Without having been there—actually seeing it for yourself in person—it’s hard to comprehend just how hard Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, particularly the Lower Ninth Ward. When the levees broke, this neighborhood bore the brunt of the damage, altering the landscape in ways that defied logic. Roofs of houses lay in the middle of the street. Cars had been tossed around, littering yards, streets, and even front porches. Whole houses were lifted off their foundations. Personal items—remnants of people’s lives—scattered everywhere.

I went there a few months after the storm, when the very slow process of cleaning and rebuilding had just begun. Houses had been checked for bodies. Bulldozers had cleared some streets. Electricians worked to ensure that power lines were no longer live. Still, it was dizzying and overwhelming to stand in the middle of it all. I couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like to have lived there.

Aside from the cleanup crews, pretty much the only other people I saw in the neighborhood were photographers. At the time, these photos felt voyeuristic. In a way, they still do. But they also give a little sense of the scale and depth of the physical devastation wrought on the Lower Ninth Ward.

lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - panoramic of tree and destroyed houses
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - destroyed cars
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - house on top of car
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - panormic of house and tree
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - virgin mary water fountain in front of house
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - panoramic of destroyed neighborhood
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - panoramic of destroyed cars
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - panoramic of street
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - car on a house
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - panoramic of destroyed house
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - destroyed neighborhood
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - album cover in mud
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - roof in middle of the street
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - high water mark in house with closet open
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - street with knocked over power lines
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - car with Merry Christmas graffitied on it
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - Lord Is Here sign in front of church
lower 9th ward after hurricane katrina - birds flying over