Spring Ache

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Thursday 23 March 2006, 7:17 am

Thousands of college students who might have spent spring break sunning in Acapulco or on Florida beaches this year are pouring into New Orleans to sleep in dormitory tents or on classroom floors, eat off paper plates and spend a week of vacation hauling foul muck out of homes ruined by floodwaters. Four major encampments in Chalmette, Algiers, at City Park and in the Lower 9th Ward house more than 5,000 students. Many more are bedded down in independent churches or private homes. The students are scattered around the area, but most are concentrated in the flood zones of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

In shorts and rubber boots, bandannas and face masks, they immerse themselves in the wreckage. Often a boom box pumps out music to relieve the work. But the experience remains sobering.