Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NOLA '09 - Hurricane Katrina

Between the FQF and the Jazz Fest we moved from Le Richelieu to an apartment, also in the French Quarter, and had a few days to relax.

Our Apartment in the French Quarter
Our Apartment in the French Quarter

This, of course, does not involve sitting with a glass of wine and reading a book. Instead it went like this:
  • Monday: did a Katrina tour with Tours by Isabella http://www.toursbyisabelle.com/ to visit the devastated areas
  • Tuesday: hired bikes and cycled for 4 hours along the levee
  • Wednesday: cycled up to Lake Pontratrain and back and forth along its shore - another 4 hours. Then Wednesday at the Square - another free concert in the Central business district http://www.wednesdayatthesquare.com/index.html
  • Thursday: helping out at the Community centre St Bernard Parish http://www.ccstb.org/ hearing more first-hand tales of trauma and survival and rebuilding
M & M relax outside the Orleans Grapevine
M & M relax outside the Orleans Grapevine

We were a bit in two minds about the Katrina tour, a bit ghoulish perhaps, but were glad we did. Our guide Jenny is a native of NOLA and tour guide for many years, She gave us a first hand account of the devastation, the incompetence of FEMA, the venality of the insurance companies and the traumas of living through it all. And people are still living through it. It will take decades to repair the damage and some things will never be fixed.

Books have been written so I will focus on my main impressions:

Much of the devastation was man-made: design flaws in the levees (built on sand) and the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal (aka "Mr GO") which caused erosion of protective wetlands and increased storm surge. The Corps of Engineers are not popular with many of the people of New Orleans. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River_Gulf_Outlet

Many people died because they would not leave their pets behind. The authorities refused to take animals. Many pets became homeless, ownerless and in need of rescue. Jenny was actively involved in Animal Rescue New Orleans which has rescued and re-homed thousands of animals. Emergency plans now include contingency plans for evacuation of companion animals. http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org/

The inaccuracies and bias in the media. The exaggeration of the situation in the Superdome, the focus on the Lower Ninth Ward when other blue collar areas were more devastated. And white collar, professional areas were hit too. It doesn't matter if you had a well paid job and a nice home it is still devastating to lose everything, and I do mean everything. To be left with nothing but the clothes you stand up in.

We still had opportunity to continue the corporate mission of "Eat, Drink and Have a Good Time" with many fine restaurants and coffee at the Cafe du Monde. One of my favourite tweets was that Beignets are not iPhone-friendly. All that icing sugar makes the touch screen very tacky.

Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde
Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde

Full set of photos:

1 comment:

Rosa said...

Any tour is giving back to the city and it sounds like this one was quite educating. Still so very sad. Oh, beignets at CdM! Ayeeee! Yes, and never, NEVER inhale while taking a bite either. I've seen too many folks mistakingly do that! But beignets and orange juice? I'm sure those are cafe au laits in the big cups? No? Oh, I'd love one right now!