Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Catastrophe Lessons & Observations

This started out as a 'top 10 list' of my observations regarding Katrina, but there was no way to fit all of these memories, information and personal learning into that count. So I'm not going to restrict it in any way.

I understand that in the great world of mass media and symmetry, everything I'm about to type would be more appropriate on the one month anniversary... but what the hell. Even when I'm sitting in front of the computer and can check the date - I can barely comprehend what the date of today even means, no really, I don't even remember the date the storm hit... I do remember the time and day though... Sunday at around 3:45am. I remember that.

Although it's probably not why you would expect.

It really has nothing to do with wind and rain and water... but instead, merely complete and total reorganization of my life, and I'm only one life - one person - there are millions affected.

The storm was nothing, the aftermath was everything. One can, after a bit, try and organize chaos... Try is the key word. It's a struggle, but we all know we'll get there.

Maybe it's a human thing that goes back to our ancestors picking up the first stone or bone and letting the static of life wash out - and that ancestor suddenly saw a tool. Maybe one of these days everyone will look again out at the expanse of New Orleans and see thriving neighborhoods, crawfish boils, parades and people earning a living. Unfortunately right now it feels like stone and bone.

I started this list last night while kind of rummy, so expect some of it to be philosophical, some personal, and some very specific. My apologies to all. (except the specific ones)

• Disasters do not bring out the best in people... it brings out and amplifies what was always there.
• Be good to your neighbors, and in the very least - wave hello. You never know when they might evacuate and loan you their generator after yours has broken or have a brother who's in the SWAT Team who'll run you supplies when you're desparate.
• In a catastrophic, region-wide, massivly destructive, technologically ending event... the most important hi-tech survival gear that exists are family, friends and NEIGHBORS!
• Regarding the two directly above this... I could go on for weeks... and will always be grateful.
• After a catastostrophic event and the ongoing catastrophic aftermath, bathing in the nude in front of the house is quite liberating after the first few minutes... I don't recommend this for all catastrophic events - preferably one where most people have evacuated... pick and choose your event carefully.
• Local media outlets, including some of the most idealized and forward thinking, can only be counted on to help their fellow citizens to the extent that their owners are non-skittish and non-pilesofchickenshithypicritocalrunawayassholeleaveyourgrandmothertodieterds. Always remember, that some of these owners are trying to save their own asses and their grandmothers jewelry too.
• Not all small local media outlets are this way. Some who only existed to sell hotel rooms AND only had a fingerprint on the internet, said screw that, and did their best to help by getting information out to their community via the web.
• One of the brightest points of light that has come out of this entire thing has been the action and selfless behavior by New Orleans' radio stations. These stations, who are owned by competing corporations covering similar and outrageously different markets, joined together within two days after Katrina. In an incredible moment of clarity, they decided to share 'on-air' personalities and broadcast the same unified signal of hope and vital information to their community. If they, as a whole, do not win a Pulitzer Prize or a Congressional Medal of Honor or something - I may vomit.
• Cats do not like to be rescued.
• Hey NPR, give Andrei Codrescu a rest. Simply because you can barely understand him because of his accent, does not make him enlightened and thoughtful.
• Monetary donations should NOT go to large national organizations but to the small groups with their feet on the ground. Individuals and grass roots organizations truly make the greatest impact. For example, the Red Cross has received over 200 million dollars, but I have seen only two Red Cross volunteers during this entire event. That just blows.
• COMMUNICATIONS, COMMUNICATIONS, COMMUNICATIONS. Without Radio and text messaging the situation on the ground and everyone's level of fear and uncertainty would have been more dire.
• Rescue workers, police, fire, medical, 18 year old soldiers, etc. have yet again proven they are the most selfless people in the world.
• Beaureacrats have once again shown that they are idiots.
• It may be impossible for all levels of government to think outside of the box on anything.
• There are always 'new' normals, even if they happen every twenty minutes.

Sorry for so few, I'll work on some more later.


Blogger Patrick Armstrong said...

TAG, I've sent the link to this post all over the place. That's hitting the nail on the head, buddy. I've had to read the old Gambit editor's laments about New Orleans in Athens' Flagpole Magazine, and I have been much more enthused by your reporting.

So here's an idea: when all this is said and done, I forsee a "GulfSails Monthly" in press, covering the city of New Orleans the way it should be covered, as you have done since zero hour of all this. Chief Editor TAG, not allowed near the keyboard unless he's had at least two drinks in him, to tell folks what' realy going on.

Folks won't even remember the Gambit...


10:45 PM, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous Kelsey said...

I know I said I'd post this yesterday, but stuff happens.

Yesterday we visited the sixth ring of HELL. Dr. White called me at 10pm Monday night about a targeted rescue in Meraux for 18 cats in one house. I had never been to Meraux before Katrina, and have no 'before' to compare it to. For those that don't know, this is St. Bernard Parish and the location of the Murphy Oil Refinery. Have you ever seen those shows on Discovery about volcano lava flows- where the lava is thick with a black crust on top? Add septic smell and you've got St. Bernard Parish. They've covered the oil spill on the main roads with sand, so it's not so slick, but this is, or was where the 'toxic water' was. Lakeview water was just an extension of Lake Ponchartrain comparably-relatively clean. First, let me say that this was the MOST challenging roadblock I've gone through. I have a xeroxed letter from Sheriff Harry Lee, of Jefferson Parish, allowing access, a certified letter (with seal-an original document)from Henry Rodriguez, President of St. Bernard Parish allowing access anywhere in the parish and an Iberia Humane Society 'Pet Rescue' sign on my truck. The 'gentlemen' at said checkpoint could not have cared less. They said they didn't care what passes I had, there was a forced evacuation and they expected the area to flood again. When I explained that Dr. White had sent me to rescue 18 specific cats, I was told, " Go in, get them and get out. If we have to come looking for you, it will be with handcuffs." Yea, Dr. White!! There are few street signs, so finding this house was challenging. When we do, it's a 2 story with a well ventilated roof, very little siding and a swamp on the first floor. We didn't see how any cats could still be in the house; it was a wreck. The first thing we noticed, after the condition of the house, was the large dog footprints in the dried mud all around the house and the gutted armadillo in the backyard. Still, we went in. After much searching through really awful stuff, I heard Leah yell "Cat". There, hiding in the box spring of the bed was a Himalayan looking cat. She thought it was dead until she shined the flashlight on it and it moved. It took 3 of us to catch this skinny, dehydrated, filthy cat and he took one of the thick 'cat proof' gloves into the crate with him. In the crate he refused food and water and charged the gate. We looked around some more and found a cat behind the dryer. This cat looked fat and fairly healthy as he ran up the wall, ran circles around us and jumped out of the 2nd floor wall and was gone. We left food and water for him. While we were in the area, I received 2 calls about animals in Chalmette-telepathic that these people knew we were there. We went by both houses. We couldn't see how any animal survived that-I kept calling it the 7th gate of hell, but Leah explained that Dante's Inferno called them rings and this was the 6th. Too philosophical for the occasion and I know I read that in 11th grade humanities class, but have killed too many brain cells in the following years to remember specifics. SUVs were in the air vertically leaning against houses, telephone poles, other cars and piles of debris. The sludge was 7" thick and clung to our boots like glue. I told Jen that it looked like the biggest cowpie she'd ever stepped in-she pulled her foot up and the boot stayed firmly stuck in the gook.
We didn't find either of the animals we were looking for, ut we did find footprints, so we left food and water. On our way out of town, a DEQ truck stopped us to report a dalmatian in front of a house on Palmisano. We went, and sure enough,laying down in the dried muddy grass in front of a house, was the largest dalmatian I've ever seen. Leah brought him water and he growled and charged her. Finally, an area of my expertise. I got a lead and some bisquits and explained to him that I had wolves and he didn't scare me. Maybe it was the babytalk, or maybe it was the gentleman at a house across the street that helped me corner him, but I got the lead around his neck. After that he was fine. I think he was guarding his home and didn't trust any of us and wasn't leaving until his family came home. With Rita approaching, we knew they wouldn't be back for a while and I wasn't leaving without him. My parents have my 12 year old dalmatian (the wolves don't like him) and my husband has a dalmatian that I fight for bed space every night, and I'm a dog person (who primarily rescues cats).
When we were leaving St. Bernard Parish, we passed a big army convoy leaving. When we got Uptown, we noticed that there were NO army checkpoints. We picked up 4 cats on Hillary that the owner told Leah to feed and water, but leave them since they'd be back Wednesday. Hello Hurricane Rita-all bets are off, we called him and he said to get them. this was easy; we put crates on the floor and 2 cats walked into them-the other 2 we caught and put in. 4 cats in Uptown (a non-decimated area)= 15 minutes. 1 cat in Meraux (a majorly destroyed area) 1 hour. The trauma those animals in the lower parishes went through is unimaginable.

I gave you the long story. The short conclusion is that when the lady from Meraux came to claim her cat, it wasn't one of her 18 cats. It turns out, he is a feral cat. Right place right time to be rescued. She named him Leah-Kelsey and had him neutered, vaccinated and bathed. However, she told me today that she'd like to find a home for him since she and her husband don't have the energy to tame a feral cat.
I told Dr. White about the dalmatian we caught and he has the contact information on him, but was not able to catch him. Yippee, he has an owner.

Until we know where Rita is going, getting back in is next to impossible. I received some desperate calls about the 9th ward animals. If anybody is already in, please go and help. We will come back as soon as we can get in. There may be a group going into St. Bernard to deliver dog food to the shelter there (and check for those cats), but we're not sure they'll even be able to get in.

Sorry for the length of this, I couldn't help it. And I've only had 2 beers.

I wish the residents of the lower parishes all of the love and luck I can. And to the deputies at the St. Bernard checkpoint, "Can we do the handcuffs next time?"

Also, thanks to my best friend Jen Deane, who is not really a dog person and is allergic to cats, for going with us and helping. At really awful moments, she made us regain perspective and remember why we were there.

12:29 AM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the grass roots experience of Katrina.
Seems some things never change the world over when push comes to shove,authorities stuff up and the ordinary people do extraordinary things.
Wish everyone all the best.

From Downunder.

4:47 AM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger Susi said...

Your comments should be broadcast on posted across the world! We'd all be better for them. Have another few and write the rest of your "Lessons Learned"!

8:07 AM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger Merry Bruns said...

Hey, Troy,

I read your posts daily, have since the beginning of all this, tho I don't know a boat from a truck (tho I did learn to eat crabs properly at the Southern Yacht Club, of all places, 30 yrs. ago)

You mentioned giving bucks to all the on-the-ground organizations instead of the giants--can you list a few with their URL's?

I'm putting links on my professional site, and sending out posts to friends/lists, and will link straight to them.

Keep writing-we up here in the dry dry northeast need your posts.


9:37 AM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Thanks for the list! Thanks for your note too Kelsey! I am an animal lover and I really appreciate those who help them.

10:08 AM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous hoz said...

Latest New Orleans pics

from the guys at

10:22 AM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are awesome for all that you've done. The animals of NOLA need more people like you!

2:13 PM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes please list some of the on-the-ground orgs that can receive funds! The reason most people give to the national orgs is those are the only ones they know about.

3:04 PM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous kohlehydrat said...

take care.
to you, to the pet rescuers who post here and to all those who may still be in the area. take care and all the best.

8:00 PM, September 22, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.