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Postcard from Slidell, La.


All along the Gulf Coast, cities and towns are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Slidell, Louisiana, is one of them. NPR's Tom Goldman sent us this postcard from Slidell, northeast of New Orleans.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

Drive out of New Orleans on the causeway across Lake Pontchartrain, and it feels like you're traveling to another world. During much of the 24-mile trip you can't see the other shore. When you get to the other side and, more specifically, when you pull up in Slidell, in front of what used to be Dewey Varnedo's(ph) lake-front home, it brings you right back to the nasty world of Katrina.

Mr. DEWEY VARNEDO (Slidell Resident): Look, this is all your bottom here. That's on the bottom floor. (Laughs)

GOLDMAN: Dewey Varnedo is laughing because, in his mind, what else is there to do. He's standing on his intact floor in the midst of rubble. His house was destroyed, like so many others. But what's memorable about the intact floor and the couch and file cabinet you can clearly see is that they used to be two football fields away.

Mr. VARNEDO: It's amazing. It's 200 yards that way and across the canal. There ain't no doubt the wind did it. I don't know why.

GOLDMAN: One gets an image of Dorothy's house in "The Wizard of Oz" going up and then down. Varnedo says he's actually glad his house fell victim to the 190-per-hour wind gusts and not the flooding from the lake that devastated much of the city. If it had been the latter, it would have washed everything away. Now, at least, he can look for the important things of his life.

Mr. VARNEDO: I just got a St. Michael's statue about this big that I'm trying to find. My wife's got a lot of--she's Catholic--got a lot of religious stuff. We found a lot not broken.

GOLDMAN: There is a lot of religion here in Slidell in the devastation and the hope that emerged from it.

Pastor CARROLL TOWNSEND(ph): I'm Carroll Townsend, one of the associate pastors. And you are at our warehouse and distribution center on the grounds of the church.

GOLDMAN: Not far from Dewey Varnedo's former house is another head-turning sight in Slidell. The front lawn of the First Baptist Church is crammed with cardboard boxes overflowing with clothes. On tables inside a big tent, the staples of earthly salvation: baby food, carrots, peanut butter, orange juice, shoes and diapers, all of it free, all of it donated from religious organizations around the country. Pastor Townsend has welcomed trucks from Massachusetts, Missouri, California.

Pastor TOWNSEND: And we'll see stenciled on their truck `Such and such ministry' or `Catholic Church' or `Methodist Church' or `Presbyterian Church.' And they're saying, `We just want to show our love because Christ showed his love, and we're showing it to you, so you can help people out.'

GOLDMAN: What he jokingly calls `Wal-Mart on Lake Pontchartrain' will keep going another three months on the grounds. Pastor Townsend will welcome the trucks, no matter how they arrive at the church.

Pastor TOWNSEND: Right now there's a truckload coming in. He's not supposed to be coming in this way, but--wait a minute.

Unidentified Man: You came in wrong. That's 20 cases of diaper wipes.

Pastor TOWNSEND: Right. Oh, my goodness, what a blessing.

Unidentified Man: He just pulled in instead of backed in.

Pastor TOWNSEND: All right. Thank you.

Unidentified Man: Now y'all know you're going to have to...

Pastor TOWNSEND: We have three checkpoints around here, but, well, they're here, and we need diaper wipes. We need everything.

GOLDMAN: Tom Goldman, NPR News.

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on