BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mud: just a simple, sticky compound of earth and water. That's it. It tracks on our cars, on our shoes and weighs on the ground after the rain falls. Then why, two weeks after a trip to Ground Zero, did former WAFB reporter Avery Davidson struggle to wash the mud off his jeans?
"For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," reads Genesis 3:19, King James Version.
A month after the nation watched in horror as the twin towers fell, a group of Louisiana residents packed up cookers, gas tanks and all the supplies needed to make gumbo, and headed to New York City.
Operation Gumbo Drop was a way for residents in Baton Rouge to help out in the aftermath. The group cooked gumbo for the first responders, and delivered care packages full of loving letters and Mardi Gras beads.
Davidson traveled with the group on their second trip to New York to document their service. Eleven years later, many of the images he captured play brightly in his mind.
He remembers attending the mandatory counseling sessions held for the volunteers, and the tears they shed together.
"One of the people in there said, 'I was talking to a child and this little girl who said all you need to rebuild the twin towers, you just go like this,'" said Davidson as he drew an outline of the towers in the air with his finger. "For a child it's so easy to be resilient and to just come back and for all of us it's just so hard."
During the trip, Davidson made a few visits to what people on site referred to as "the pile," the mass of rubble and rock that was once the World Trade Towers.
The rubble was still smoldering at that point, and the reporter said it smelled of burnt Styrofoam and chemicals.
"You could always tell when they removed another layer because smoke would come up, and a few minutes later pieces of soot would come down," said Davidson.
He remembers the makeshift fire station, which was no more than plywood boards stuck together. The walls were covered in letters and drawings from children showing their support to the first responders.
It was on one of those trips to pile, that mud splattered Davidson's jeans. Two weeks after he returned home, he couldn't bring himself to wash that mud off.
"All I could think of, was part of this mud was ash. That ash belongs to victims, belongs to people. You don't just throw away people," said Davidson.
A Christian, Davidson said he eventually washed off the mud with Holy water, laying the victims to rest in his own way. But he says the stories he captured and the people he encountered will never fade from memory.