My latest from In These Times - click the image for full story.
NOLA to New York friend Frank Brigtsen is among the New Orleans (celeb!) chefs traveling to New York - specifically the hard hit Rockaways to bring food, love and understanding to scores of residents.
Talking to Frank last week, he told me this is a critical time, about two months after Sandy, when survivors begin to feel lost, forgotten and agitated. Frank believes in repairing not just homes but the human spirit. Katrina survivors are the experts here, coming from New Orleans to remind The Rockaways (and all of those hit by Sandy) that we didn’t forget, we will remember, we will make sure others remember too.
Photo credit Andy Kopsa
Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s in NOLA graciously gave his time and love to the NOLA to New York project. A James Beard Award Winner not only for his food but for his humanitarian work after the storm - Frank evacuated during Katrina and was forced to shut down his restaurant for four months.
He told me - as we head into the sixth week post Sandy - things will begin to get dire for people who lost everything. Spirits may be down, people may feel forgotten - they went through it post-K. But, Frank means what he says, through adversity the human spirit rises, he lived it.
Chef Brigtsen is passionate about St. Bernard Project looking after the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of Katrina survivors.
Photo Credit: Andy Kopsa
Benefit for the Ali Forney Center - homeless shelter for LGBT teens destroyed by Sandy. Come one - come all and if you can’t make it please pass it on! I will be bringing NOLA to New York love packets to the show to give to the good people of Ali Forney!
From my good friend Lisa Brown of Boston. She volunteered in NOLA in the aftermath of Katrina. She shared this pic and these words with me.
"I volunteered with Boston Cares through Hands on New Orleans we stayed in First Street United Methodist near St. Charles street and (Igor’s Bar) in hastily made bunk beds in sleeping bags, I think there were 25 of us from Boston and then people from all over who’d come to help out- some had been there for months …I believe that picture was taken in the Gentilly neighborhood —at the time they were not doing any volunteer work in the 9th ward - it was too early for that I think. We worked at a few different sites that week and I don’t remember all the neighborhoods. We did clean & gut the house of Fats Domino’s Sax player?
We just went down to the 9th at the end of the week to see the devastation. For work we were mostly gutting homes, doing mold work, and pulling nails. The experience was both horrifying and uplifting at the same time. We went out to a site each day at the crack of dawn worked all day and then went to Igor’s and drank hurricane’s with the locals, who could not have been more wonderful- but pulling ruined photo albums, furniture and artwork out of people’s homes was awful and heart wrenching. I cried every day at some point. It was also 100% humidity every day and HOT even in April. We missed Mardi Gras that year by a few weeks but made the jazz festival on our day off. The ninth ward is easily the most mind blowing thing I’ve ever seen.
You absolutely cannot understand that kind of destruction, you brain just won’t comprehend it. Even near the church where we stayed I can remember walking to the bar at night passed piles and piles of trash and garbage because the systems weren’t really up and running properly. There were rats and cockroaches all over the place at night. It was a tough trip, but I absolutely remember the community of NOLA being supportive and wonderful and so hopeful and optimistic. Every person I met there thanked us, and talked about the future and what was next. So in that way it was really uplifting.”
and an insightful PS:
I was there again in 2009 and was stunned at how little had really changed. I hope we’ve learned some lessons since then. Keep up your good work!
Mastic Beach: Looters beware - no alcohol, no drugs, no money - just a “lotta wet shit”.
Copyright - Andy Kopsa 2012
My husband and I went to Mastic Beach yesterday. Mastic is just one of the many communities on Long Island hit hard by Sandy. We went to meet up with and take NOLA to New York love packets to New Orleans Gives Back. NOGB is Jessica Capiello and friends who raised money, loaded a truck and drove up to Mastic to deliver supplies to families (thats what you see here - their buckets full of cleaning supplies, kids toys and tons of clothing).
Jessica got in touch with me and asked me to be a part of it. I am so happy she did. Our two projects came together like magic. Her parents house - first floor destroyed - torn down the studs. But they were at the event, happy as clams there to help out too and proud of their amazing kid. It was humbling to see. These are a few photos from the event.
Please, consider donating to NOLA to New York (Especially those news outlets - you know who you are - who use photos and this website and the people on it to drive traffic to your advert rich websites.) So many good people already have. It enables me to print the photos for the shows and create the packages - with prints, printouts, cards and kid drawings in each. It helps pay for any postage or transport costs involved.
We delivered over 75 to Mastic Beach yesterday. The pop-up show will be hung at the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association so those who didn’t get a NOLA to NY love packet can go see it there.
After Thanksgiving, we will be taking NOLA to NY to devastated Staten Island. If you know anyone who could use a little NOLA to NY love - please send me a note! And if you are a Katrina survivor who wants to take part with a photo and some words, contact me: email@example.com
Thank you….xx A PS-more photos from Mastic to come!
This is what donations to NOLA to NYC are making possible - the first shipment to Mastic Beach. My husband and I are driving out this weekend to meet up with the people from New Orleans Gives Back to distribute supplies and to deliver these packages and find a place to hang the impromptu “show” so everyone can see the NOLA love.
If you have not yet, please consider contributing. I am only running the fundraiser for two weeks as I must get back other stories and will be on a protracted reporting trip in December. Thank you! xx Andy
Setting up my makeshift assembly line for Mastic Beach NOLA to New York care packages. Making up 50 packets with print outs of some of the Harriet Tubman School kids drawings; words of love, understanding and identification from Corrine, Regan, Justin, Rebecca, Heather, Bonnie & Scott; mini-prints on fancy (kinda) glossy paper of my original portraits, and tiny envelopes (you can help support the effort) with little notes and little hearts I drew on the outside in green felt tip pen.
Remember - this is in conjunction with pop-up charity New Orleans Gives Back. Arriving from New Orleans in Mastic this weekend.
AND - do you know someone in the tri-state who could use a little care package? Please send me a note with that person’s address and I will send a similar package to them. If they do not have a physical address anymore, let me know where to drop off or send. If you are a public facility, library, etc., that would like a little care package, we can make that happen too! xx A
New page on NOLA to New York featuring photos of the damage and clean-up around the city. Headed to South Street Seaport today and uploaded a few photos.
I was supposed to be married on November 12, 2005. Katrina happened on August 29th and while it was an excruciatingly painful experience, it was also an opportunity for me. The experience of the storm made me examine my life and I didn’t really like what I saw so I ended my engagement and started a new life in another part of the country. Now I am a happily content mom to an amazing five-year old daughter I adopted from Ethiopia in 2008. Without out Katrina I wouldn’t be this child’s mother and because of Katrina I am the mother she needs. After all, who better to understand a child who is suffering as a result of her life being turned upside down than a mom who’s been there?
There’s no doubt about it. Uncertainty sucks but if you’re open to possibilities this experience may lead you in an unexpected and wonderful direction. I was, and seven years later I can say, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo courtesy of Alison. And, Elja