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February 26, 2007
Feeding 18,000 Families a Month in One Neighborhood
The Right to Return to New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
E ach morning, Debra South Jones drives 120 miles into New Orleans to cook and serve over 300 hot free meals each day to people in New Orleans East, where she lived until Katrina took her home.
Ms. Jones and several volunteers also distribute groceries to 18,000 families a month through their group, Just the Right Attitude.
Who comes for food?
"Most of the people are working on their own houses because they can't afford contractors," Ms. Jones said.  "They are living in their gutted-out houses with no electricity."
Why do thousands of people need food and why are people living in gutted-out houses with no electricity?
Look at New Orleans eighteen months after Katrina and you will realize why it is so difficult for people to exercise the human right to return to their homes.
Half the homes in New Orleans still do not have electricity.
Eighteen months after Katrina, a third of a million people in the New Orleans metro area have not returned.
FEMA told Congress that 60,000 families in Louisiana still live in 240 square foot trailers usually at least 3 to a trailer.
The Louisiana Hurricane Task Force estimated in December 2006 that there was an "urgent need" for 30,000 affordable rental apartments in New Orleans alone and another 15,000 around the rest of the state.
Eighteen months after Katrina, over 80 percent of the 5100 New Orleans occupied public housing apartments remained closed by order of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which controlled the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) since 2002.
HUD pressed ahead even though internal HANO documents revealed the cost for repair and renovation was significantly less than for demolition and redevelopment.
A professor from MIT inspected the buildings and declared them structurally sound.
Architecture critics applaud the current garden-style buildings.
Yet HUD plows ahead planning to spend tens of millions of Katrina dollars to tear down millions of dollars of habitable housing and end up with far fewer affordable apartments a clear loss for the community.
Over $100 billion was approved by Congress to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
Over $50 billion of that money was allocated to temporary and long-term housing.
Just under $30 billion was for emergency response and Department of Defense spending.
Over $18 billion was for State and local response and the rebuilding of infrastructure.
$3.6 billion was for health, social services and job training and $3.2 for non-housing cash assistance.
$1.9 billion was allocated for education and $1.2 billion for agriculture.
 
February 26, 2007
Feeding 18,000 Families a Month in One Neighborhood
The Right to Return to New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
Caution tape over a walkway running alongside the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, November 10, 2005.

Prosecutors said on Thursday they would not seek the death penalty for four New Orleans police officers charged with shooting dead two people on the bridge shortly after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city.

Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Caution tape over a walkway running alongside the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, November 10, 2005.
Prosecutors said on Thursday they would not seek the death penalty for four New Orleans police officers charged with shooting dead two people on the bridge shortly after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city.
Guilty plea in Danziger Bridge case — click here
Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Image inserted by TheWE.cc
L ouisiana received $10 billion to fix up housing.
Over 109,000 homeowners applied for federal funds to fix up their homes.
Eighteen months later, less than 700 families have received this federal assistance.
Renters, who comprised a majority of New Orleans, are worse off they get nothing at all.
Some money is scheduled to go to some landlords and apartment developers for some apartments at some time.
There were uncountable generous and courageous and heroic acts of people and communities who stretched themselves to assist people displaced by the hurricane.
Many of these continue.  However, there are several notable exceptions.
Obstacles to public funding of affordable housing came from within New Orleans and in neighboring parishes. Many in New Orleans do not want the poor who lived in public housing to return.
St. Bernard Parish, a 93 percent white suburb adjoining New Orleans, enacted a post-Katrina ordinance which restricted home owners from renting out single-family homes "unless the renter is a blood relative" without securing a permit from the government.
Jefferson Parish, another adjoining majority-white suburb, unanimously passed a resolution opposing all low-income tax credit multi-family housing in the areas closest to New Orleans effectively stopping the construction of a 200 unit apartment building on vacant land for people over the age of 62 and any further assisted housing.
Across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans, the chief law enforcement officer of St. Tammany Parish, Sheriff Jack Strain, complained openly about the post-Katrina presence of "thugs and trash" from "New Orleans public housing" and announced that people with dreadlocks or "chee wee hairstyles" could "expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff,s deputy."
With rebuilding starting up and the previous work force still displaced, tens of thousands of migrant workers have come to the Gulf Coast to work in the recovery.
Many were recruited.
Most workers tell of being promised good wages and working conditions and plenty of work.
Some paid money up front for the chance to come to the area to work.
Most of these promises were broken.
A tour of the area reveals many Latino workers live in houses without electricity, other live out of cars.
At various places in the city whole families are living in tents.
Many former residents of New Orleans are not welcome back.
Race is certainly a factor.
One of only two new
homes built, Ninth Ward
18 months since
Hurricane Katrina hit
So is class.
As New Orleans native and professor Adolph Reed notes:
"With each passing day, a crucially significant political distinction in New Orleans gets clearer and clearer: Property owners are able to assert their interests in the polity, while non-owners are nearly as invisible in civic life now as in the early eighteenth century."
New Orleans is now the charter capital of the U.S.
All the public schools on the side of the Mississippi which did not flood were turned into charters within weeks of Katrina.
The schools with strongest parental support and high test scores were flipped into charters.
The charters have little connection to each other and to state or local supervision.
Those in the top half of the pre-Katrina population may be getting a better education.
Kids without high scores, with disabilities, with little parental involvement who are not in charters are certainly not getting a good education and are shuttled into the bottom half — a makeshift system of state and local schools.
John McDonogh, a public high school created to take the place of five pre-Katrina high schools, illustrates the challenges facing non-charter public education in New Orleans.
Opened by the State school district in the fall, as of November, 2006, there were 775 students but teachers, textbooks and supplies remained in short order months after school opened.
Many teens, as many as one-fifth, were living in New Orleans without their parents.
Fights were frequent despite the presence of metal detectors, twenty-give security guards and an additional eight police officers.
In fact several security guards, who were not much older than the students were injured in fights with students.
Students described the school as having a "prison atmosphere."
There were no hot lunches and few working water fountains.
The girls, bathrooms did not have doors on them.
The library had no books at all, not even shelves for books in early November.
One 15 year old student caught the 5am bus from Baton Rouge to attend the high school.
"Our school has 39 security guards and three cops on staff and only 27 teachers," one McDonogh teacher reported.
It took two federal civil rights actions in January 2007 to force the state to abolish a waiting list for entry into public school that stranded hundreds of kids out of school for weeks.
 
Imam Ali hospital
Feeding 18,000 Families a Month in One Neighborhood
The Right to Return to New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
Healthcare is in crisis.
The main public healthcare provider, Charity Hospital, which saw 350,000 patient visits a year, remains closed, as do half the hospitals in the city.
It is not clear it will reopen. Plans are being debated which will shift indigent care and its state and federal compensation to private hospitals.
Much of the uncompensated care provided by Charity has shifted to other LSU hospitals with people traveling as far as 85 miles to the Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge which reports a 50 percent increase in uncompensated care.
Waiting lines are long in emergency rooms for those who have insurance.
When hundreds of thousands lost their jobs after Katrina, they lost healthcare as well.
A recent free medical treatment fair opened their doors at 6 am and stopped signing people up at 8 am because they had already filled the 700 available slots for the day.
Mental health is worse.
A report by the World Health organization estimates that serious and mild to moderate mental illness doubled in the year after Hurricane Katrina among survivors.
Despite a suicide rate triple what it was a year ago, the New York Times reported ten months after the storm New Orleans had still lost half of its psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and other mental health care workers.
In the months after Katrina, the 534 psychiatric beds that were in metro New Orleans shrank to less than 80.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed the area and found 45 percent of residents were experiencing "significant stress or dysfunction" and another 25 percent were worse.
By default, the lack of mental health treatment facilities has forced more of these crises towards law enforcement.
"The lack of mental health options forced the New Orleans Police Department to incarcerate mentally ill people who normally would have been taken to Charity," said James Arey, commander of the NOPD crisis negotiation team.
"The only other option is to admit them into emergency rooms ill-equipped to handle psychotics who may have to wait days for care. This is past the point of being unsafe," Arey said.
"It's just a matter of time before a mental patient goes berserk in one of the ERs and hurts some people."
With day care scarce down 70 percent, and public transportation down 83 percent of pre-Katrina busses, there is little chance for single moms with kids.
It is impossible to begin to understand the continued impact of Katrina without viewing through the lenses of race, gender and poverty.
Katrina exposed the region,s deep-rooted inequalities of gender, race, and class. Katrina did not create the inequalities; it provided a window to see them more clearly.
But the aftermath of Katrina has aggravated these inequalities.
In fact if you plot race, class and gender you can likely tell who has returned to New Orleans.
The Institute of Women,s Policy Research pointed out "The hurricanes uncovered America,s longstanding structural inequalities based on race, gender, and class and laid bare the consequences of ignoring these underlying inequalities."
The pre-Katrina population of 454,000 people in the city of New Orleans dropped to 187,000.
The African-American population of New Orleans shrank by 61 percent or 213,000 people, from a pre-Katrina number of 302,000 down to 89,000.
New Orleans now has a much smaller, older, whiter and more affluent population.
 Biloxi/Gulfport
empty lots where
houses and businesses
used to stand
The Right to Return to New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
C rime plagues parts of the city and every spoke of the criminal justice wheel is broken.
Hundreds of police left the force and several were just indicted for first degree murder of an unarmed mentally retarded man during Katrina.
When the accused police reported to jail, they were accompanied by hundreds of fellow officers holding up signs calling them heroes.
The DA and the police are openly feuding and pointing fingers at each other.
The judges are fighting with the new public defender system.
Victims and witnesses are still displaced. People accused of serious crime walk out of jail because of incompetence and the fear of witnesses to cooperate with police.
Others are kept in jail too long because they are lost in the system.
For example, Pedro Parra-Sanchez was arrested six days after he arrived in New Orleans to find work in October 2005.
He got in a fight and allegedly stabbed a man with a beer bottle.
He went through the local temporary jail in a bus station and two other Louisiana prisons.
Under Louisiana law he was supposed to be charged within 60 days or released.
However, he never went to court or saw a lawyer.
When he did not show up for his original arraignment date last May, a warrant was put out for his arrest, but he was already incarcerated.
He was found by a Tulane Law Clinic attorney and was released in November 2006.
Lost in the system, he was doing what they call in the courthouse "Katrina time."
Though crime is issue one in most of the city, crime is not the cause of a city dying.
Crime is a symptom of a city dying.
Crime is the sound of a city dying.
There are major problems with the drinking water system eighteen months after Katrina.
According to the City of New Orleans, hundreds of miles of underground pipes were damaged by 480 billion pounds of water that sat in the city after Katrina.
They were further damaged by the uprooting of tens of thousands of trees whose roots were wrapped around the pipes.
The city of New Orleans now loses more water through faulty pipes and joints in the delivery system than it is uses.
More than 135 million gallons are being pumped out daily but only 50 million gallons are being used, leaving 85 million gallons "unaccounted for and probably leaking out of the system."
The daily cost of the water leaking away in thousands of leaks is about $200,000 a day.
The second major water problem is that the leakage makes maintaining adequate water pressure extremely difficult and costly, particularly in tall office buildings.
Water pressure in New Orleans is estimated at half that of other cities, creating significant problems in consumption, sanitation, air-conditioning, and fire prevention.
Insurance costs are skyrocketing for homes and businesses.
So are rents.
Though low-wage jobs pay a little more than before Katrina, they do not pay enough for people to afford rent.
Eighteen months after
United States Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs Committee
The Right to Return to New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
T hese problems spread far beyond their most graphic illustrations in New Orleans throughout the Gulf Coast.
As Oxfam documented, government neglect has plagued the rebuilding of smaller towns like Biloxi Mississippi, and rural parishes of Louisiana, leaving the entire region in distress.
In Biloxi, the first to be aided after the hurricane were the casinos, which forced low-income people out of their homes and neighborhoods.
In rural Louisiana, contradictory signals by government agencies have slowed and in some cases reversed progress.
Small independent family commercial fishing businesses have been imperiled by the lack of recovery funds.
The federal assistance that has occurred has tended to favor the affluent and those with economic assets.
Visitors to New Orleans can still stay in fine hotels and dine at great restaurants.
But less than a five minute drive away lie miles of devastated neighborhoods that shock visitors.
Locals call it "the Grand Canyon effect" — you know about it, you have seen it on TV, but when you see it in person it can take your breath away.
 
The Right to Return to New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
O ur community continues to take hope from the resilience of our people.
Despite lack of federal, state and local assistance, people are living their lives and repairing their homes.
People are organizing.
Many fight for better levee protection. Some work for affordable housing.
Some are workers collectively seeking better working conditions.
Neighborhoods are coming together to fight for basic services.
Small business owners are working together to secure grants and low-cost rebuilding loans.
Others organize against crime.
We graciously accept the kindnesses of strangers who come by the hundreds every day to help us gut and rebuild our homes.
Churches, synagogues, and mosques from around the country come to partner with local congregations to rebuild and resource their sisters and brothers.
The new Congress appears poised to give us a hand. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, head the House Subcommittee overseeing HUD, delivered pointed questions and criticisms to federal, state and local foot-draggers recently and promised a new day.
Young people are particularly outraged
Young people are particularly outraged and activated by what they see they give us hope.
Over a thousand law students alone will come to the gulf to volunteer over spring break with the Student Hurricane Network.
The connections between the lack of resources for Katrina rebuilding and Iraq and Afghanistan are clear to everyone on the gulf coast.
Despite the guarantees of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement that people displaced through no fault of their own have the right to return to their homes and have the right to expect the government to help them do so, far too little progress has been made.
As U.S. Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver of Kansas City observed in a recent public hearing, "When it is all said and done, there has been a lot more said than done."
But still each day, Ms. Debra South Jones and her volunteers drive into New Orleans east to dish out hot food and groceries to people in need.
In the past eighteen months, they have given out over 3 million pounds of food to over 130,000 families.
We never dreamed we would be still be so needy eighteen months after Katrina.
We look forward to the day when she will not have to feed us, when we will not need volunteers to gut and fix up our homes, when we can feed ourselves in our own fixed up homes in a revitalized New Orleans.
[ If you would like to learn more about Ms. Debra South Jones and the work of her organization Just the Right Attitude, see http://www.jtra.org ]
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
                          To rebel is right, to disobey is a duty, to act is necessary !
twenty
twenty
         Indifference and cruelty of US government              
September Monday 4th 2006
Spike Lee’s film recalls When the Levees Broke
by Cindy Beringer
Far exceeds “natural” disaster
...Spike Lee’s two-part documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, premiered on HBO, making it clear that the continuing epic tragedy of Katrina is a failure on many levels which far exceeds a “natural” disaster.
Flood caused damage
As Lee’s title reminds us, it was not Katrina that destroyed New Orleans, but the flood caused by the breaching of the levees.
Computer mock-ups had long predicted that the levees would not hold up in a severe hurricane, and recently the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to admit to human error in the levee system designed for the city.
“If they knew it could’ve happened, it’s almost like they let it happen,” said a New Orleans resident.
...Unrelieved human suffering continues to clash with the indifference and cruelty of the bureaucracy.
“These people,” said actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte, “are socially, racially unimportant.”
New Orleans is a unique culture in which music has always played a dominant role.
Throughout each act, shots of trademark parades led by musicians are interspersed with images of property destruction and unimaginable agony.
Swollen, rotten bodies — some being chewed by starving dogs — pollute the landscape and the waters while the situation worsens at the Superdome.
Narrators compare the devastation to the battlegrounds of the Second World War, Beirut and Hiroshima, and they are shocked that it could happen here.
All blame government at all levels for failing to protect the property and lives of the non-wealthy residents and for continuing to fail to relieve the suffering.
Making excuses as short time narrators, Bush and his cabinet, former FEMA chief Michael Brown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the Army Corps of Engineers prove worthy of the blame they receive.
Residents become the enemy
Then, the National Guard comes in, and things begin to change.   Residents become the enemy.
“The feelings that residents had about the National Guard and the state police and the visiting police,” said New Orleans City Council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, “is that they were an armed occupied city.
"I can’t help but believe that is the same way they treated people in any city they go in and invade — Kosovo or wherever....  I guess maybe that’s the way the Iraqis feel — I don’t know.”
After surviving days of hell, people were force loaded onto buses without even the simplest of kindness — being kept in their family unit or told where they were going.   Infants were snatched from their mothers’ arms.
Gina Montana, a resident of Mid-City, said:
“With the evacuation scattering my family all over the United States, I felt like it was an ancient memory.   It was as if we had been up on the auction block.”
The aftermath is worse than the actual levees breaking
A year later, some families are still not reunited, bodies are still being found in houses marked “inspected,” people homelessly wait for rebuilding and FEMA checks, and many can’t return.
Only 1 percent of those who have been lucky to have a “little ol’ raggedy” FEMA trailer in their yard as they try to rebuild have electricity.   “The aftermath is worse than the actual levees breaking,” says Daina Saulny.   “It’s almost like you’re stuck.”
A woefully inadequate number of mental health professionals are treating increasing numbers of cases of post-traumatic stress disorders.   Post-Katrina deaths have climbed 30 percent, many of those suicides.
Unfortunately, not enough attention is given to the many heroic efforts of individuals and communities to provide needed services and save lives.
[Of those] who landed out of state...the greatest diaspora in American history.   That story awaits another hundred documentaries.
      http://www.socialistworker.org/   
Ninth Ward, New Orleans Parish, house destroyed by Katrina.

Photo: Behzad Yaghmaian
 Ninth Ward, New Orleans Parish  
April 18, 2006
Seven Months After Katrina
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
"Katrina was the act of God.   This was actually a good thing.   There were too many Black people in New Orleans before.   Too many of them.   Katrina took care of this.   New Orleans will be a better city in the future.   You know, people call this a disaster.   Katrina was not a disaster.   Tsunami was a disaster.   This was not."
— a Texan I interviewed in New Orleans.
The old metal bridge behind us, our teary eyes gazing with awe at the world outside, occasional sighs breaking the heavy weight of a deadly silence in the car, we drove at a crawling speed through blocks of rubble and destroyed homes, rusted bicycles and broken toys, capsized cars, loose cables and wires, and overturned lamp poles.
A badly damaged truck had found a home in what was once someone's living room.
A mud stained white jacket stood on a coat hanger on a broken sofa.
A large stuffed animal sitting alone on a pile of rubble momentarily kidnapped me to the imagined laughter of a happy child holding the animal with affection, speaking to it, telling it childhood stories.
A small cat rested on the hood of a rusty truck, gazing under the afternoon sun.
Howling wind rudely entering and leaving people's homes through the broken doors and windows, picking up dust, plastic bags, and small pieces of rubble, slamming broken doors and windows.
An unending cycle of deafening wind, silence, occasional sound of slow running engines, and distant pounding, and silence again — an unbearable silence telling stories of the dashed dreams and memories in what was once the Lower Ninth, a predominantly poor and lower middle class black neighborhood in New Orleans.
This was March 20, 2006, seven months after the Lower Ninth was hit by Katrina.
 Ninth Ward, New Orleans Parish.
House damaged by Katrina
Seven Months After Katrina
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
Located close to the mouth of the Mississippi River, and originally a plantation area, the Lower Ninth was home to African slaves and poor Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, the working men and women who unable to find affordable housing elsewhere, took the risk of living in an area under the constant threat of flooding.
Drainage systems and canals were built in the twentieth century to protect the area from flooding, but the Lower Ninth remained poor and underdeveloped enclave housing impoverished African Americans.
Retirees, bus drivers and cooks
Among them were retirees, bus drivers and cooks, homeowners, those who had paid off their loans after many years of arduous labor, manual laborers, and the poor Black working class.
Income data year 2000, shows 50 percent earned less than $20,000 in the Lower Ninth Ward.   25 percent earned less than $10,000. www.gnocdc.org
Despite their widespread poverty, the residents built homes, schools, and churches.
They practiced their culture and rituals, produced world famous artists and musicians, and became an important part of the cultural and political life of New Orleans, a predominantly African American city in the United States.
Katrina became the last chapter in that history.
African life in the Lower Ninth
The population movement that followed ended the African life in the Lower Ninth and the predominance of African Americans in New Orleans.
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 Ninth Ward, New Orleans Parish.
Kitty sits on damaged car
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
S even months after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the Lower Ninth symbolized the pains, hopes and disappointments, and the frustration of the men and women that gave New Orleans its unique character.
Now uprooted, displaced in their country of birth
Once the life and soul of New Orleans, they were now uprooted, displaced in their country of birth, dispersed in strange places.
Many had lost hope for returning to their old neighborhoods, schools and hospitals, and all that made the Lower Ninth their beloved home.
Accompanied by a small group of colleagues, I visited the Lower Ninth and other devastated areas of New Orleans in March 2006.
Strolling in the deserted streets of the Lower Ninth, I noticed a family from afar.
Old and young, all wearing masks, they stared at a boarded up house, picked up garbage from the sidewalk, moved back and forth.
Approaching the family I introduced myself to an older man looking in his sixties, wearing a white T-shirt with a picture of a Harley Davidson bike, an eagle, and words reading, "Ride with Pride."
A blue baseball hat covering his gray hair, a salt and pepper mustache adding to the charm and friendliness of his chubby face, he shook my hand.   Antoine, he introduced himself.
"Sorry to intrude," I said, explaining that I was in the Lower Ninth to gain a better understanding of life after Katrina.
Excusing himself, and calling the rest of the family, his wife, daughter, and grand children, he said, "They will be happy to speak to you."
Smiling kindly and welcoming me to the Lower Ninth, a woman in her thirties waked towards me.
"We will talk to you," she said.
We cannot even get in...to pick up a picture
Standing outside a damaged home, wearing heavy gloves, and a mask to protect her from dust and diseases, she said, "We came here today to see what happened to our home.   We cannot even get in.   It is all destroyed inside.   We are here to pick up a picture, anything... But everything is destroyed," she said, pausing, looking at the house again, and turning back to me.
"We cannot even get it," she said again.
One year after
August 24, 2006
One year after current population halved
Removes garbage from grandmother's house
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
Her first return home, she had driven all night with her parents and her three children from Arkansas in a car donated by a local church to collect pieces of memory she left behind when Katrina forced her out of the Lower Ninth.
Blown the levees?
"We were at the convention center," she said.
"We were there for a week before they got us out.
We suffered enough there.
We were in the convention center when we heard the explosion.
Everybody was sobbing, picking up their children and running.
We thought they had blown the levees.
We did not know where the explosion came from.
We just heard the sound.
We just know that there was an explosion.
We were taken to Arkansas after that," she said, staring at her home, shaking her head, playing with the braids of her beautiful young girl.
That is not home.   This is our home
"People are very nice in Arkansas.   But that is not home.   This is our home.   It is hard," she continued.
Her large almond eyes shining with unending childhood joy, seemingly unaffected by the destructions surrounding her, the little girl calmly listened to her mother telling stories to a stranger.
Amused by my presence, she greeted me with her shy smile.
Holding her mother's hands, she curiously listened to my questions and her mother's lament answers.
Pulling out my camera and asking for permission to photograph her, she stood in front the ruins of her home, staring into the lens.
 
The damage from hurricane Katrina near New Orleans is seen Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005.

Photo: AP/Susan Walsh
Damage from underfunded levee, New Orleans,
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
Zooming in on her beautiful braids, her single gold earring, and the innocent smile on her face, I pressed the shutter release.
She remained staring at my lens.   Minutes later, she walked away, skipping, laughing with her younger brother.
The family dispersed and Antoine returned from the corner.   "Have they been helpful to you?" he asked.   And I asked him about his feelings being back in the Lower Ninth.
"I cannot talk about it too much.   I don't know how I am talking to you right now," he replied with tearful eyes.
Pausing, staring away, he said, "I have been down here all my life.   I came here to the Lower Ninth in the 1950s.   I used to drive a bus here, driving senior citizens around.   We had everything.   I feel empty now.   I have been trying to keep myself together.   I miss my senior citizens."
Destruction of Lower Ninth stole his home
Embracing and shaking his hand, I left Antoine, waving to the girl and her brother, jumping up and down and playing amidst the ruins and the rubble in the neighborhood.
The destruction of Lower Ninth stole from Antoine his home, his personal memories, and his past.
His silent gaze standing in front of a destroyed church across from the home of his daughter was a loud cry breaking the howling wind, the quiet weeping of a bus driver grieving his shattered memories.
It was that same gaze that I found on the face of Ronald Dorris, a professor of African American Studies at Xavier Uiversity, in a photograph I took of him in the Lower Ninth.
Motionless and silent, he stood gazing in front of the ruins of a stranger's car, a displaced person's home.
Emotions overcame him when, a few days later, when I showed him the photo.
Touching his face after a long pause, he gave me a fake smile, a smile to hide his grief.
I asked about the gaze and the grief.
His was the sorrow for the spiritual displacement, the disruption of the African American collective memory, and the end of a community and its practices that he cherished all his life.
Signs pointing to where the streets of Jourdan and Galvez should be.

Ninth Ward area residents attend a memorial anniversary ceremony dedicated to the victims of the breaking of the underfunded levee at the now reconstructed wall of the levee at the Lower Ninth Ward canal in New Orleans August 29, 2006.

Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Ninth Ward area residents attend a memorial anniversary ceremony dedicated to the victims of the breaking of the underfunded levee at the now reconstructed wall of the levee at the Lower Ninth Ward canal in New Orleans August 29, 2006.
 
Houses for Humanity
Musicians Village
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
Katrina severed the connection between the African Americans and their past.
It erased an important part of American history, a history that was kept alive through church sponsored festivals, jazz masses and jazz funerals, concerts and festivals, rituals and cultural practices that largely centered around the everyday practices and lived experiences of the African population of New Orleans.
Their displacement ended that long tradition.
Katrina affected the American music, and severed a long history of how jazz and blues were reproduced, conveyed from generation to generation.
"You don't learn to play this way in the academy," Ronald Dorris told me one evening, listening to a fine live jazz performance in an outdoor café in the French Quarter.
Jazz was learned on the streets, in people's living rooms.
It was mastered by listening, paying attention, and picking up the instruments and playing from the heart at a very young age.
It was learned by living jazz, breathing jazz.
Katrina and the population displacement that followed disrupted that tradition.
Antoine and the tens of thousands who left New Orleans were unlikely to return.
Their displacement was permanent, many others feared.
 
Year after Hurricane Katrina struck
population half in Orleans Parish
An old car is seen at the Ninth Ward area in New Orleans August 28, 2006, nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina struck.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

Picture: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Had to cut through roof
With 18 others paddled a fishing boat
In the Gaze of New Orleans
By BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN
"Evacuees," the language used to describe them by the media and government officials, disguised their status.
Like the victims of draught, famine, or civil war in Ethiopia, Somalia, and elsewhere in Africa, the majority of those dispersed by Katrina had become internally displaced people, men and women removed from their places of birth by forces beyond their control.
"They have nothing to come back to. They have been permanently forced out. The city is not going to rebuild the Lower Ninth," he said in our last meeting.
New Orleans was to become a White City.
Seven months after Katrina, no concrete action was taken towards rebuilding the Lower Ninth.
There were no local or federal plans to facilitate the return of the internally displaced people.
 
While spending billions of dollars in Iraq
While spending billions of dollars in Iraq, the federal government had yet to dispatch an army of civil engineers and construction workers to help fix or rebuild the destroyed homes, restart the schools and hospitals, and build the infrastructure that would make the return of the "evacuees" possible.
With bare hands, they removed rubble
Instead of government paid workers, the Ninth Ward was crowded with college students from across the country who spent their spring break in New Orleans to help those devastated by the hurricane.
With bare hands, they removed rubble, selflessly fixed walls, painted, and worked day and night to compensate for the failures of their government.
The scene of the tired young men and women in the Ninth Ward was a fresh reminder of the ideals that were still upheld by many Americans.
At the same time, it demonstrated the neglect and failure, or perhaps the unwillingness to help on the part of the government of the richest nation in the world.
Stolen
What happened after Katrina "was not an evacuation.   It was an invasion," Ronald Dorris repeated.
His view was not uncommon among the African Americans.
The oldest African American city of the country was stolen from its residents.
Behzad Yaghmaian is a professor of political economy at Ramapo College of New Jersey.   He is the author of Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West    (Delacorte, December 2005).
 
As I closed the door to my house, I glanced over my shoulder at my cat, who was staring intently at me.
I didn't consider loading her into the car — I was that sure this was another false alarm.
I had put a little dry food in her bowl and, with an odd premonition, torn open the sack and set it next to her bowl.
Twelve hours later, I was standing in my brother's living room in Louisville, staring at CNN.   I would stand there, staring at CNN, for about the next ten days.
The sickening approach, the apparently miraculous, last-minute jag to the east, the celebrations of Monday evening, then the water rising fast on camera on Tuesday morning, and then the swirling hell blasting through the TV screen til Sunday, when the National Guard finally showed up and locked the whole town down.
That's when I started plotting how I would return to get my cat.
I left Louisville around 11:00 PM on Tuesday, September 13th, and I drove all night with a buddy of mine — the idea being that we'd arrive at the city in mid-morning, after the curfew was lifted, and then have all day to check out the house and the neighborhood etc. and take care of whatever repairs might be necessary on my pad.
That buddy of mine is a very experienced carpenter and a totally streetwise hepcat from L'ville.
      T.R. Johnson      www.counterpunch.org       September 30, 2005      
We drove down through Memphis to Jackson and from there down to Hammond.   We went through three checkpoints — at the first, a Louisiana state trooper began our conversation by saying "What ya got for me?"

Was he explicitly requesting a bribe?
Sounded like it.
Or was he setting me up to bust me?
I chose not to take the bait, and so he told me I had to exit and the highway and couldn't come in via I-10.   He directed us out to Laplace, where we would pick up Highway 61 and try to come in that way.
About halfway into town on Highway 61, an NOPD officer told us we couldn't come in and told us to just go back whereever we came from.
This was checkpoint #2.
So we turned around, drove back through traffic about a mile, then got sufficiently pissed off to say 'fuck this', whipped another u-turn and nosed back into line to try the same checkpoint a second time.
I put on a hat and took off my sunglasses to make myself look a little different.   A comedy of desperation.
Sure enough, the second time, we sailed through just fine.   They just waved us through.
We felt a certain giddy elation, but, too, I think we both felt a little worried about how much crazier the chaos up ahead might be.
In memory of deaths cause by New Orleans broken levee
US Government mismanaged and underfunded
In memory of deaths cause by New Orleans broken levee government mismanaged and underfunded.

The University of Southern Mississippi marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006, with a commemoration and dedication event at the front entrance of the Hattiesburg, Miss., campus, where this new live oak was planted to replace one of the many fallen trees on the campus.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

Mismanagement and misdirection of government agencies from the US federal system, through state and local government continues unabated, the majority of assistance going to companies and the wealthiest.

Picture: AFP/Robyn Beck
St. Claude Bridge
Participants cross the St. Claude Bridge during a march commemorating the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, August 29, 2006.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42
million before Katrina.

Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved. 

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and the US government mismanaged and underfunded levee was a major cause of killing about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(left)
In memory of deaths cause by New Orleans broken levee government mismanaged and underfunded.
The University of Southern Mississippi marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006, with a commemoration and dedication event at the front entrance of the Hattiesburg, Miss., campus, where this new live oak was planted to replace one of the many fallen trees on the campus.
The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.
Mismanagement and misdirection of government agencies from the US federal system, through state and local government continues unabated, the majority of assistance going to companies and the wealthiest.
Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
(right)
Participants cross the St. Claude Bridge during a march commemorating the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, August 29, 2006.
The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.
In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42 million before Katrina.
Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.
US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.
They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved.
Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.
Many of the homes are still empty
Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and the US government mismanaged and underfunded levee was a major cause of killing about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
Photos: AFP/Robyn Beck, REUTERS/Carlos Barria
We followed Airline Drive (Hwy-61) all the way in, but it was blocked off about a few miles before The Rock'n'Bowl.
We were routed onto a detour through those Metairie neighborhoods to the right of Airline Drive, and then we popped up on Causeway Boulevard, somehow, so we followed that over to Jefferson Highway, and used that to come into uptown.
Right at the parish line, we came upon a sandbag levee — but it had been breached by big military trucks (as we pulled up, another big green humvee was clanking over it, and it looked like there had been a succession) so I figured I might as well drive over it too.
There were a bunch of military guys with machine guns standing around, but they didn't appear to pay any attention to us at all.
So, I put my VW-Jetta in first gear and varoomed it up into the sand, and sure enough, a moment later I bumped down into Orleans Parish.
At first, I had no idea where I was.
I didn't have the slightest idea.
So I pulled up under a street sign — when I saw that it said "Claiborne Ave," my heart sank.
I was out on Claiborne, right alongside the Hollygrove neighborhood, where a good pal of mine had lived for the last four or five years, and I didn't even recognize it.
After I'd cruised down Claiborne on the wrong side of the neutral ground for several blocks and finally checked a street sign — imagine what it felt like to realize this was a street I'd driven down countless times and as recently as a few weeks ago, but that this morning I couldn't even recognize.
Federal bureaucracy
indifference to straightening
and building better levees
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (C) addresses reporters at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. He was joined by FBI Director Robert Muller (L), Transportation Security Administration director Kip Hawley (2ndL) and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: AFP/Tim Sloan
Superdome government created horror
Thousands wait for buses at the Superdome in New Orleans, September 2, 2005.

It was a horror that played out on America's TV screens, filmed live by cameras in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and Superdome and dozens of other places.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42
million before Katrina.

Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved. 

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

(left)
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (C) addresses reporters at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. He was joined by FBI Director Robert Muller (L), Transportation Security Administration director Kip Hawley (2ndL) and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.
Many of the homes are still empty
Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
(right)
Thousands wait for buses at the Superdome in New Orleans, September 2, 2005.
It was a horror that played out on America's TV screens, filmed live by cameras in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and Superdome and dozens of other places.
US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.
They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved.
The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.
In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42 million before Katrina.
Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.
Photos: AFP/Tim Sloan, REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
There was so much debris everywhere and such a thick layer of dried mud about five feet high on every vertical surface, that I couldn't really be sure where I was — didn't even realize I had been driving on the wrong side of the neutral ground — til I stopped and read the street sign.
This was when I first realized how bad it was.
The next thing I noticed was that none of the trees had any leaves.
They were just stark, black, and bare — utterly unnatural on this blazing hot September morning.   Apparently, all the leaves had been stripped away by the wind.   There was no shade.   Just dried mud and blinding sun.
And then I noticed the stink.
I turned right off Claiborne and headed down Carrollton toward the river to pick up Tchoupitoulas and follow that downtown.
Within a few blocks, I had to quit Carrollton, cos a huge live oak had fallen across the road and was blocking it.   So I took a right and used Dante or Dublin or one of those to get over to Tchoupitoulas.
The road was caked with dried mud, so much so that you couldn't really distinguish the street from the lawns.
There had obviously been a massive flash-flood through here — the little canal at the parish line had become a roaring river that cascaded east, a kind of miniature uptown version of what had happened at the industrial canal down there by Poland Ave.
Tree limbs and pieces of rooftop everywhere, garages collapsed, boats and pieces of boats just stranded wherever they had been when the waters rolled back.
Total mess.   Impossible to imagine anyone surviving who had been here when this shit happened, equally impossible to believe normal life will someday resume here.
Once I got within two or three blocks of the river levee, the mess lessened considerably.   I then picked up River Road, used that to get down to Magazine, then cut out Calhoun to Tchoupitoulas for the run downtown.
There were absolutely no human beings anywhere — none — not one.   The desolation was absolute.
Not a single soul anywhere, nowhere, no one.   Unspeakably eery.
I felt completely creeped out, completely ashamed, like I was treading on territory that was forbidden by cosmic edict.  
I drove down Tchoupitoulas, and after a while, I just stopped glancing down those side streets that run perpendicular to the river, cos it just freaked me out too much to look down them and see not a single creature moving.
There was heavy debris down those side streets, but Tchoupitoulas was clear.   So we zoomed down it.   Blazing hot sun, big clear blue sky.   And no one around.   Empty.
We got to the CBD, and some of the streets were blocked off with piles of rubble, so, as luck would have it, we ended up having no choice but to drive right past the Convention Center.
The goddamned Convention Center.
The odor was extremely intense, overwhelming — sour-sweet, utterly repulsive, making a thin hum of nausea run from the pit of my gut up through my throat.
We had picked up that smell uptown, but it was far worse in the CBD, and it stayed bad as we moved down Decatur toward the Bywater.
At Canal Street, there was a huge gaggle of media trucks huddled together on the neutral ground, their antennae and satellite dishes extended high in the air and pointing at odd angles.
Federal bureaucracy
indifference to straightening
and building better levees

Gross inadequacy in acting when disaster hit

One year later!
A woman walks past a pile of debris in a neighborhood, damaged by last year's Hurricane Katrina, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana August 24, 2006.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: REUTERS/Lee Celano


Remember the victims
Brian Fortune is comforted by a stranger as he touches the names of his aunt, uncle and cousin who were killed in Hurricane Katrina, at the end of a march to memorialize victims of the hurricane and to call for the right of return in New Orleans on the first anniversary of the
hurricane.

New Orleans remembered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with tears and anger at the officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continues to complicate reconstruction efforts.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42
million before Katrina.

Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved. 

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: AFP/Robyn Beck

(left)
A woman walks past a pile of debris in a neighborhood, damaged by last year's Hurricane Katrina, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana August 24, 2006.
Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.
Many of the homes are still empty
Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
(right)
Brian Fortune is comforted by a stranger as he touches the names of his aunt, uncle and cousin who were killed in Hurricane Katrina, at the end of a march to memorialize victims of the hurricane and to call for the right of return in New Orleans on the first anniversary of the hurricane.
New Orleans remembered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with tears and anger at the officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continues to complicate reconstruction efforts.
US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.
They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved.
The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.
In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42 million before Katrina.
Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.
Photos: REUTERS/Lee Celano, AFP/Robyn Beck
Federal bureaucracy
indifference to straightening
and building better levees
Gross inadequacy in acting when disaster hit
One year later!
Hope, Ark., airport
Mobile homes still sit unused
More than 10,000 mobile homes are shown at the Hope, Ark., airport.

Thousands of mobile homes collected to provide temporary homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina still sit unused in August 2006 at the airport a year after the storm ravaged the Gulf Coast, leaving thousands homeless.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: AP/Danny Johnston
Broken levee is still here in our life

US government created horror

Mismanaged and underfunded New Orleans levee protection
A note left behind by residents, is seen pinned on the wall of a house destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, next to a portrait of Jesus, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans August 22, 2006.

New Orleans remembered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with tears and anger at the officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continues to complicate reconstruction efforts.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42
million before Katrina.

Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved. 

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: Carlos Barria/Reuters

(left)
More than 10,000 mobile homes are shown at the Hope, Ark., airport.
Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.
Many of the homes are still empty
Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
(right)
A note left behind by residents, is seen pinned on the wall of a house destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, next to a portrait of Jesus, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans August 22, 2006.
New Orleans remembered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with tears and anger at the officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continues to complicate reconstruction efforts.
US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.
They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved.
The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.
In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42 million before Katrina.
Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.
Photos: AP/Danny Johnston, Carlos Barria/Reuters
In the parking lot of Tower Records, there was another media village, and what looked like food booths from jazz fest.   A bunch of soldiers around.   Red berets, machine guns, big trucks.   Definitely wanted to avoid them.
We came down Chartres into the Bywater — the fires all along the wharves there were still smoldering and stinking like all hell.   Bad, burning chemical smell.
We had shitty headaches from it right away that stayed with us for about twenty four hours.   The collapsed, smoking warehouses and wharves stretched for block upon block.   The top half of one of those old brick warehouses that rises on the bank of the river was shorn off — looked like a photo from WWII.
Driving into the Bywater, we knew we had reached what was the end of the line, and, for that matter, the edge of the world.
Beyond Poland street, there was nothing: no lower 9th Ward, no Araby, no Chalmette, no Waveland, no Bay Saint Louis, no Pass Christian, no Gulfport, no Biloxi, nothing til you got to the other side of Mobile, Alabama.   That's a long way.   And nothing between there and here but utter devastation.
I pulled off Chartres going the wrong way on Clouet to get over to my house.   I pulled up in front of my house and parked.   The house across the street where the old drunk lived had had really bad damage from both wind and fire.
My house had a big red X painted on the front, and each corner of the X had a tidbit of info: zero dead, zero alive, Sept 6, TX-ST.   That last bit, I think, meant that Texas state troopers had been to my house.   They had checked it on September 6, exactly one week after the levees had broken.
We went inside and saw, first, that several of my paintings had been knocked off the wall, presumably when wind shook the house.
The cat was alive, but very skinny and schizzed out.
I opened a can of food for her and, after a while, she mellowed out and let me hold her.
The palm tree in the little patio out back was snapped in half, and the railing around my upstairs balcony torn off.  
Some shingles had been peeled off the roof, which let rainwater mark up the ceiling.
But other than that, no real damage.
We walked around the neighborhood — total silence, total emptiness.
There turned out to be about fifty soldiers camping in the warehouse by the railroad tracks.
Occasionally, a helicopter would go shuddering by overhead.
We went down to the quarter.   Molly's was open, but dark and hot.   Nothing else was open.
They had Abita in big coolers, a bunch of CNN war-correspondent types crowding around, swigging beer and eating bags of food the soldiers were passing out.
We stayed there an hour or two then walked back to my house.
One year later!
Pedestrians walk by Johnny White's bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans' French Quarter 28 August 2006.

Johnny White's stayed open all through Hurricane Katrina, acting as a headquarters and anchor for residents and regulars.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: AFP/Robyn Beck
One year later!
A combination picture shows New Orleans on September 6, 2005 after Hurricane Katrina struck, and a view on August 26, 2006.

New Orleans remembered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with tears and anger at the officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continues to complicate reconstruction efforts.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.

In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42
million before Katrina.

Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.

US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.

They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved. 

Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.

Many of the homes are still empty

Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.

Picture: US Weather/Ernesto

(left)
Pedestrians walk by Johnny White's bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans' French Quarter 28 August 2006.
Johnny White's stayed open all through Hurricane Katrina, acting as a headquarters and anchor for residents and regulars.
Victim of government indifference to repairing and constructing new levees, the Ninth and lower Ninth Ward saw the greatest damage.
Many of the homes are still empty
Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed about 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
(right)
A combination picture shows New Orleans on September 6, 2005 after Hurricane Katrina struck, and a view on August 26, 2006.
New Orleans remembered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with tears and anger at the officials who abandoned tens of thousands to the chaos and whose bureaucratic bungling continues to complicate reconstruction efforts.
US authorities are increasingly being accused of negligence in their response to Hurricane Katrina one year ago.
They are also being accused of favoritism towards the wealthy and business powers who have influence with the politicians in getting finance and their reconstruction plans approved.
The current population of Orleans parish is 220,000 to 235,000, compared to 485,000 before Katrina.
In the entire metropolitan New Orleans area, the current population is estimated at 1.17 million compared to 1.42 million before Katrina.
Most of those who have not returned are the poorest, unable to fight back.
Photos: AFP/Robyn Beck, US Weather/Ernesto
The rule was that anyone who was on the street after 6:00pm would be taken to the Greyhound Station and held over night there — they were using that and the Amtrak station as make-shift prisons — then released in the morning.
They were calling the whole compound "Camp Greyhound."
Needless to say, we wanted no part of that.   So we walked back to my house around 4:30 that afternoon, dead tired from all the shock and the all-night drive.
There were barricades up around my immediate few blocks that said, in hand-lettering in magic-marker on cardboard — "chemical spill — extremely dangerous — do not enter."
But we said hell-with-it and walked right in.   We had no other option — too tired to drive out, too much still to organize at my house, plus we saw soldiers walking through the same barricaded area.   So we went back to my pad.
My buddy fell asleep on the living room couch right away, but I sat up til maybe 8:30 that night.
We had all the windows open upstairs cos the heat was so awful and there was no escaping the stink anyway.
I didn't dare light a candle, cos I was afraid if any soldiers saw light coming from inside my house, they'd arrest us — you were not even supposed to be in the city after dark, not even to stretch out in your own bed.
So, I covered myself with bugspray cos rumors were going around at Molly's that the mosquitoes were full of diptheria and typhoid and all that other exotic 19th century death... and just laid back to listen.
And that's what really weirded me out the most — the silence.
I lay in bed, listening to my city, and hearing literally, absolutely nothing.   Not a sound.
The silence was the silence of the bottom of a cave.   Nothing moving, nothing even breathing.
I'll never forget it.
I think I'll hear it whenever I lay down in that room again.
We drove back to Louisville at dawn the next morning with my cat, my tenor, some clothes, and some books.   Here I'll sit for at least a few more weeks.
I imagine I'll be living at my place on Royal again by the end of October — though, on the other hand, that seems both unrealistic and undesirable.   Who knows?
T.R. Johnson lives in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he teaches and writes.   He hosts a radio program at WWOZ-FM.
As Police Arrest Public Housing Activists in New Orleans, Federal Officials Try to Silence Leading Attorney for Low-Income Residents — Click Here
New Orleans police raided the Saint Bernard housing project this morning where activists had been occupying a building to prevent government plans to demolish it.
Meanwhile, the Housing Authority of New Orleans has sent a letter to one of the lead lawyers for the residents, Bill Quigley, asking him to stop speaking to the media and to remove statements he made that appear in several online videos.
CIA Obama the acting president
Every facial movement, gesture of the hand, word enunciated by the 44th president turns out to be a complete charade
The CIA — Obama — Illuminati
A long-term strategic CIA plan to recruit promising candidates
and steer these individuals and their families into positions of influence and power
Behavior modification
Phenomenological — structures of consciousness — programs
US policy has even less regard for human rights both abroad and at home


 
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