submitting my information to all of the sites, making phone calls, giving me updates, etc. If it wasn't for her I doubt the reunion would have taken place. There are many others out there like her who are giving everything they have to help others, and this is something the news rarely focuses on. I can't thank them enough!

In other news, its been a rough day. I had Paul update earlier because I couldnt put into words how I felt. I am struggling even as I write this. We took a short walk through the Central Business District earlier to get some sun, and I didn't even recognize my own city. Sure, I knew where things were located, and most of them were still there, but there was an eerie feeling of loneliness that I never thought possible in such a vibrant city as New Orleans. I have lived here for 10 years, and could never have imagined the destruction I saw and smelled today. Smelled, yes. The new reports can't even begin to convey the stench. I thought I was going to throw up at one point it was so bad. I would almost go so far and say it was traumatic. And to think that they even "cleaned up" for the President's visit last week when he toured the area!

On a lighter note, I have been a busy little bee today! We cleared out the big desks from the NOC so the contractors can replace the windows this week. Paul did most of the work while I cleaned up and carted stuff away. I think I took 5 large loads of trash down to the compactor today. You would be amazed at the amount of trash a crew of 3-4 people over the course of 3 weeks can make! I also cleaned the kitchen in the NOC, reorganized the office and tidied up my own office, as it was getting hard to move around with clutter everywhere. There was also a web of 15 extension cords in the hallway that were used to power lights, fans and other electrical neccessities when the building was without power. It took me 2 hours to untangle and make some sense of them. Regardless, I feel like we accomplished a lot today.

Thanks to Shane again for a delicious meal! I am concerned that we may not know how to eat once he leaves tomorrow. We will surely miss him. Also, while Id love to make Churchill our official mascot, I don't think he would be too happy staying in the office (although he does love the floor to ceiling windows!), so Shane's mom, who I've never met, is going to adopt him for a while until I can find a new place to stay. Again, the kindness of strangers prevails!

- Daniel Gifford