This time last year I was cowering in my Mother's hallway as Hurricane Katrina raged outside. I'll never forget the sound of the wind that day. My worst fear that morning was that the house would be impacted by one of the hundreds of pine trees we could hear snapping outside. Then, after listening to Garland Robinette describe the carnage outside of the Hyatt, Superdome and the Dominion Towers where WWL used to broadcast from, I thought to myself that this was it, the big one and that the city that I love so dearly might be in big trouble.
When the storm winds died down enough for us to get outside and ascertain the damage, I was so thankful that my Mother and her companion had been spared. I'll never forget the scent of pine, it was so strong and the wind just kept gusting up for hours afterwards. We sat on the back porch and listened to bluegrass music and I drank whiskey, to calm myself down. When we turned back on WWL it seemed that we had maybe doged a bullet, that the Hurricane had passed far enough to the East to not have caused the major catastrophe I had earlier feared.
Then later that night, as Shanna and I tried to sleep through our first night without power in that house, we shared the earbuds from our little fm radio, listening to the callers on WWL. People were calling in from all over the city talking about water coming up in the street, into their homes, some people were up on the second floors of their houses, some people were already in their attics. Someone from our neighborhood in New Orleans, just down the street from our house, called and described four feet of water in the street. We went to sleep that night with a sinking feeling that things were maybe not as sunny as we had first thought.
And then we woke up to the unthinkable. Nearly the entire city, most of Plaquemines parish and all of St. bernard Parish were underwater. It was unfathomable. I felt so sick. It felt like I had been punched in the chest by a prize fighter. I carried that pain around with me for days, sapped of energy, reeling from the loss of my city, my home, and my life.
At that point my wife and I were homeless, without the majority of the material things that we had worked so hard for. And we were forced out of the warm, sweet bosom of the City of New Orleans.
We holed up in that house for days without electricity, until we couldn't take it anymore. We went to stay with my Aunt Althea & Uncle Burt in Dallas. We met up with all of our best friends in Austin. And then we landed back in Covington, Shanna's hometown and a place I called home for 7 years.
We spent the next few weeks scrambling to figure out what was going on with our jobs, writing FEMA, Red Cross and food stamps applications. We did anything to try to feel normal. We worried over and over about how much of our home and belongings were damaged. We drank nearly everyday.
And then our friend Chris Reams helped us to get back into the city and I got to see the house. Which broke my heart so badly. I knew then that I would be starting over, yet again. Shanna and I decided that we would move back as soon as we got the chance.
That chance came sooner than we expected. I was able to go back to work on October 3rd, a mere 5 weeks after the storm, which may seem like a long time to an outsider but was a mere blink of an eye in the post-K reality. And then just a few short weeks later we were in a new home in the Faubourg Marigny, where we've been building our new life ever since.
It's been such a wild year. This was easily the craziest thing I've experienced in my life so far. It changed me in ways both subtle and obvious. And yet when I think about all of the other people who were touched by this strom my story seems like nothing. This event marked the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and ended the lives of 1,800 of my fellow citizens.
Everyone should take some time today to reflect on what this past year has been like for the people affected by this storm. Never Forget!
As if things weren't bad enough already, now we are being preyed on by criminals. C. Ray Nagin and his chump ass army of stoolies need to pull their heads out of the sand and get their shit together. It's high time that the NOPD, State police and Guard start taking control of this city. Where's the plan of action Warren Riley? Why aren't the PoPos and the MPs patrolling this area right this very minute?
It's times like this that I seriously doubt the city will ever get it together.
I'm back to work today after a nice little weekend trip to Austin. Shanna and I went there to visit our great friends Sarah and Damon, who I'm happy to report are leading a happy life in one of the most pleasant cities in America. It was a really relaxing, if hot (they are in the middle of a 6 week drought with temps climbing above 100 daily), vacation.
Here are some of my favorite memories/impressions: BBQ Brisket and Sausage at the Salt Lick Tecate and Carne Asada Tacos at Damon & Sarah's Iced Turbo at Jo's Migas con Queso at Las Manitas Queso and Margaritas at Guero's Book Hunting at Half Priced Books Furniture Hunting
Tonight Shanna and I were able to attend the World Premiere of Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke. It's a 4 hour documentary on Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. We watched the first 2 hours and it is the best investigation of the event I've seen yet. It was really amazing to be able to view it with the 10,000 or so other New Orleanians that were there. I felt like it was kind of a turning point in many ways.
This film is not to be missed. I urge everyone to watch it when it premieres on August 21st and 22nd on HBO.
With the possible mutation of Tropical Storm Chris to Hurricane Chris looming over us, it seems the anxiety that is sure to possess us for the next month or two has already begun to take hold. Get your evacuation lists, MREs, emergency kits and transistor radios ready. Things are about to get bumpy.
Blake's post about why he supports the Unified New Orleans Plan echoes my exact sentiments. UNOP is not perfect, they should have developed a communication plan earlier that involved hiring a PR firm, they should have gone wide with the announcement of their formation earlier, they should have reserved a bigger venue for these citywide meetings, that's all true.
But come on, these are petty problems when you stop to think of the potential alternative plans. Does anyone remember the BNOBC plan? The one that was handed to them. This plan is different. This plan is democratic, it allows neighborhoods to use their current plan or it allows neighborhoods to develop new plans, which will be wrapped into a master plan for the city that is built from the bottom up. All meetings will be public, no "behind closed doors" sessions like the BNOBC. And most importantly this plan is supported by both the City government and the LRA. This plan is our real road map to sustained recovery. It demands support.
Everyone who wants to have a say in the development process should come to the Pavillion of the Two Sisters this evening from 4-9pm to see the Planner Presentations and then vote this week to pick your district teams.