New Orleans, Ten Years Past The Flood: Resilience Follies, Part 6 (Presidents, Big Chiefs & The Smoothie King)

The 10th Anniversary Memorial of Hurricane Katrina
The 10th annual Katrina March & Second Line/ photo copyright Craig Morse

Anniversaries are weird to begin with, whether what’s to commemorate is blessed or damned.
In my experience, the things we celebrate and honor and mourn, and time itself, are slippery and continuous. Bar lines can’t contain a thought in Delta blues or bebop solos. Traditional New Orleans jazz never really ages.
Yet we mark time and memorialize. And I guess we should.
Still, these events, their consequences and meanings, don’t freeze in time. My strong and unpleasant suspicion is that, now that a decade since the 2005 flood in New Orleans has been duly noted, now that the TV people have packed up cameras and the sponsored panel-discussion banners are down, we’ll lose any focus at all on what has happened, what should happen, and what will happen in New Orleans.
I fear that care will again, inevitably, forget this City that Care Forgot. As one of my New Orleans friends said to me the other day, “It’ll take another 15 years before anyone thinks about us again because 25 is the next big number. ‘Until then, we’re on our own again.”
Was yesterday the right day, anyway? Yes, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, and the 17th Street, London Avenue and Industrial Canal levees were breached on that date. But one could rightly argue that the true anniversary of this disaster should be marked on August 30; that’s when the last of the levee breaches occurred and, more importantly, when the flooding of the city began to rise to irretreivable disaster, when the dimensions of pain and loss as well as the weakness or utter lack of proper response came clear. Hell, one could argue that this anniversary requires a festival, stretching a full week (that Times-Picayune front-page headline: “7 Days of Hell”) or maybe a decade, accurately marking the time, for many, away from a home they longed for, or spent mired in the suffering born of unequal and inequitable recovery.
Yet Saturday, August 29, was the date we took. Among the New Orleans residents I know, some celebrated renewal. Some mourned loss. Others touted progress or lamented lingering inequity. Some did these things publicly, some privately. Some just left town. Some stayed in and drew shutters. Still others sought just another day, a regular one, in the place they still, for better or worse, call home.
The city, meanwhile, was dotted with commemorative events. Continue reading “New Orleans, Ten Years Past The Flood: Resilience Follies, Part 6 (Presidents, Big Chiefs & The Smoothie King)”

New Orleans, Ten Years Past The Flood: Resilience Follies, Part 1 (Thank You, George W.)

photo: Larry Blumenfeld

On the plane to New Orleans yesterday, I spotted former New York Times reporter Gary Rivlin, whose book, “Katrina: After the Flood,” I’d just begun working my way through. I took a break from that to read a Sunday New York Times Magazine piece Rivlin adapted from his book, which focused on Alden J. McDonald Jr., president and chief executive of Liberty Bank and Trust Company, one of the Deep South’s first black-owned banks.
Rivlin’s story ends like this:

While much of New Orleans thrived, McDonald said he saw little hope of a better future for many of his customers. ‘‘The poor will stay poor and the middle class can never get ahead,’’ he said, revealing a rare flash of anger. He paused and added a phrase I don’t imagine he has used many times in his life: ‘‘And I don’t have the solution.’’

Continue reading “New Orleans, Ten Years Past The Flood: Resilience Follies, Part 1 (Thank You, George W.)”