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AUGUST 28, 2009 12:48PM

My New Orleans, it was four years ago......

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Picture 005 by you.

 Over 4 months after Katrina sights like this were still common in New Orleans. This pic was taken at Chef's Pass in New Orleans East...

Four years ago today I sat and watched the Weather Channel and CNN as the storm of the century bore down on the gulf coast. It was so big that on the satellite pictures it covered nearly the whole gulf of Mexico. A category five with 150 mph plus sustained winds. And it was heading almost directly for my beloved New Orleans!

In the dark of night August 28th and 29th, 2005 the storm hit the coast centered on western Mississippi and completely destroyed everything south of Interstate 10. New Orleans although extremely battered seemed to have been spared the worse as the sun came up on the 29th. Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana declared tentatively that it seemed that the levees had held up, not knowing herself that at that critical moment the swirling winds, which, since New Orleans was on the west side of the eye of the storm were blowing north to south across the huge expanse of Lake Ponchartrian.

The resulting surge from the inland sea known as "the lake" battered the seventeenth street and London Ave. canals and yes, they gave way. The surge from the southeast which travelled in large part up the man made Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) had already deluged St. Bernard Parish to the east. Governor Blanco didn't know apparently but that surge had already broken the shoddily constructed Industrial Canal and people in the lower 9th ward were drowning by the hundreds.

 Picture 006 by you.

January of 2006. A home in the Lakeview neighborhood a block or two from the 17th Street Canal near the point of the breach. This is a very affluent section of New Orleans...

The whole thing after that played out like a surreal nightmare. The Superdome was an insane assylum full of trapped and desperate people, starving to death and dying of thirst while surrounded by water.

The convention center... Oh my God! The masses of folks just sitting there in the sweltering heat (New Orleans in August is HOT) fanning themselves with whatever piece of trash would serve as a fan. They were literally dying there, waiting for someone to come and help. And the whole thing was on fucking television!

I tried not to imagine the stench.

I sat here safe and dry in Kansas City chewing my fingers and crying for those people and for that city which I had come to love after my first visit in the 80's. On that trip when I first pulled into"the big easy" I had an eerie feeling come over me, a feeling of deja vu. I distinctly felt like I had been there before and I hadn't...  unless it was in a prior life.

Sean Penn broke through the security barriers and commandeered a boat and took it upon himself to do what he could; save a few folks. The so called "cajun navy", basically everyone that had an operable boat, were doing the same thing: saving lives of those rendered helpless by the massive levee failures. The people of New Orleans had been betrayed by OUR apathetic and corrupt government. I can not remember ever being so sad in my life.

January 2, 2006 I drove to New Orleans; not to volunteer (unfortuanately I wasn't financially independent enough to give my time for free) but to work in construction. Here it was four plus months after the storm and bodies were still being discovered daily. As I drove down I-55 southbound visions of what I would find at the end of the road flooded my mind.

Upon arriving in Metairie (the 17th street canal separates Metairie and New Orleans... obviously the levee breach was on the N.O. side and Metairie was mostly spared the flooding) I met my soon to be friend Tracy who asked me if I had seen any of the hurricane destruction yet. Since I had come in from the west I hadn't really, except for quite a few blue tarped "FEMA roofs".  So he took me on a tour, and I was shocked.

Traffic lights were still not working. Trash and debris was stacked as high as it would stand on every street. Trees down everywhere. Every person down there was doing what they could as fast as they could but the damage was just so massive. Very few businesses were even open, especially on the NOLA side, but even in Metairie. 

As anyone that knows me very well knows I could go on and on about my experiences and impressions of New Orleans for hours. I stayed there on and off until May 2007, and I saw many people get moved back into their homes, which always gave me a bit of satisfaction; knowing that I had helped in some small way. 

The people I met all left marks on my soul. The salt of the earth. The culture of that area is like no other in the world and it's no stretch for me to say that I love New Orleans. 

I'd like to say thanks to MjWycha for his post that I saw this morning that brought tears and these memories back to me.

Here's a couple more pictures in parting.

 Picture 008 by you.

 A lawyers banner. Suing the non paying insurance companies was and probably still is big business...

 Picture 010 by you.

 The bridge between New Orleans and Gretna where the Sherrifs of Gretna so proudly turned away the refugees of New Orleans, some who had walked miles (See MJWycha's post)Picture 028 by you.

 A misty evening on Bourbon Street....

 Picture 017 by you.

 A street performer on Decatur Street in the quarter. This lovely fairy lady would stand there stock still, not as much as batting an eyelash, until you tossed a dollar into her basket, after which she would come alive and grab a pinch of  gold fairy dust and sprinkle it on you, only to then turn back into a statue...

 Picture 019 by you.

My kid visited me several times while I lived in New Orleans. We have tons of pics. I believe this is a shop on or near Royal Street in the French Quarter. New Orleans is full of magic and I would reccommend to anyone going there and hanging out. Spend a few bucks and stay as long as you can. It's impossible to REALLY get to know NOLA on a three day weekend...


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A good ponderation on what was and still is the after-effects of Katrina. Thank you. rAted!
Still brings tears to my eyes to think what everyone went through and still continues to deal with. Thanks for sharing Trig.
Trig - this so shows your heart. I do not understand people who can look at such devastation dispassionately; I do not understand people who can be at a ground zero pre-recovery and not be changed. You felt it - you still feel it - I believe that when something like that becomes a part of you, you help to carry the load, if only in spirit. Blessings, man - and thanks for sharing even a little of it. Would love to hear more.
Great post Trig.

I came back October 18th 2005 I think. About 6 weeks after the storm. I lived in Mid-City, which was hard hit but nothing like the destruction in Lakeview, the Lower 9th, and St. Bernard Parish. I'll have to scan in my photos from when I first returned and put them on here.
Great post. It's still hard to imagine that it happened.

I've never been to NOLA but it's definitely on my bucket list.
Beautifully written memories of a great city! I have visited NO often and cried with you during the devestation. I cry today because it's not fixed!
That kind of devastation is unimaginable, unthinkable, and yet it happens. What a great loss. Rebuilding, I think, would give great satisfaction.
No, thank you Chuck

I know, it's a sad sad thing Spotted Mind. To this day there are large expanses of New Orleans that aren't much inhabited.

Owl, I could never abide people that would say things like "those people deserve whatever happens to them. Stupid motherfuckers live below sea level". Huh?

Leeandra I particularly want to see a post from you who lived the experience. I talked to many many people there who actually "rode it out" by choice or for economic reasons. The stories, MY GOD!

Cap'n you DO need to get down there one day.

Fabbie it's a wonderful place. Just imagine, you and I crying at the same time. And yes, the aftermath.... the forgotten city.
trig… great post and photographs. I remember going down in October 2006, just 13 months after Katrina, to help gut houses in the Saint Bernard Parish southeast of the city. This was an area that survived Katrina, but when the levees were breached in the Ninth Ward… a surge effect cause levees throughout the canal system to overflow.

Saint Bernard was a community of about 79,000 people made up of neighborhoods with mostly ‘ranch style’ single family homes. The way the immediate destruction was explained to me – the water level was up to the ridge of the roof line of every home in Saint Bernard; with the contaminated water standing for over six weeks before receding out of the area.

During my time there working with Habitat for Humanities, a crew of 10 to 14 people, lead by an AmeriCorp representative would go in to homes that could be salvaged and strip the house of all contents down to the cement slab and the 2x4 walls. We would make 5 piles in the front yard – one for junk (carpet, drywall), one for metal (any garage doors, appliances), one for old furniture, one for toxic materials (paint, bleach, cleaning products) and the last one was possible keepsakes. A course the ‘keepsake’ pile was the smallest, but we might be able to salvage a family picture, bible, china cup… but not much was worth saving. It would usually two us two days to completely gut the house.

After four years, Saint Bernard Parish is still a ghost town in many areas. And that my friend is a sad commentary on our country that so little has changed.

- rated
Hi Tai. unimaginable, unreal. Yes, all that and more

George you need to do a post! I never gutted but I saw hundreds of crews like the one you were on doing that awful job, and good on you for doing that with habitat. My job was the rebuild, and like you said these places were gutted back to the studs. Every single thing had to be re-built.
This is very moving and well written.
Trig ... first off - what a tragic story ... what an unimaginable horror. I, too, read MJ's post this morning and recalled being in the hospital having my babies from 9/1 to 9/7. Like you, I was glued to CNN and overwhelmed with heartbreak and horror. Now, I have to say this, even though this is a "heart post" - this is great writing. It could be in any newspaper or magazine. Great, great job. :)
JK some day you will make it back (I recommend winter).

Mr. Dog thank you very much sir :)

And irritated mom, that's when you were delivering the twins? Katrina babies... Wow. Thanks for the compliment on the writing. Coming from you that means a lot. This post flowed out from mind to fingers very easily.
Good for you. I remember seeing the construction crews arriving as we were getting ready to leave.
I also remember handing out many of those blue tarps to folks (or "tarpaulins" as the locals called them).

Here's to you Trig. And here's to the people of New Orleans.
Nicely written piece on NOLA. It was a sad and horrifying tragedy that took so many lives and effect many more. Thank you for sharing your story with us and the photos. Incredible the damage that was done. Good for you to help in rebuilding their homes..
New Orleans is truly a unique city and holds some of my favorite memories. The feeling of helplessness and shame during the time of Katrina will never fade from my memory. Neither will the anger at how the situation has been handled.
I am no longer religious but still have the indoctrination rolling around in my head. As I wrote this a verse from the Bible popped up from somewhere so forgive me if I get on a soapbox. If America is supposed to be, according to the right, a nation under god why don't we act like it.
1 Timothy 5:8
"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
I consider this a situation of providing for our own and our government failed miserably.
I was greatly moved by this piece. You've done well (and good).

HBO is in the middle of re-airing the Spike Lee movie. If you get HBO-W, you can catch it from the beginning starting at 4:00pm EDST and so on across the time zones.
This is a well-written and powerful post Trig. I remember watching with horror as the disaster unfolded, and with disbelief as, in the response to Katrina, our government demonstrated levels of incompetence and callousness which would shame Third World nations. Though there's still a long way to go, and in some ways New Orleans will never be the same, it's a testament to the resilience and strength of the people there that they've come as far as they have in the last four years.
Katrina left a stain on this country that will take generations to remove. The inaction of our government was inexcusable and inhuman.

I would love to know it will never happen again. I pray it doesn't.

I've never been to N'awlins. It's a place I've always wanted to visit. One day, I hope to see it.
Thank you for sharing your experience and your love for New Orleans. Rated.
Congrats on the EP... Well deserved..
Trig, you have a good heart and you are a great writer. Thank you for this post.
Wow, someone at headquarters pulled the wrong lever. Me getting an EP? Unheard of! But thank you to ED. I know I've been a pain at times.

MJ you were my inspiration. I saw many humvees in NO even a year plus later. It was a good thing you guys did and I loved your post.

Life is Sharon
"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

Stacey thanks man, I saw the Spike Lee film many times and unfortunately I no longer have HBO since that little recession thingie.

Nanatehy (this is GWB) "uhhh, I believe (FEMA manager Brown, the horse trader) Brownie is doing a fantastic job here".

FE24 thank you so much. Yes it was an awful tragedy.

Bill our governments inaction was beyond shameful. Not only in how they handled the aftermath of the storm, but in how they DIDN'T build proper levees to begin with for one of the most strategically important port cities in the United States.

Gwendolyn aren't you the girl in the film? I think so but correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway you are quite welcome...
Trig, thanks so much for this! I knew that you had worked in New Orleans for awhile. The horrific stories during that time should never be forgotten. You wrote about this with detail and care.
Trig got an EP! Trig got an EP! Halleluia! Trig got an EP!!!!!
Congratulations!!!!!! WAY TO GO TRIG!!! Trig got an EP!
::giggling with glee::
A wonderful indepth post my friend!! A well deserved EP!!!

It was the storm that changed the country if not the world.
Psssst, who's dick did you have to suck to get the EP? ;) Just kidding...

~wandering off~
Zuma ... me>? a writer? I won no contests like you though :)

Janie K the culture in that city stands. Just as it was before: yes there are fewer people but it's no less New Orleans. Not at all.

Mary T you are a sweet sweet soul as demonstrated again and again by your fabulous honest writing. You're Katrina post today being an example of that. One of my fav's by you!

DC I read your post from a while back about your Dad. What a trip that he was right up there in the midst of all that, but yet had hardly a thing to say. I'll bet he could write a novel about it. And thanks!

Fabs... SHHHHHHHHHH, I'm afraid the editors will realize their mistake and repeal it!

Tink, it was/is a fabulous post and I am FABULOUS! And as far as who's dick? I had to sign some shit that said I couldn't reveal all that!
I am glad you finished your post with sights so familiar to those of us who love New Orleans, that gorgeous girl of a city. It gives me hope. My last visit was a year before the levees broke; don't know when my next will be, but she is often on my mind.
I am with Tink.. I want to know too.. Please inquiring minds want to know who?? ED don't like me anymore.. boohoo.. ~real tears~
Well, I've learned something new about you. I had no idea of this connection with New Orleans. My god, you saw that mess in person. I bet that stays with you. I always wanted to go there and yet I never did. Guess I never will, not to the New Orleans that existed before Katrina.
That looks like a *real* editor's pick, too! ;-) I know you Palin bros print them up in the basement, but that's the real McCoy. Congrats.
Well, Jeff and Jaime are here and were off to see Big Head Todd

Love ya!
Great story; great pics. Thank you for putting them here for us.

New Orleans gets under the skin, doesn't it? I lived there in '86 and '87, on Chartres St. When I (we) were there in feb., '05, I was trying to talk the ex into investing - I've always fancied I'd like to retire there. I spent half out trip there scouring around the Quarter, Irish Channel, Treme, just Over the Rampart line, but finally settling on Faubourg Marigny as the best place - close enough to the action; away from all the tourons. Couldn't get him to go for it.

I dunno. Maybe I'll still get old down there. It's rich, in people, music, food, history. The goddam sky comes down and touches you.

We'll talk....
My first experience with a major disaster was with Hurricane Andrew so I know where you're coming from, Trig. Most of the damage in NO was man made and caused by levees that where inadequate when they were new, as I'm sure you know.
It's impossible to explain the devastation to anyone who hasn't witness such an event. Even pictures don't get the job done. It will change a person forever. I wrote about it in my early days of OS.
I regret never having seen New Orleans before the deluge. What a catastrophe.
Wonderful post. It's getting more difficult to keep disliking you Trig.
It's so sad, all the misery that has happened with NOLA. It's hard to imagine all that happened without being there but, your account of it is amazing. I haven't been back since Katrina but, would love to someday. Thanks for sharing your version of the time!
You are a good person Trig. This post proves it. I knew it already.
Well done, Trig! Your writing puts your reader right on the spot! My own piece of this involves my 17 year old granddaughter whose youth group from church went down the following Summer to work for 2 weeks in the 9th ward. It certainly was a revealing time for her. Her biggest complaint tho? They wouldn't let her run the chain saw (she's a born carpenter and has been handling power tools since she could hold them) She and the group went back this year.
CONGRATS!! Front cover even.. Good job
New Orleans! I love Mississippi!
This is great Trig, for a not-so-great disaster...Handled with compassion and devotion, and this piece is prominently featured as it should be...
Sandra thanks so much for that. Some people are under the impression that Nawlins is destroyed still to this day. Those pictures you mentioned are to remind everyone that SHE is still there: the same heart and spirit and culture still thrives. Those people are the most resilient I've ever met. Even those who lost all were just doing whatever they had to do to get there lives together, without as much as whining about their circumstances.

Sirenita thank you. Once again like I told Sandra New Orleans is alive and well!

Connie M ahhhh the Marigny is the spot where all the locals go for fun! Frenchmen Street is a slice of art in progress...

Michael I heard all about Andrew (whatever date 1992, where were you when Andrew blew?). You're right, no way to convey in pictures what it's like.


Kellylark puhhhleeeeeeeease. This is no time to start liking TRIG!

Just Pam everyone I mean EVERYONE should visit New Orleans. Especially now. But yes, it was heartbreaking...

Hi there Mission! TY

Patie I adore teenage girls that can handle a chainsaw. Any girl actually! Thanks for the comment!

Fireeyes COVER? Huh... What? Get out!

1womansvu thank you so much...
::whispering:: Trig got on the cover! Trig got on the cover! Brilliant editors put Trig on the cover!! (Where it should be!!!)
One article I read after Katrina wondered the loss of so much in NO would be the end of bohemian America. I hope not. We need more wild and creative spirits. Here's hoping NO will rise again. Great post.
Trig - This is a wonderful post, filled with your own experience, passion and deep connection to this marvelous city. Have been to NOLA several times over the years, however, not since Katrina. I hope to be fortunate enough to return sometime in the future. Thanks for this personal look into New Orleans and the bittersweet perspectives on the aftermath of Katrina. You tell it so well.
Troll face? To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator "You're one UGLY MUTHAFUCKA!" But thanks!

Gary J someday if I'm lucky I'll be as cool as you. Thanks my friend.

Ahhh Fabbie I didn't even know 'til I saw Fireeyes comment since I hardly ever look at the cover! And look, me above Mary T.!

Max believe me Bohemia is alive and well. I worked a few times in the Marigny and talk about characters. Freaks of all ilks. It's very interesting to say the least.

Iamsurly I'll take that "wow" as a good thing. So thank you...
Just Cath.. thank you dear: )

UK NO KIDDING! Just one more reason Bush and Co. should be strung up for treason IMHO!
This is my favorite post of yours so far - it shows everything that is good and caring about you. Thanks for sharing your Katrina journey. A local builder I know is still down there working -wonder when it will end?
Hi mamoore thank you very much for that. I could still be there working myself but I spent too much time away as it was. It was a stressful time for my family.
The guy I know has two little boys and a wife still here in MI - he sees them every few months. He started working in New Orleans when one of his sons was an infant and now he is in preschool. No jobs in Michigan for him to come home to, unfortunately.
Trigger, you are at the top of the front page, baby!
And with such a worthy post. (sorry I'm late to the party. i've been a busy yogi:)
We were chewing our fingers here in Austin, too. When they finally brought a few thousand evacuees here in the middle of the night, so many volunteers showed up at the convention center that they turned dozens of us away.
Bless you for helping to rebuild it, Trig.
What a terrible anniversary.

I recognize that little shop on Royal Street!! I've stood right where your child is standing. Great people in N.O. Bless 'em and everyone who has and continues to lend helping hands.
Congrats Trig on cover!! Whoooo!!!! I found out who's dick you had to suck but I didn't know she had one of those!! WOW!! ;)

Except at work, the pics aren't showing up? ~POUT~
I still cannot imagine what this might have been like. I am still pissed off at our government about this.

Important post and well written.
What a Great Read! Thanks Trig! I wrote a song about the criminal negligence of the Bush administration before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. It's called The Nightmare of New Orleans.
Truth Troubadour,
Vic Sadot
Berkeley, CA
Excerpt from The Beatitudes: A Pinch and Scrimp Adventure by Lyn LeJeune, in both Kindle and book. A book for and about New Orleans (proceeds go to The New Orleans Public Library Foundation)

She had grown up in a New Orleans housing project shamefully named Desire. Desire had been constructed in an isolated area northwest of greater New Orleans, bordered by industrial canals and railroad tracks. Pinch often recounted her nights as a young child lying on the floor under a matted blanket listening to gunshots in the night. Desire had been built in the late 40s over the Hideaway Club where Fats Domino had played his first gigs. Pinch swore she could hear Fats sing “My Blue Heaven” just for her. As Pinch’s childhood tumbled forward, she learned survival skills. By the age of twelve, she had tried just about every street drug going and stole to keep from going hungry, acquiring the nickname Pinch. She would have been doomed to a child’s death but for the help of an aged aunt. Pinch pulled herself up, finished high school, and made it through college by working sometimes two shifts as a housekeeper in seedy hotels that bordered the Ninth Ward. A city auditor once asked her why she hadn’t worked in the Lafayette Square District or the famous 625 St. Charles suites. “You could have paid for a Ph.D. with the tips alone.” And she replied: “Well, I guess ‘dis sista just feeling mo’ secure wid da brothers. Ozanam Inn be my place, homeless peoples and all.” Then she rubbed his arm. The poor guy broke out in a sweat, brushed his thinning hair back with an aged-spotted trembling hand, and looked at me for intervention. Later I asked Pinch why she’d stuck it to the auditor; she shrugged her shoulders and replied: “I guess just every once and a while I have to remind myself where I come from. Pride has many forms, love.” Pinch had overcome. She was the bravest person I ever knew.

Elijah Rising