NOLA to New York made it on NBC Nightly News last night. Your message is getting out New Orleanians! Please, keep sending in your photos and words of love and support (or caution and wisdom) and I will continue to share them. Thanks to everyone who has taken part so far. What began as my desperate attempt to not go nuts watching Sandy barrel up the coast and slam into New York has gone beyond anything I ever thought it would. Next week, I will be taking some of your messages out to people hit hard by Sandy on Mastic Beach in Long Island, meeting up with a truck full of supplies from NOLA - courtesy of New Orleans Gives Back. Keep them coming! xx A
Picture of little Colette trick-or-treating among Katrina debris.
My name is Bonnie and my husband’s name is Scott. We have 2 children, Colette and Benjamin. We are New Orleans residents and Katrina survivors.
Colette was not yet 2 when Katrina hit. My husband is a physician. He gave aid to victims airlifted out of the flooded areas. He later contracted a phenomenon known as “Katrina Bumps”, a skin rash which had no explanation, but is suspected to be connected with the polluted flood waters. I went back to work as a psych nurse 2 months after Katrina. We ALL had PTSD, patients and staff alike, which made it very difficult to do my job.
I cry as I type this. I know your heartbreak. What it is like to see the city you love devastated, communities in ruins, landmark destroyed, and friends and family scattered. But I also know what it is like to come back stronger than ever before. And you will. You will be proud, and be able to say “I AM A SURVIVOR”!
Photo courtesy of Bonnie...thank you!
This from Stan:
I’m a film and television producer who lives and works in Los Angeles. My hometown is New Orleans.
I survived the aftermath of Katrina, Rita and the levee breaks. Fortunately, I was not there during the storm, as I was on Active Duty in the Navy. I moved back to NOLA for 26 months to help my hometown out. However, while back home, I survived a double auto accident. My recovery efforts ended for my hometown and began with myself.
I know how they feel. So long as they don’t give up hope and each other, the sun will rise again.
Photo courtesy of Stan
I took this photo on Decatur Street in New Orleans. They are running Katrina tours - to the Lower Ninth Ward to see the destruction, the neglect, the lost neighborhood. The place where so many died in their homes when the levee broke. Remember - Sandy isn’t over. Please, do not let it become a tourist attraction. Staten Island tours? Breezy Point tours? Jersey Shore? Think about it.
Photo credit Andy Kopsa
I, like so many others have many stories and understand the harsh reality of the aftermath of a hurricane, but the part of my story that I want to share is a weird and wonderful lagniappe* that happened amongst the incredible disaster of hurricane Katrina.
My family and I evacuated during Katrina to Houston and then New Mexico. Taking with us a handful of stuff and our cat but leaving behind our little old cockatoo, Rosie. We were unable to return to the city until almost 2 months later. We feared that our poor Rosie would not be alive, but as soon as we opened the door the sound of the terrible caw/chirp that we all knew and loved came belting through the hall. Rosie had survived! It was astonishing she survived without ever leaving her cage or having new food. She made it through those weeks because the damage to our windows let in rainwater, and sprouted her food. She survived DUE to the hurricane. New life had sprung from her cage like the life that sprung back into our community.
What happened to our home is something that will never be forgotten, but New Orleans is a city of love and pride and it’s stands stronger now. When people ask me how the city is or if it’s still in terrible condition even 7 years later (and yes there is still a lot of problems that need to be dealt with) I tell them, why don’t they visit in find out for themselves because it feels better than ever!
I moved to NYC this summer, so when I heard about what was to come, it sent old fears up and down my spine. But even in the immediate aftermath, the positivity I hear from locals of strength and pride rings all too familiar. One woman on an overly crammed M-20 yesterday proclaimed, “I lost my house, so what! I’ll have to buy another one. Yes, it is my financial burden, but nothing can bring back a family, and my family is safe, and that’s all that matters.”
There aren’t words to fix what happened, but that anxiety and unrest-full energy that can be felt pulsing through the city, will and has begun to morph to one of strength in community.
Photo courtesy of Sophie (note the NOLA cover on her shirt! You know what I mean!)
*Lagniappe for those who don’t know is a little sumpin’ extra…bakers dozen, you know, Lagniappe!
I’m a native Los Angelean who currently lives in Brooklyn and was a student in New Orleans during Katrina. I evacuated New Orleans for Katrina and spent the semester in Boston. Leaving the city behind to an uncertain fate in the face of the storm was the hardest thing I’ve ever done; returning to the city when able was the easiest decision I ever made. New Orleans was Home. It still is in many ways. I got the tattoo [a fleur de lis] post-Katrina, as many did. It’s a reminder of the strength, creativity, willfulness and quiet dignity of the people of the city of New Orleans. Things happen. You pull through—you laugh, you cry, you rage, you rebuild, you rebuild better and you persevere. New York and New Jersey (and Haiti and Cuba…) will too.
This in from Ruda in NOLA East and (hats off for being the first New Orleanian to use “geaux” in lieu of go!)
I’m from New Orleans East, right around the corner from Castnet Seafood on Hayne Boulevard. That Sunday before the storm hit, my grandmother, 3 of my aunts and uncles, a few of my cousins, and I evacuated to Alabama. We watch the storm from hotel rooms and just waited to see what would happen. My mom and siblings headed to Houston, Texas catching up with a lot of the traffic headed that way.
We didn’t run into traffic like that even though we left later than they did in the evening. We stayed in Alabama for maybe 4 or 5 days and thankfully found everyone one in our little clan was safe. A friend of mine from school urged me to join her in Arkansas. She had evacuated to Alabama too and her parents were coming to get her. Nowhere was home and moving was better for me than sitting around an air force base hotel. Within three weeks I had been adopted as a son of friends family, transferred to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, gotten an apartment, furniture, and maxed out my credited cards so I could have some collared shirts and wouldn’t have to wear the same two pair of jeans and three pair of underwear anymore.
As soon as they allowed people back in the city I rented a car to go down and collect anything I could. The city was scary for the first time in my life. My girlfriend and I slept a couple nights in my mom’s bed with no electricity. That was the quietest and darkest I’ve ever known my neighborhood be. Nothing was the same, the city was so empty, speed limits didn’t matter, and “We Never Close” was. I made that trip from Little Rock to New Orleans so often over the next 5 years that the 8 hours it took to drive back and forth because autonomic.
Now I live in Washington, D.C. and caught some of the wind and rain from Sandy but I wasn’t too worried. From Katrina though, I still haven’t fully healed. The ghost that chase me sometimes catch up with me and I get overwhelmed with emotion. That’ll happen sometimes. Being ripped away from home is traumatic but if you have to leave to put your life back together, geaux back as much as you can. It helps.
I am a Nola native who moved to NYC in 1999. I was living in Brooklyn when Katrina hit, but I was visiting home, and was one of the last flights to leave, the day before Katrina. It took every ounce of my being to get on that plane, because, for some reason, I knew something awful was about to happen.When the storm finally hit, and I lost contact with my family and friends, and then began seeing the news reports, I sat in disbelief. I felt like I should have stayed to support the people I love and the city that was my home and best friend. I desperately wanted to go back to help, but no flights were going in and I had just started school.The thing about starting a new school year, as you may know, is that you must to talk about who you are and where you are from so that the professor and students get to know you. In every. single. class. I had 8 of them that semester. Imagine having to tell your name, and that you are from New Orleans, who had just been hit by Katrina, 8 times in 4 days. I was still dealing with my own emotions about the storm and I cried every time. By the time my last class came, I told them I just couldn’t and left. One of my friends was kind enough to tell the rest why I was upset.Though most of my family was extremely fortunate and had minimal damage, I was haunted by the knowledge that my city was gone. The place where I had run when I was a teenager being harassed at school because I was different, the place that I felt like I was “normal”, the place that I went when I did not want to be judged, the place that had pacified my desire to commit suicide on many occasions, was under water. And many Americans though it should be left to die. This place was my best friend. This place was my savior. This place taught me that, not only was it ok to be a little eccentric, but that I should embrace it. This place was my home, and I was watching the destruction unfold on television, feeling completely helpless and hopeless.I am not sure when I stopped crying and started to feel hopeful again. I was not able to return until the following April, and, though it was sad to see the changes, I could also see the defiant smirks on the faces of all those who had stayed, those who had started to rebuild, and persevered even though they had lost everything. I also saw a great sadness because of what they had all been through. Those are the people who made me feel so incredibly proud to be from New Orleans.I moved back home from Brooklyn about three and a half years ago. I certainly don’t feel the same way about wanting to be in NY for Sandy. I am glad that I missed her, but my heart goes out to my friends and my adopted NY family, and to everyone who was impacted. I don’t get to claim that I can understand what it is like to lose your loved ones, your pets, your house, or all of your possessions to a major hurricane in either city, but I know what it’s like to feel that your home, the place that fills your heart, is gone.My facebook newsfeed has been filled with 2 types of things in the past week. First, stories, photos, news articles, etc from my friends trying to sort through this mess, trying to find their loved ones, seek out heat or shelter, go about their lives in the usual NYC fashion. Second, the sweetest notes of kindness, support and wisdom from all of my friends in New Orleans who get it because they have been there. I wanted to share each and every one of those notes with each and every one of my friends up north, because when times are tough, those are the things that get you through and help you keep your faith and not give up or lose hope.My friend sent me your blog, and I cried. I could feel all of my emotions from Katrina surface as I read through the stories, and I knew that this is what those people in NYC needed. Because at the end of the day, we are all connected, we are all living together, and we must find a way to show our support and love for each other. There is no way that they will get through this without that. There is no way I could have, and I’m sure there is no way this city could have either.THANK YOU. You deserve a huge hug. I hope that your home in NYC is ok, and that the people you love and care about are all safe & sound.- Rebecca
I’m not sure I’m comfortable taking/sending pictures, especially as I didn’t deal with Katrina directly, and I won’t be back home in NOLA until the holidays. I’m also not sure if what I have to say will fit on a card. But I hope you’ll pass on my message if you get the chance and have a good way to do it.
My message is primarily not for those in NY, NJ, or any part of the eastern seaboard suffering right now, but for expatriates from those areas. When Katrina struck, I didn’t go into work for at least a full day. When I did go in, I was nigh useless for a full week. I spent most of my time checking the web for updates and calling friends and family, hoping to get information that they got out, or, if they didn’t, that they were safe and alive. People who weren’t from New Orleans did not understand how serious it was. There was a Red Cross donation drive in the office, but if you’re not from a place, how can you understand how strange and frightening a true disaster there is?
My first message to expatriate New Yorkers and others with friends suffering from Sandy and its aftermath is: “It’s okay to freak out.” When places that have never flooded before are underwater, when friends or family are missing, when your hometown is more or less destroyed, it is totally understandable, and natural, to freak the hell out. Try to make it clear to those around you exactly how strange and bad things are.
Which brings me to my second message: “Don’t let the people around you forget.” Most people outside of New Orleans don’t hear much about Katrina in the news these days, so they tend to assume everything is all better. They don’t understand that the city’s infrastructure was severely and (for most intents) permanently damaged, and that a lack of national political will and local/state/federal funds has meant that things are still, in many ways, still FUBAR in NOLA. And New Orleans got all the publicity; our smaller and less-famous neighbors along the Gulf Coast got even less help.
I have no doubt that many of the towns and cities in the northeast are going to be suffering from bureaucracy, corruption, and plain old short-term politics in the same way in years to come. It is our job, as natives in a different town, to keep track of what’s going on in our home town, and to share how bad things are. Mainstream media outlets are loathe to discuss old news, especially when it’s years old. But that doesn’t mean these topics aren’t still important. It’s our job to keep these issues in the national public consciousness, among friends and co-workers who can’t understand and who won’t hear about it otherwise.
I hope that the people of New Orleans (at home or in diaspora) continue to keep the victims of Sandy in their minds over the next decade. I hope the victims of Sandy keep New Orleans in their minds, too. I hope that the entire country can start taking climate issues and infrastructure issues seriously. FEMA is important: it needs to be better managed, and maybe expanded. Our infrastructure across the country is decaying. Most of it was built during the New Deal, and newer constructions haven’t been built to last. And we’ve been electing politicians who only care about their next term, when they should be planning for the next 50 years. These are national issues. The next major natural disaster could hit L.A., or S.F., or Seattle, or Houston, or Chicago. The entire country needs to be prepared, and it’s our job, as those who have friends and family who went through these tragedies, to help get the country to a point where it will be.
A simple note from Clayton says a lot:
This is the message I learned, and one I had tattooed on my flesh while NYC was still dark from Sandy.
Photo courtesy of Clayton - he is a native of New Orleans now a photographer based in Brooklyn. You can see his beautiful work covering the gut wrenching damage of Katrina here.
Patti, former resident of NOLA took a friend, soon to be married to the Crescent City for a fun “hen” weekend. That is when Katrina hit. Four days later stuck at the Convention Center they watched the city come undone as the crowd of wet, frightened, homeless families grew from 25 people to thousands. Days passed with no water or relief - even though the whole time there were pallets of water reserved for the National Guard on the 2nd floor of the facility. (Patti is dear friend, we lived together harmoniously for a time in New Orleans Lower Garden District.)