UPDATE: September 14: Sorry I am so long in posting an update. I finally made into New Orleans last week for the first time since Hurricane Katrina blew ashore 16 days ago. The city is pretty beat up, but portions of Uptown, the Garden District, the French Quarter, the Marigny and the Bywater appear to have been spared the worst of the flooding. Even parts of Metairie in Jefferson Parish appears to be high and dry. The city is full of relief workers and military and national guard from all across the country.
On my first trip into town I was able to check on both our house and my studioi/rental properties in the Bywater. We're missing a few shingles off the roof, but the plywood stayed up on the front windows and there was even mail in the mailbox from Saturday's delivery before the storm. The neighborhood is being patrolled by three battalions from the Oregon National Guard. I had several opportunities to speak with them at check points and on patrols. They have been wonderful, and I have a whole new appreciation for National Guard. This is what they are for, and I took every opportunity to thanks them for their efforts.
Because they house appeared secure, I didn't actually go into retrieve stuff until last Saturday. We had some leaks in the roof, some sludge bubbled up through the tub drain, and the refridgerator will need a good cleaning and airing out. The backyard is a shambles and we lost all of our trees and flowers, but otherwise, everything is okay. We deeply appreciate the love and support of friends and colleagues from all across the country. You have sent cards and emails, books, clothes, gift certificates, and toys. Yesterday we got a care package from H&H Bagels in New York, including a variety of bagels, lox, and coffee mugs. There was a card but it was unsigned. If you sent it, please come forward so we can adequately thank you.
The realization that we have apparently lost very little, coming on the heals of believing we might have lost everything has been a miracle but it is also humbling knowing that there are many, many people who really did lose everything. In light of this, we would humbly request that people stop sending us care packages. While our lives continue to be disrupted, there are people who have it far worse. So we would ask that you continued to donate to the relief effort on their behalf.
We have temporarily moved into a small garage apartment behind JoAnne's house in Jackson. Uma Rae has started half days in the Montessori Kndergarten at the Episcopal Church. She's doing okay, under the circumstances. It is her third day care of the summer. And of course she lost her day care at Loyola, along with her friends, and we don't know if and when it will return. Under the circumstances, she has kept her good humor: "The storm blew our house...." I have been working almost every day for USA Today, and the Times, and managed a couple of related corporate gigs, but on the days that I went into the city I was shooting for myself. I was nice not to be on deadline. I have posted three galleries of images in the Lagniappe Section.. The first one deals with the destruction on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the second with the various personalities and characters I encountered while covering the relief efforts, and the third deals simply with the "muck" left behind.
There is other good news: the New Orleans airport has re-opened to limited passenger traffic, Mayor Ray Nagin has suggested residents of unflooded parts of the city may be able to return as early as next week, power and water has been restored to parts of the city. My cell phone, which did not ring for two weeks, has finally started to receive incoming calls. I have confidence that New Orleans will be open for business again sooner than we think. But it will be a much smaller city. With the toxic muck left in many of the neighborhoods on the Lake side of I-610, the question becomes WHOSE New Orleans will rise from the ashes. There is already talk about the rebuilding effort. With entire communities of color destroyed, there is the danger that New Orleans will be reconstructed as "a Disney land for white people." We will have no part of that. We believe that our neighborhood, the Bywater, was a microcosm of the city as a whole. It was a delicate balance between black and white, middle class and working class, gay and straight, the mundane and the flamboyant. These worlds often intersected in our day-today lives, and at it's best, offered a glimpse of the what a truly multicultural, and human community can look like. So let's please work together to preserve and rebuild all of New Orleans.
To be continued. Peace.
David Rae, Susanne, and Uma Rae.
Our contact info continues to be the same. While our cell phones have started working periodically, email is still the best way to find us:
c/o 801 Arlington Street
Jackson, MS 39202
504-388-4791 (drm cell)
504-388-9787 (sbd cell)
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