Saturday, August 29, 2015

Come Hell and High Water

It’s no coincidence that I have been listening recently to CDs by New Orleans street musicians, wearing T-shirts I picked up during Mardi Gras more than a decade ago, and gorging myself on episodes of David Simon’s wonderful HBO-TV series, Treme (a show I had never watched until this month). I knew today was coming--the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s deadly assault on Louisiana’s most beautiful city.

It should really be New Orleanians commenting on this occasion, as they are doing in the pages of The Times-Picayune newspaper. I’m not a native of the city, and have visited there only a handful of times, most recently in 2007. I can’t speak for the people who weathered Katrina’s wrath or aftermath. But I wrote a great deal about the storm and the flooding and the incompetence of George W. Bush’s administration back in 2005 and 2006, when the disaster occurred. And I’ve kept up ever since with efforts to restore New Orleans in ways that don’t steal away its charm or historical significance. I even trained, shortly after Katrina struck, to be a Red Cross volunteer, hoping to be dispatched to help residents of the flooded Big Easy recover from the devastation. (Unfortunately, the Red Cross stopped sending people there before I had completed my preparation.) So I feel compelled to at least acknowledge this anniversary and send my best wishes to everyone in New Orleans who is still trying to get back what they lost in the storm, whether it be a home or a job or a familiar way of life.

I was pleased earlier this week to see President Barack Obama visit New Orleans, to hear him speak about the vast social inequalities that had weakened the Crescent City even before Katrina’s approach, and to hear about the extraordinary efforts by his administration to put the metropolis back on its feet. I am no less pleased to read this editorial in The Times-Picayune, which maintains that “The progress is palpable in New Orleans”--even if crime rates are still up, school quality is down, “African-American residents especially feel the unevenness of recovery,” and many folks have not yet received the loans or insurance money they need in order to rebuild. Someday I hope to see New Orleans again, and find that--as it did after another Category 4 hurricane, the one that struck a century ago, in 1915--the city has made a new order for itself and achieved a new vitality, even if it’s not exactly the same place it was.

On this anniversary Saturday, here are a few other related stories worth reading: “Anatomy of a Flood: How New Orleans Flooded During Hurricane Katrina,’ by Dan Swenson (The Times-Picayune); “These Maps Show the Severe Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans,” by Esri, Katie Nodjimbadem (; “Hurricana Katrina, in 7 Essential Facts,” by German Lopez (Vox); “The Flooding of America” (The New Republic); “People of New Orleans Say Government Didn’t Do Enough After Katrina,” by Natalie Jackson (The Huffington Post); “These New Orleans Residents Are Still Trying to Go Home,” by Bryce Covert (Think Progress); “Images of Abandoned Iconic Spots in New Orleans Urge Us Not to ‘Forget’ About Katrina 10 Years Later,” by Eleanor Goldberg (The Huffington Post); “‘It’s Not Just a Party, It’s Our Life’: Jazz Musicians Led the Way Back to the City After Katrina--But What Is This ‘New’ New Orleans?,” by Larry Blumfeld (Salon); “Gulf Coast Residents Mark Katrina Anniversary: ‘We Saved Each Other’,” by Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill (Talking Points Media); Front Pages from Katrina’s 10th Anniversary,” by Kristen Hare (Poynter); “Unnatural Disasters, or Queering Katrina,” by Jonathan Alexander (Los Angeles Review of Books); “17 of the Best Things Ever Written About Hurricane Katrina,” by Nick Baumann (The Huffington Post); “Ex-Aides: Bush Never Recovered from Katrina” (Associated Press); “After Katrina, Disgraced Former FEMA Director Continued Disaster Aid. It Didn’t Go Well,” by Emily Atkin (Think Progress); Jeb’s Massive Katrina Fail: New Campaign Ad Features Infamous ‘Heckauva Job Brownie’,” by Sophia Tesfaye (Salon); “Is Your City Ready for the Next Katrina?,” by Rebecca Leber (The New Republic).

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