for two weeks, "anyone could see his body from the street"

free at last

In a post I did one week ago I included a Times Picayune photograph of the blanket-wrapped body of Alcede Jackson lying on a bench on his front porch in New Orleans, and I included some strong lines from James W. Bailey. The NYTimes now reports that on Monday, almost two weeks after he died, the body was collected.

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 12 - They collected Alcede Jackson on Monday, relieving him at long last of a duty in death he never requested in life: to be a poor man's Pietà for his broken city.

They collected Alcede Jackson, finally.

They took nearly two weeks to do it, making their way through streets in Uptown that were never underwater, to the worn white house at 4734 Laurel St. Mr. Jackson's body had been laid out on the front-porch bench - as though for an interminable outdoor wake - waiting to be transported to some semblance of dignity.

Anyone could see his body from the street, and many did. It cried out for retrieval, lying there under a baby-blue blanket mottled with cigarette burns, a bouquet of dead flowers resting nearby, as 90-degree days came and went.

The loudest cries, though, came from the epitaph, scrawled in large letters on the kind of yellow-green cardboard that seemed to glow in the dark and taped to the house above the body's head. This was what it said:


B - D Aug. 31, 2005

Rest in Peace

In the Loving Arms of Jesus

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (Jesus) that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life!" - John 3:16.

For nearly two weeks, this was what it said. And not just from the porch.

Law-enforcement officials and search-and-rescue teams had regularly visited this neighborhood since the first of the month. Newspaper and magazine reporters and photographers passed by the modest house on Laurel Street every day. In fact the entire world read about this front porch and the entire world watched the body of Alcede Jackson lying there uncollected, day after day.

The entire world now wants to know how that could have happened, and it won't be satisfied with Bush's touchy, reflexive denial that there was any racial component to the government's response to this disaster.

[image by Monica Almeida for the NYTimes]