Sunday, June 20, 2010

Katrina fifth anniversary part 2

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The Crowning Miss Adventure
Are We There Yet?
Well… last month, by request, I wrote a fifth year anniversary article on Katrina. Aaaaand…. a thousand words was just not enough, so I ended with ‘to be continued’. Our Katrina experience was BEING IN the French Quarter for six days into it which coincided, oddly enough, with the first sign of responders to make it into our neck of the woods (I know some folks on Esplanade that say that they are still waiting); bringing us well into September, which is more of an anniversary for me than August. Go figure.
As you know, my lead time for publication is six weeks, so my first question is: “Are we still here?” Did the mud and the sludge and the grunge and oil; a hurricane, a tornado, hail as big as tombstones, acts of god or man do us in again or are we all still just waiting to inhale? Did we make it back up off the mat or were we sucker punched by unseen powers…again? Has it rained BP oil on our parades? Are cruise ships braving the slick to dock in our port again?
If we’ve taken it blindside again, then this, like the September article five years ago, might never get any further than my blog; so here I come: five years later and you have to pay a buck to put air in your tires; how’s that for blowing goat? Five years in and prices are up and wages are down and baby needs a pair of shoes.
Five years in and a plan to issue all children life jackets so that “they get used to them” is the best we can do.
Remember that closing scene in the movie “San Francisco’ where Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy are coming back into town, comrades in arms. Singing? Well, that’s us guys! Except that we’re covered in oil and for every three steps forward we take two steps back. I’ll tell you what, Cap, we all deserve a frigging medal for our mettle, a tall one for our tenacity and a second line for our sincerity, just for the fact that we have chosen to still live here, and that’s just for starters.
For us, September is when the situation that we’ve come to know as the ‘Katrina incident’ really hit home; it was September when we awoke to a stream of refugees washed from their homes by flooding conditions not of their making or consent. The citizens passing us with their meager possessions were going to what they were told was ‘the refuge of last resort’. What they did not know that it was was a situation better described as ‘the end of humanity as you’ve ever known it’. It was the Super Dome and later the Convention Center that became our face of misery, neglect and abandonment and once there there was no way back to nourishment, kindness or sanity.
People’s pets that were brought to shelter were not welcome; they were turned loose in the street, abandoned and separated from their humans. In some of the lower parishes, on the rationale of the possibility of the animals forming packs, they were shot on sight. Having a pet did not necessarily exempt a person from being forced to evacuate either; authorities had the authority to shoot your pet as incentive to get you to leave, in fact authorities had the authority to do anything they damn well pleased including shooting innocent citizens, looters or criminals of and by their own determination.
Not all uniformed personnel in charge of keeping the peace and maintaining order were Gestapo-like. Only a portion abandoned their posts or went rogue; but it’s important to note that girlfriend and I had three things going for us: our age, our skin color and our ability to converse intelligently. Those attributes gave us an even break and playing field.
We stayed for six days mainly because we were not prepared to evacuate in the first place, we had no vehicle, we had no money, we had three cats and three dogs and we had no plan. We holed up at a second story apartment on Dauphine St. that had minimal damage: two chimneys collapsed, roofing, siding and gutters ripped off and a sizable cypress tree fallen upon the front of the building; but, as I tell people, we were the lucky ones.
It was real real quiet in our neck of the woods, most had evacuated early to spend days on the road not getting anywhere; of the ones who had stayed, most left by mid-week. We had taken into our care another dog whose owners were opting for the Convention Center, we were running low on supplies and had only an AM radio for information. The only thing we know for sure was that there were a couple of taverns still open to commiserate with those of us left and that with no electricity or water things were getting worse.
We had been in touch with the owner (Gallivan Burwell) of one of the canines in our care via the telephone land line of a neighbor’s and had a safe house set up for us in Shreveport should we be able to escape. People hoping to get out by walking across a bridge to the other side of the Mississippi River were turned away at gunpoint by police, there were bodies in the street, there was lootings, gunfire and disorder. There was no cold beer.
Gallivan had left us the keys to his apartment on Saint Philip St. where he alerted us to a stash of cash that he had kept for emergencies, like fugitives we sewed the money into our clothes and gathered and consolidated our supplies to be ready for a break to come to us. It was flood conditions all around the French Quarter but pretty dry for the most part within its boundaries.
Six days in and we’re over at girlfriend’s apartment to check for anything else helpful in an escape. Eight in the morning and her downstairs neighbor (with warm beer and cigarette) explaining how his womenfolk had been evacuated leaving him and his three dogs and the keys to a new car, fully gassed and “they know that I don’t know how to drive!” he happens to say to me (!!!!!).
Thus ends another thousand words but there is more

No comments: