With the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina being ‘celebrated’ by the press now, we hear reminders of how much damage was done, how many lives were ruined and how much still needs to be done there. Center for American Progress has a chilling story about this: An Unhappy Anniversary. What I worry about that is that once this news cycle runs out, so will general interest in New Orleans.
In the news reports, along with Bush’s pathetic one-year-and-millions-of-dollars-late contrition, we see photos of wrecked homes and people rummaging through them, trying to get along with their lives. Tragedy makes for great news but give them some credit for at least reminding viewers and readers about how the problems there are far from over.
When I went there for JazzFest in late April, I was trying to support the local economy. I wrote about this in a PopMatters story, then fretting about the hurricane season coming up and how unprepared the city was again for another disaster. I’m glad to report that it hasn’t happened yet but the fact remains that the Army Corps of Engineers has still bungled the rebuilding of the levees- not only won’t they be ready for this season, they’re now wondering if they’ll be ready for next year. That’s cold comfort for the 1/2 of the city still there, struggling to maintain their lives, including some Bourbon Street regulars who still manage to put on a hell of a show.
When I interviewed musicians at the Fest for the PM article and an MTV Urge article about to come out, there was a mix of optimism and desolation in everyone’s thoughts. Many of them had not only lost homes but also friends and family in the storm. They were scattered all over now, living in Texas, other parts of Louisiana, the North East. For some of them, playing shows was harder than ever because the band members were far apart now but there was also a demand for New Orleans music across the country to take advantage of if they could.
What really concerns me now though is that with a wave of worthless stories about polygamists and fake child-murderers, the new cycle will now forget about New Orleans and the devastation of Katrina, maybe not visiting it again until 12 months from now when it’s time for another anniversary. Unfortunately, that’s how the news biz works.
But it doesn’t have to be that way for you though. Despite all the scary, horrible lies and bad things you’ve heard, NOLA is still a wonderful city even if it’s in a lot of pain. Given the time and money, I would definitely go back and I hope you’ll get the chance to visit there also to support the good folks there. Even if you can’t make it out there, you can also support NOLA bands when they come to your zip code.
By the way, the Times-Picayune also had a detailed, touching special on Katrina that you’d expect and hope from a local NOLA paper.