Monday, August 28, 2006

Katrina +1 - WE ARE NOT OK

This past year has been the most difficult and unbelievably life changing times that will hopefully ever happen again to me and the hundreds of thousands of other residents of New Orleans. This city that I love - that is my true love - foundered and nearly died. An American city was almost entirely destroyed.

While we have fought to resurrect this most unique place in the world, we've had to endure an almost constant barrage of criticism from the federal government and fringe lunatics, while trying to get the rest of the country to understand we are now forced to rebuild a city from the ground up - schools, electrical networks, gas lines, streets, water, sewage, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, dry cleaners, businesses, individual's homes - everything. As I've said many times now, the storm was nothing. The aftermath was everything…

It is widely misunderstood and thought that New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, those terrible images of New Orleans flooding and the human suffering that occurred almost a year ago were in reality caused by human error. Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast while New Orleans was only brushed by the storm. It is quite obvious as to where the storm hit - virtually every structure along the Mississippi Gulf Coast no longer exists, whereas New Orleans' housing still stands, albeit in a ruinous state.

The flooding of this great city occurred because of years of neglect, wetlands loss and faulty levee construction done by the United States Federal Government.

Today, one year later, one must still drive through miles after miles of devastated neighborhoods to get anywhere and I have to only step outside of my FEMA trailer and look a few doors down to see a home where two of my neighbors and their dogs drowned.

I paddled right past that home a little less than a year ago wondering then how many people were trapped in those attics or floating in their bedrooms like the two floating and bloated golden retrievers that I saw that day. It isn't hard for the littlest thing to suddenly spark memories of that time, and I am glad we are able to finally move past this first anniversary.

This has oddly been the best and worst year of my life. It has also been the greatest adventure of my life… even with all the pain, heartbreak and anger. I've learned a heck of a lot over the course of this last year, but I think the most startling revelations for me are how common heroism and the generosity of strangers can be.

The nights are still hard, but in the daylight, there is a spirit here amongst the people of this city, a will and a demand to survive this. We could all be morons for thinking that this city can be saved - but damn if we're not going to attempt it. If we do succeed though, we as a people will probably father an odd strain of human who will re-populate this city far into the future - heroic and able to withstand anything.

We created Jazz here once… who knows what music we'll invent after this.

* Update: I woke this morning with an ironic smile wondering why the big days in New Orleans are always on Tuesdays... Yesterday felt like some kind of dark Lundi Gras... and I laughed at how on Ash Wednesdays I tend to say Mardi Gras should not happen every year. Maybe once every four years... I never get my wish.



Anonymous Sophmom said...

Troy, I had zero time Sunday and Monday between working on the article about the surf shop owners on Magazine with my son and getting myself back up here last night, but I'm trying to catch up. I was looking via the link in the previous post for your NPR interview, but couldn't really tell which one it was (maybe I'll have better luck later).

Anyway, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you. I'm thinking of you guys today - actually, every day. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help, even if it's just listen. Peace, darlin'.


12:14 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm OK, You're OK. We're all just peachy.

6:46 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Jack A. Neal said...

An open letter to all New Orleans residents:

If anyone finds my posting herein duplicitous, please accept my apologies - I've been quite distracted by Katrina recovery issues in Mississippi, and have only recently started monitoring the many NOLA blogs related to the killer storm - Of course, there's much I agree with, and some I don't - But have no doubt, my friends, that Mississippians are squarely behind your efforts to get back to some sense of normalcy.

I'm a freelance photojournalist based in Central Mississippi - I couldn't grasp the shortage of Katrina info regarding Mississippi being reported by the National mainstream media, while our local media were doing "fly-overs" along the Mississippi coastline....showing an incredible picture of destruction and despair - New Orleans, or so it seems, got the majority of the press - Of course, it was a riveting story that was still unfolding for too many days after the storm, and Mississippi was simply debris piles - I "get" why the media was there, but I could not reconcile the scale of human suffering also taking place in my own state...but being largely ignored - So I took the initiative to report the story first-hand, in my own humble way - Any interested parties may check out my efforts to report what I personally documented on my non-commercial website at

Let me be very clear: What happened to the good people of New Orleans as a result of Katrina was horrific. I love the city of New Orleans, and its people. I have been there many many times in my life, and look forward to return visits. New Orleans will be "back", better than ever. I have great affection for its people, as I do all my good neighbors in Louisiana. And, let us not forget the remainder of Southern Louisiana. Those poor people were devastated by Katrina.

But this is NOT the time for race-baiting, or conspiracy zealots.

It was, after all, New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin who once proudly proclaimed that New Orleans would ALWAYS be a "chocolate city". So, before casting blame, pointing fingers, and calling names, perhaps you should look at the leadership of New Orleans. Only then will you be able to understand that there apparently is, sadly enough, blatant racism that is being used ( in some cases) to somehow explain an act of God. If you believe, as many have stated publicly, that there was some grand conspiracy that led to the levees being sabotaged as part of some act of "ethnic cleansing" to change the demographics of New Orleans, and further "whiten" the "chocolate city", then I suspect further reason will be lost on you.

But just as I've been frustrated by the lack of media attention in post-Katrina Mississippi, I've grown weary of the non-stop negative depictions of New Orleanians - New Orleans, despite any shortcomings, is a National treasure that must be preserved.

At this point, all becomes cliché...but no less important.

This is a time for healing...for hope, recovery, and re-building...for everyone.

But I don't think the people of New Orleans will find any healing by blaming others, while there is doubtless plenty of blame to go around. Just please remember NO single elected official was/is responsible for decades of mismanagement of levee construction, levee mismanagement and maintenance, or a general lack of disaster preparedness. Katrina, in all her fury and destruction, was not wrought by man. And her fury was unprecedented. My good friends of Louisiana, we in Mississippi share your pain. Like you, we were "sucker-punched". It's simply that most people don't know about our plight.

Be assured that I, like so many other Mississippians, look forward to a greater New Orleans than ever before.

And frankly, I don't care what "color" it is.

Best of luck to you all - You all remain in our thoughts and prayers.

- Jack

11:57 PM, September 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this your last post? I hope not - wondering why we haven't heard from you in a few weeks...

7:54 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Zihuatanejo said...

I wonder how long it will be before the Times P has the guts to write a story like this one?

And is when is New Orleans going to realize it is sinking due to organized crime run by a secret private company that is bigger than Microsoft. I mean come on, how do you expect to compete with this? And don't forget to check out the interactive map by Clicking here, then clicking launch and clicking the window

11:49 AM, September 20, 2006  
Blogger karen said...

To whom it may concern:

My name is Yuanzhen Ou and I am currently doing my Master Thesis in the Department of Urbanism at the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The ‘object’ of my research is the city of New Orleans and I am currently gathering as much information as I can to define a problematic in which I could attempt to give a design proposal. I won’t elaborate in the many reasons I chose your city to research and most important, to try to give a different solution to what has been given up to now.

What I would like to ask you is information on your daily activities before and after Katrina. I’m interested in how people ‘lived’ and perceived New Orleans according to the places they go on a daily basis and how do they go. New Orleans is more than the tourist attractions and a horrible hurricane. New Orleans is about the people who live on it. I know that this could be considered as a waste of your time but I will truly appreciate if you could give me some information. It doesn’t have to be too long, as much as you would like to share.

It is about telling really briefly a day in your life. Where do you live (not addresses, just neighborhood), where do you go to work, how do you go to work, which streets you take, how long does it take you, etc… and most important, how do you feel while you move in the city, what do you think of the neighborhoods that you pass by. Finally, to give a frame of reference I would like to know if you could give me your age, ethnicity, and all the basic information of an individual.

Of course, feel free to share as much or as little as you want. I know this anonymous letters are not really to be trusted, but since I’m in Europe is really hard for me to ask personally about this everyday activities.

I would like to thank you in advance for your time (even to read this really long email with really deficient English). And by the way, it is very nice if you could forward this letter to your friends who are living or lived in New Orleans! It could be a great help for our research by doing this. The more information we get, the better result we could achieve.

Best regards, Yuanzhen

Yuanzhen Ou

Feldmannweg 240


Delft, The Netherlands


Tel. 0031642530199

6:52 AM, October 13, 2006  
Anonymous Sophmom said...

Troy, I'm just checking in just to say hello. I enjoyed talking with you at RT and at Dangerblond's and am feeling kind of NOLA-sad today. Not sure why. I hope all is well with you and yours and that you'll blog again. Peace, darlin'.


7:28 PM, October 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss your bloggin'. Hope all is okay with you.

2:33 AM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous Gray said...

Damn, Troy, are you ok? I've read you're doing some PR work for a sailing team, does that keep you away from blogging? You still have some concerned readers out there. Pls give us a sign that you're alive, even if its only one small sentence here!

3:19 AM, November 09, 2006  

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