What You Won’t Read About New Orleans

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, you'll hear plenty about how the government failed the city. You won't hear about the people who saved it

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Vincent Laforet / Pool / Reuters

An aerial view of the devastation caused by high winds and heavy flooding in the greater New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina, Aug. 30, 2005.

The sheer amount of renditions of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?” never ceases to amaze me. My personal favorite is Satchmo’s raspy live version, but the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s somber version will break your heart. Billie HollidayHarry Connick, Jr., Fats DominoPete Fountain: They’ve all got their own unique takes, but the question is always the same: Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

I’m thinking of these songs today because they’re dotting my Facebook news feed. Eight years ago, my family was forced to move from the New Orleans suburb Metairie to Houston for a little more than half a year. During that time, we fixed that giant hole in our home’s roof and pulled a tree out from between the dentist-chair-like seats of my poor, now deceased ’97 Buick LeSabre.

And we were lucky. Among the luckiest. So lucky, I feel like a bit fraud-like writing anything about Her.

Today marks eight years since Hurricane Katrina, and each year the media fanfare shrinks a bit. This isn’t a bad thing: we don’t need CNN to remind us of Her. And unsurprisingly, the news that I have stumbled across doesn’t include any beautiful rendition of that beloved song. Instead, the USA Today ties the storm in with the March on Washington. Factank also invoked the march to discuss the racial disparity in the government’s response. The city’s leading news website nola.com ran a then-and-now statistical analysis of the city.

(WATCH10 Years of Weather in 3 Minutes)

Things you’ll learn from reading any of these: more than 1,500 people died in the storm (the exact number seems to change from story to story); the Army Corps of Engineers failed the city; local, state and federal government failed the city; humanity’s sick penchant for racism failed the city; ______________ failed the city.

It’s been eight years, and while the city still heals, you won’t generally read about who is nursing it back to health. Credit, of course, belongs in part to the resilience of its residents, proud tenets of the self-proclaimed Who Dat Nation. It also belongs to the kindness, generosity and entrepreneurial spirit of the rest of America.

Because while government institutions were failing at every possible level in every conceivable way and generally acting like a bunch of children caught red-handed with their hands in the cookie jar and no exit strategy, ordinary folks from around the country were taking unpaid leave from work, skipping a week or two of school, giving up the easy semblance of a normal life to spend a few days in the blistering indescribably muggy waterlogged world of America’s new Atlantis.

(MORE: The Costs of Climate Change and Extreme Weather Are Passing the High-Water Mark)

But you won’t read about these people today.

You won’t read about how New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer-based organization, has built 500 new homes and gutted 2,400, while creating more than 3,400 jobs. Or how The Greater Boston Food Bank offered 46 million meals to the Gulf area or how Drago’s, a local family-owned restaurant (that makes the best charbroiled oysters you’ll ever eat) gave out more than 70,000 free meals to anyone who needed them.

You might hear how New Orleans is now the only major city without a daily newspaper, but you won’t hear about The Lens, the area’s first non-profit newsroom bent on providing the in-depth stories lost along with the daily paper.

You’ll probably hear about BP pumping oil into our waters, but you won’t hear about the many tech entrepreneurs who ignored the lure of Austin or Silicon Valley to set up shop in New Orleans, or about the Stanford grad who gambled by starting a non-profit incubator (with which, full disclosure, I am proudly involved).

(MORENew Orleans Mayor on the Lessons Learned from Hurricanes Isaac, Katrina)

Yes, the government failed New Orleans. Yes, what little news you’ll see about Katrina today will likely focus on that fact.

But people from around this country rebuilt it. Bare hands and all.

Even those who didn’t spend their childhood feeding the ducks in Audubon Park, their teenage years trying out Bourbon Street and their adult lives watching streetcars ambling lazily down St. Charles Avenue knew what it might mean for America to truly miss New Orleans.

And so, together, we rebuilt it.

MOREWhen It Comes to Disaster Resilience, Washington Is Leaving City Officials Out to Dry

8 comments
MarkKaspersky
MarkKaspersky

Low interest rates precipitated the mortgage frenzy that the big banks grew into a global financial crisis.  So ultra-low interest rates were supposed to get the country out of the ensuing recession. winmasters bonus

cindiecarter
cindiecarter

As someone whom was raised in Nola, this article spoke from my heart!

I will always know what it means to miss New Orleans.

Thank you for the article !!

A Who Dat Nation Member


 


AhContraire
AhContraire

What you won't hear is that New Orleans is mainly a bunch of alcoholics and drug users, including many of the politicians and politicians offspring.

What you wont' hear is New Orleans is shouting off the rooftops it's many magazine list rankings instead of real results.

What you won't hear is that New Orleans' main attraction, the French Quarter is really a French Gutter where their centerpiece attraction in the French Gutter is overrun by alcoholics, drug users, homeless, panhandlers, cheap trinket dealers, and clueless tour guides who see nothing wrong with the city as they also are probably substance abusers.

What you won't hear is that out of the New Orleans' 9 million tourists per year,  there are more people Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) than traditional tourists or conventioneers. In other words, there are more people who are visiting friends and relatives as they had to move away from New Orleans's 24/7 Tourism and Alcohol industry cause they could find a decent job.

What you won't hear is that they, the government, charities, Habitat for Humanity are building houses in places that have NO JOBS. Hence, they are getting the POOR to purchase houses or live in places that have NO JOBS, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and crime. Basically, they locked the poor into poverty with a low income financing.

What you won't hear is that New Orleans housing advocates are screaming "affordability", whey they should be focused on "flexibility" so that the poor can move to where the JOBS are, including those jobs outside of Louisiana.

What you won't hear is that many of the locals residents (who tourists 'think' are some of the most friendliest in the world as they don't care how much you make or what you do) are either living on Section 8,  EBT, or OLD MONEY inheritance. Basically, whether black or white, rich or poor, their future was provided form them before they were born from policitians like Huey P Long, almost 90 years ago via  "Share Our Wealth" programs. These programs included a way too generous homestead exemption that initially helped mainly the poor and LAZY landlords and has now contributed to blight, ghettos, crime and Section 8 housing, (i.e. very similar to a NINJA LOANS where they put very little skin into the game)

If still interested, there's more of what you won't hear about New Orleans and what New Orleans needs to do at my Twitter Feed below.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"love thy neighbor as thyself" but don't forget that the "Lord disciplines the one he loves"
- Hebrews 12:6
"I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think its hell."
- Harry S. Truman
Can't stand the "Proud-to-call-New-Orleans-Home" bumper sticker types?
Too afraid to follow me on Twitter?
You can still bookmark me on Twitter at
@AhContraire



jrwells5
jrwells5

Great article.  Similar observations will no doubt be required as the Federal Reserve finally ceases its unsustainable Qualitative Easing Infinity program.  A program Professor Ben Bernanke based on fellow Princeton professor Albert Einstein's classic definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Low interest rates precipitated the mortgage frenzy that the big banks grew into a global financial crisis.  So ultra-low interest rates were supposed to get the country out of the ensuing recession.  NOT.  Now as the Fed and other bit players in government seek to take credit for the fragile and long-overdue recovery of the US economy, the real credit will belong to the indomitable spirit and resiliency of the American people.  Just as it did in New Orleans and virtually every other disaster area in the country.

egreen
egreen

Don't forget to give credit to the wonderful workers at the Audubon Zoo, led by primatologist, Marsha Fernandez. When the rains came they did not go home to see what had happened to their own houses. Led by Marsha,they stayed with the animals, calming them and stretching resources, day after day, to make sure all zoo residents were fed and safe. And what happened to Marsha a few years later??? A new zoo administrator, fired her(!!!) for defending the actions of one of the employees on Marsha's team who had been following instructions but not understood by this insensitive newbie. 

myaris2013
myaris2013

Don't forget the St, Bernards Project which is about to rebuild its 500th home!

nola_boy
nola_boy

The local government failed New Orleans. The federal government is the primary reason it's alive today. Without FEMA, road home, and other federal programs that helped every single New Orleanean, NO would still be under marshal law right now. 

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