Thursday, May 31, 2007
He's got all the good sound bites. He's got all the answers: its their fault. He blamed the Feds for not coughing up the dough that NOLA was promised by that blithering idiot in Jackson Square in Sept 2005. He blames the State for having a juicy surplus whilst things are still so very much broken in NOLA. But Nagin, aah Nagin!! He's cleaned up the French Quarter to the point that eating the vomit on Bourbon Street doesn't sound so unappetizing... :)
I always feel with Nagin that he wants to be the cool kid that everyone likes. He wants to be on our side. He wants to forget that he is on the side of local government whether he likes it or not and that with that comes the responsibility to actually do something about our problems not complain about them and blame everyone else. In my humble opinion if he blames Bush and Bianco for the lack of cash and (therefore) progress in New Orleans he should have been banging down their doors, screaming blue murder in the halls of Congress and running naked across the White House lawn to get their attention.
Had he done all that then I wouldn't mind hearing him bitch....
The end of his speech I found very interesting and if anyone can help on any of this please do:
In closing, as I stated earlier we as a city are determined to have a full recovery.
We have the vision.
[What is it?]
We have the plan.
[I don't know it]
We made the tough decisions to position us for a full recovery.
We have chosen life over death.
[well some of us have been able to.....]
We will rebuild.
[with or without your help....]
One New Orleans, one Louisiana.
[who's he kidding? the rest of Louisiana is so unbelievable redneck that when I get too far along I-10 I want to do a screeching U-turn and head home ASAP]
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I've just been to my local (and favourite) coffee shop, Rue De La Course on Magazine St and devoured the Sunday Times Picayune and the Sunday NY Times. Lots of fodder for my grey matter (and future posts..). However I do miss the Observer and Scotland on Sunday - reading them online just isn't the same and the chances of me smearing my forehead with newsprint ink is far less likely. I love having a Sunday to commune with newspapers. I firmly believe that was what God truly intended "His" day for!!
I was walking home along Magazine when it began to drizzle. I thought about how rare it seems in N'awlins to find drizzle, that widely loved and hated Scottish phenomenon. N'awlins Fog there is plenty of - particularly in the Autumn and "Winter". But drizzle, no. And I thought that, other than my newspapers getting a little soggy, how nice it was to walk in warm drizzle.
It made me think of Stefan, one of my parents' friends from Belgium. We went on holiday as a family to Brussels to see Stefan when I was about ten. I remember we went for a walk in the woods and it began to rain. My Mum quickly got out our waterproofs and kitted us out. But Stefan just stood there in his shorts and T-shirt in the rain getting wet. My sister, brother and I used to the bone-chilling aspect of Scottish rain, were shocked. "You'll get wet!!" we cried. "I'll get dry again!" Stefan replied.
So I was walking in the spirit of Stefan when N'awlins decided to defy me and show how rare indeed the event of N'awlins drizzle is, and really rain. Luckily I was spared the usual downpour - when the heavens open and God dumps his bath water on your head! But my newspapers are decidedly soggy!!
Monday, May 14, 2007
This paper is to report that Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is ten times the national average in New Orleans. 38% of people who have visited the Emergency rooms in New Orleans exhibit signs of PTSD compared with 3.6% for the national average. Dr. Peter DeBlieux, MD,
Director of Emergency Services at Louisiana State University in New Orleans was asked about this study and commented:
“The incidence of PTSD in our population post-Katrina reported in this research study is noteworthy and worth following as recovery efforts move forward. The prevalence cited in this study is not alarming to those professionals caring for patients who have been traumatized by the storm and challenged by the recovery efforts.”
This should come as "news" to no one. Katrina turned this city into a war zone and most people involved in war suffer PTSD. Big parts of this city still look like a war zone. I drive up Louisiana Avenue to Clairborne to get onto I-10 and every time I do I look at the huge housing project on the right hand side. It is empty and abandoned after Katrina. The windows are cracked, the roof starting to crumble and it is quite eerie. It always reminds me of photos of war torn Germany during the 1940s. That's what Katrina did. She left big swathes of this city war torn.
I don't know if this paper will include this - although I hope it does - but I look at that housing project and the size of it and its emptiness and I wonder where all those people ended up. The PTSD in this city is 38% but what about all those other souls spread throughout the US? They surely also have PTSD. But being the poorest in society are they getting adequate care? Being the poorest in society they were the ones who didn't leave. They are the ones that really experienced the war zone and all its wrath.
The magnitude of loss here is staggering. It is present on a continuum from the smallest possession to loss of a loved one. As part of the story in my friend's email stated:
"The magnitude and duration of even a single mental health care diagnosis after this disaster demonstrates the need for long term, coordinated mental health response as part of disaster relief. Interim or temporary mental health response is not adequate for this population."
The scars from this disaster run deep. The rate of suicide is up. The number of people who are dying from stress is up. This city needs to be rebuilt but not just physically. Souls are hurt and they should be cared for and helped to heal as best they can.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Apparently they have NOT fixed the levees to pre-Katrina level. Apparently they most certainly have NOT improved the levees to withstand another Katrina. A small hurricane could flood this city again. Maybe they don't think that is such a big deal. Maybe they didn't see Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest or the likes. Maybe they have no appreciation for beautiful architecture in the French Quarter. Maybe they are tone-deaf and hate the music pouring out of the bars every night on Frenchman Street. Maybe they prefer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to jambalaya, fried oysters and crawfish boils (I could go on).
WHAT have they been doing? WHO dropped the ball? WHO watched them drop the ball or MISSED them dropping the ball?
SOMEONE (W?) somewhere let us down REALLY bad this time!! Does no one KNOW what it means to CARE for New Orleans?
I am SO depressed. I knew when I moved here and got a job here that everything was too magical, too special to be for real. If this nightmare comes true this summer we will not live here, and I will be out of a job. Done. End of it.
If I had a mic you could hear me SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAM!!
Sunday, May 06, 2007
There are so many stories here and they generally vary only in the degree that your heart breaks for the main protagonist. I spoke to a NOLA cop the other week who told me some of his experience in Katrina. He joined the force two weeks before the storm!!
There was no evacuating for him. As he said, as a cop his job is to go towards the danger not away. He said before the storm hit he cleaned his house from top to bottom. Yes that's right cleaned it. He filled his tub with water, left a big bowl of dog food for his dog and, rather crazily, drove through the storm to work in Uptown. He said they kept seeing great big pieces of metal slicing up the streets and they wondered where they were coming from until someone reported seeing the copper on one of the church steeples was being peeled off and hurled by the storm.
This man grew up in one of the projects as one of twelve kids with a single Mom. He grew up dirt poor, as so many have, and got himself out of the ghetto and bought a house. That house was flooded with the ugly waters from the lake and his precious dog perished. He had to explain to his elderly Mother why she couldn't go home and find a way of storing her precious possessions. He was lucky, the rest of his family had evacuated.
But his job meant that he witnessed the chaos, the suffering of the people he had grown up with and lived alongside all his life. He said that when FEMA was claiming they knew nothing about people at the convention center they were rescuing people and taking them there - on orders. The police had to commandeer any vehicle they could. He said the ones that worked the best were school buses - apparently they are easy to hot-wire!!
I told him that one of my colleagues had a mini-van with about 250,000 miles on it that was commandeered by the cops. Painted on the side was a huge Saints fluer de lis. My colleague saw his van on the TV footage and was proud that it was doing something to help someone somewhere in this city.
The cop told me that for days they went on like this - commandeering a vehicle and using it until it ran out of gas. It wasn't until the army arrived that there were supplies of gasoline for the vehicles and boats.
He said that the people at the convention center were huddled in the heat by the thousands. I learnt when I first saw the convention center here, that the national TV footage did no justice to the sheer numbers of people on the street out side it. The convention center is huge and goes on and on like a snake along the river. The cop told me he saw people inside the huge halls, outside on the sidewalk, camped out on the neutral ground (NOLA term for grass median) and on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.
He said that he had mixed feelings about what happened once the army arrived. Whilst they definitely needed structure and action they also needed sympathy and empathy. He said he saw the army dividing the men from the women and children, splitting up families and then herding them onto buses. He said it left him feeling very unsettled because he saw people being treated like a problem that had to be fixed, treated as if they had no humanity left. He said he never thought he would see scenes in New Orleans, his home, that would remind him of films he's seen of Germany during the 1930s and 40s.
He told me an interesting fact from New Orleans' history. He said that New Orleans traditionally should have very little violence. The tradition was that if two men had a problem to resolve they would fight hand to hand. To use any form of weapon was regarded as cowardice. Guns, he said, should not in New Orleans tradition even be in this city. But they are. He said that it was people from outwith the city that brought guns and their ensuing violence. He said as a New Orleanian it makes him very sad.
It also was a reality the cops had to face once the city was emptied. There were some people who managed to evade the mandatory evacuation of the city and they were generally armed and holed up in small pockets throughout the wreckage of New Orleans. He told me it was a situation he hopes never to experience again.
I think what the emergency personnel did during Katrina was astounding. During 911 the firefighters, and police were heroic, running towards the danger. In Katrina all those personnel were a part of the tragedy - they were already in the danger. They lost their communities, their homes, their pets and some, their loved ones. The cop didn't get back to see his house and confirm his suspicions of the level of devastation until fifteen days after the flood.
He said he didn't blame any of the cops that abandoned their posts. It was too terrible an experience and as he said, some people are just not equipped to handle such a situation. He also, sadly, told me that he doesn't know how long it will take him to recover mentally or even if he ever will.
The irony for him was that he had been discussing with his wife only the week before the storm that he wanted to raise his house at least six feet. He acknowledged that that wouldn't have saved his dog but it was pretty eerie that he somehow knew something of what was coming, even if only subconsciously.
Friday, May 04, 2007
They are also reporting that the Corps of Engineers have asked the pumping station at London Avenue be shut down because the water level was too high in the canal and they want to protect the walls of the canal. The pumping stations are supposed to be for this very scenario (not hurricanes - or rather "federal floods"). N'awlins very often floods in heavy rains (an' you ain't seen heavy rain till you've seen Looeseana rain!!).
There has been flurry of NOLA bloggers giving advice for folks trapped at work. In fact just now they are reporting that the water in Uptown is receding fast - but that the low lying areas downtown are "seriously soggy"!!
I have seen and heard some astounding storms in the US. Once in Aspen, Colorado, I was shaken along with the building I was in, when a bolt hit just outside the door. In Cleveland there was a freakish storm that literally rolled in. There was this huge black/green cloud that rolled over the horizon like a wave and engulfed the city in a firestorm of flashes, clashes and splashes. When Dazza and I were moving to Miami we drove from Atlanta to Savannah and went through a series of storms that seemed never ending. We got the fright of our lives when a bolt hit the median just as we were passing with the windscreen wipers on full pelt and rain thrashing out any vision of the road ahead. We saw electric storms with no rain driving through 115 degree heat in the Utah desert.
But last night was the loudest, most ferocious I have ever experienced. The clouds must have been low and the Gods very angry. I generally love listening to storms - probably because we'd hardly ever have any in Scotland - but last night I have to admit they had me a little spooked.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
So please go here to the Boston Globe article and get angry, get understanding of why the people in New Orleans feel abandoned by their country and are still saying NO we are not OK!!