They collect bodies. They take DNA. They look for signs of murder. They are the Dead Collectors of Hurricane Katrina and they are a freelance band of volunteer “death experts” from around the country who helped process bodies. They are morticians, medical examiners and anthropologists. A good friend of mine returned from Katrina collecting with the horrors of her experience rotting in her mind. Katrina re-defined the meaning of gruesome for her and how callousness and disregard led dying lives into the dead.

Almost all the dead were poor or old or they lived on the street. Most died from drowning. Others died of thirst by abandonment. Each body was fingerprinted. DNA samples were logged. All corpses were checked for signs of murder: Gunshots, stab wounds, strangulation marks…

My friend was surprised how many bodies held gunshot wounds to the back or to the head and those killings required autopsies. Bodies were implanted with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip made by VeriChip so corpses could easily be tracked and identified no matter where they were moved for refrigerated storage before burial. The chips were donated for Katrina but on the real market they fetch $250 each.

Chips were implanted in a shoulder of the corpses. Each chip emits a 16 digit identification number that now serves as their “name” in the land of the dead where billfolds and other forms of ID are forever lost. The chips were never used to identify the dead before. In 2004 the chips were approved by the FDA to track pets and high-security defense workers.

You have to be within six inches of the chip to read it with a handheld scanner the size of a pack of cigarettes. Katrina’s most distinctive legacy many not be in the destruction of property but in the desolation of unclaimed and unidentified bodies. Some of the old dead erupted from tombs and caskets and mixed with the freshly deceased.

A new “Katrina Pauper’s Cemetery” will serve as the new final resting place for all those bodies as well as for the unforgivable sins of the living unearthed against the corpses of conscience.

22 Comments

  1. As the saying goes “it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it” It is also a sad commentary of how we, as human beings, treat each other. The last people to care about the dead are the people about who just spoke.

  2. Carla! — It is an amazing story. I silently listened as the whole thing spilled from her. She was kind of dead herself as she related what happened. I guess she left a piece of her life down there.
    suzanne — You’re right about the eerie numbering! I predict in 10 years every newborn will be required to be implanted — in the name of Homeland Security to protect the most vulnerable among us, of course, — the rest of us will fight implantation until it becomes a Federal requirement for filing taxes and collecting Social Security.

  3. The second the implants are implanted in us they will be old technology so we’ll have to be routinely “upgraded” — in the name of Homeland Security, of course — and we’ll always have to worry about that stranger getting a little too close to us to “read” us without our knowledge or permission.

  4. Carla —
    Yes, there are problems hitting this site today. NetSol is now admitting to having MySQL database issues today. Some comments here are slightly out of order. Fascinating. I think that’s due to the database going on and off today…
    Network Solutions are finally aware of the problem as other customers like me call in to complain, too. We’ll keep hoping they get it fixed soon.
    Everything went down here for me for an hour then it came back and I had a page load time of 104 seconds so it isn’t fixed yet!

  5. Hey Carla —
    I am feeling better after speaking with tech support at Network Solutions and they said they knew they had a problem and were working on a fix. That is the first time I have heard from their end since Friday that the problems was theirs and not mine. Now I’ll give them a day to fix it before I start growing again. :mrgreen:

  6. Hi Carla!
    Thanks for the feedback on the load times improving on your end. It feels a little better for me here as well since about 6 pm last night.
    It’s interesting how quickly expectations diminish. I routinely had 0.20 second page load times with LunarPages. With Network Solutions I’ve had 10.00 second average load times. I was willing to live with 0.50 second load times (a 2.5 doubling of my LunarPages experience) and now I’ll take anything under a second if that time remains steady and predictable. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the extra information, Dave! You make some interesting arguments that deserve deep consideration.
    Wasn’t there Federal money appropriated to New Orleans levee improvement that was then taken back to pay for the war in Iraq?
    Everyone knew Katrina was going to make history long before she hit. Here’s the full text of the NOAA warning that was broadcast across the world. Journalists who received that message on their pagers thought it was a joke. When they found out the message was legitimate they were stunned:
    ***
    000
    WWUS74 KLIX 281550
    NPWLIX
    URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
    1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005
    …DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED…
    .HURRICANE KATRINA…A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED
    STRENGTH…RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.
    MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT
    LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL
    FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY
    DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.
    THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL.
    PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD
    FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE
    BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME
    WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.
    HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A
    FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.
    AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH
    AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY
    VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE
    ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE
    WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.
    POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN
    AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING
    INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.
    THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY
    THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW
    CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE
    KILLED.
    AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR
    HURRICANE FORCE…OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE…ARE
    CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.
    ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET…DO NOT VENTURE
    OUTSIDE!
    ***
    http://wikisource.org/wiki/August_28_2005_10:11_AM_CDT_NOAA_Bulletin