Deal with it, baby

It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been One Of Dem Weeks. Between more water incursion at the business (thanks to a combination of weekend rain and having only a partial roof), the usual glacial progress of various gubmint agencies and bad news about repair to the building (my landlord still has heard nothing from his insurance folks), I find myself, well, in the same situation as 85% of this city.

It’s the little jealousies — some neighbors have a FEMA trailer and you don’t, some businesses are operating near-normally and yours can’t, some have received insurance checks and you haven’t — that are starting to get to us. What started as An Adventure in the Post-K world is now simply Getting Old. And on top of it, many of the breaks we’ve been granted (delayed mortgage payments, for instance) are about to end. I have no problem with that, since life goes on at all different levels.

But what exasperates me most is pretty much summed up in the first half of this column in this morning’s paper. Nearly everyplace New Orleanians turn these days, we’re being hit with this increasingly noisy Greek chorus of folks saying, “get over it. It’s only a hurricane. Florida gets them every year. Stop whining.”

To paraphrase a line from a few political seasons ago — it’s the flood, stupid. If you want hurricane damage, and lots of it, head east of here about an hour, over to Mississippi. That’s what a hurricane and storm surge does. Here in New Orleans, we’ve had a FLOOD — as in Johnstown, except, for the first time, in a major American city. And until you come down here and see what it has created, you really have no freaking clue. You can’t find pictures or accounts of something like it, you can’t compare it to anything that’s happened in Pakistan or someplace else in the world and, most of all, you can’t pontificate about what we ought to be doing or should have done — because it has never happened before.

This doesn’t make our situation any more or less tragic and difficult and this is not to say we are more worthy of help than anyone else in the wake of a natural calamity. if anything, we have more empathy than ever when tornadoes strike the Midwest, with a hurricane hits Florida or when other such events occur. We wit’ ya, babygirl. But here we are, three months to the day after Hurricane Katrina arrived, and (except for high water) nearly the entire scope and breadth of the initial damage remains. And they’re still pulling bodies out of homes.

Many people have selflessly helped and continue to do so every day. We’re deeply grateful. But please understand the situation we find ourselves in these days is as unique as our culture, our food, our history, our music, our architecture and our neighborhoods. We’re slowly bringing all of these back and trying to fix what was wrong before Katrina arrived. Negativity is the last thing we need.

11 Comments so far

  1. dan (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 5:44 pm

    Craig, I think the American people get it, they want us to rebuild and they want to help rebuild – it’s the elected officials who sit on their butts worrying about bringing pork home so they can get re-elected and not have to really earn a living. The city of New Orleans and it’s residents need to figure out a way to take our case to the people, forget the politicos they are to busy CYA’ing. How? Don’t have that answer but we need to start somewhere.

  2. TuTu (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 8:03 pm

    Hold up there Craig.

    You act like NO is the ONLY city that has ever flooded.

    Let’s talk about flooding in Michigan in 1981 and 1986 that caused 800 million and 400 million dollars, respectively, worth of damage.

    Let’s talk about the flooding that has went on in North Carolina after hurricanes where bodies were floating out of the ground, just like they did there.

    Let’s talk about how Key West was under an enormous amount of water after Hurricane Wilma.

    The ONLY difference in what happened to ya’ll is your shitty towns levee system gave way. Stop bitching about everyone else and start bitching at your local government.

    You have a severe chip on your shoulder. None of the other NO bloggers bitch and whine like you do. You need to let go of all of this bullshit anger you seem to be harboring against ANYONE who doesn’t live in New Orleans.

    Give it a rest and get some therapy.

  3. nathalie (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

    “Negativity is the last thing we need.”

  4. ashley (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 11:15 pm

    TUTU, we made the mistake of trusting the feds, the army corps of engineers to do a competent job at building the levees.

    They didn’t do a competent job. We trusted them. That’s why over a thousand are dead.

    The only reason I haven’t been living in my house the last 3 months is because the army corps of engineers is as corrupt as the rest of the current administration.

    Build us our levees or freeze to death in the dark.

  5. Craig (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 6:57 am

    Go back and read what I wrote, dude…

    This is the first time a MAJOR AMERICAN CITY has flooded. This ain’t Key West, it ain’t a farm town and it’s not a suburb.

    All your entry did was prove my point. Thank you.

  6. Jill (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 10:39 am

    Very well written post, Craig. We’re wit’ cha, and are helping every way we can. My husband and I are coming to New Orleans tomorrow through the weekend to visit some friends, bring some supplies, and give direct economic aid to businesses.

    If anyone’s still under the assumption that it’s only the local government that’s at fault for the bad levees, check today’s T-P front page article. That should clear things up for ya.

  7. Chris (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 10:56 am

    “Here in New Orleans, we’ve had a FLOOD — as in Johnstown, except, for the first time, in a major American city.”

    “This is the first time a MAJOR AMERICAN CITY has flooded.”


    I think you may have forgotten about Tropical Storm Allison that caused major amounts of flooding in Houston. I believe that the initial estimated damage was right around $1 billion.
    I’d say that Houston is a pretty good size city in comparison with New Orleans, wouldn’t you?

    What about St. Louis in 1993? Flooding there closed bridges from Kansas City to St. Louis. Airports and portions of interstates were closed too. $1.3 billion in damages.

    While I can understand that New Orleans has many obstacles to climb over to get back to the city that it once was, I believe that it’s time to stop dwelling on what has happened. It’s now time to focus on what is to come.

  8. Craig (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

    The point of my head-clearing and badly needed rant was that I’m tired of hearing from self-appointed scolds. By now, we’re all quite used to simply tuning them out and getting on with life. But, after a point, I can no longer simply turn the other cheek. There was a piece by Marti Vogel in today’s op/ed section of the T-P that summed it up nicely.

    I know other major American cities have suffered flooding at times. The periodic flooding of South Dallas remains an issue, for example. Hurricane Agnes caused tremendous flooding along the Susquehanna River back in 1972. I don’t have any figures on the actual numbers of homes and businesses that were washed out in previous floods elsewhere (and I looked), but I am very confident none have been on the massive scale we’ve seen in New Orleans. Consider my statement amended to include that.

    As far as looking forward — it’s all we can do. I’ve been accused of being Pollyannaish throughout most of this ordeal, aside from my occasional outbursts of telling some folks to sit down and shut up. Defensiveness comes very easy after going into the same wrecked business day after day. I spent too many years being a stoic, and I refuse to do so anymore.

    This city will be back and it will be better than it was. This forum is my vent when reality clashes with sometimes unworldly optimism.

  9. Aaron (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

    Hey Craig – to completely get rid of all the idiotic comments by people who have their heads shoved up their asses, you should just annotate your facts. Link ’em to a major fact source, like the census records for population or FEMA for floods, or NOAA for weather, and it’s as simple as pointing a finger at the annotation to call them dumbasses afterwards.

  10. Marty (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 2:30 pm

    Craig’s right, I live in NY, not city, w/ Christmas and obliviousness, those outside of your area seemed to have moved on, you all give the most news about the situation. NPR does slightly better than other national news sources.

  11. Steve (unregistered) on December 29th, 2005 @ 9:50 am

    Craig is correct by any measure. I’m hearing $200B damage, but no one seems to know for sure. This dwarfs any other disaster in US history. Katrina was one of the biggest, baddest storms ever recorded, and it gave New Orleans and the Gulf Coast a heck of a shot. Get your facts right, man. And have a heart.

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