Thursday, May 18, 2006


This is a post that I planned to save and publish on Memorial Day which will be the 9 month anniversary of Katrina. But I can't wait. Instead, I'll publish it now and repost it May 29.

I ask all who reads this and views the video linked herein to remember the victims of what is called the worst natural disaster in American history. Except it wasn't only a natural disaster but a man-made one too. It was mainly the failure of the levee system that caused 1000 plus deaths and the displacement of thousands from our city. The death and destruction of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is tragic but the blame there is solely and squarely on Katrina.
Not so in New Orleans and that is unforgiveable.

I found the following video while googling for My City of Ruins by The Boss.

Putfile - My City of Ruins
"My City of Ruins" Category: Uncategorized Views: 25558. Rating: 4/5. ... Well, it's here in New Orleans.
Why, oh, why Mr. Bush have you forsake us!
^^^^This grabbed my attention!^^^^

So I clicked and became mesmerized by what I viewed. I have seen quite a few Katrina videos in the last 9 months, but this one is very special. It'a a collage of photographs of the first days after Katrina set to the haunting gospel-like crooning of Springstein. Be warned, it will bring back the flood - in pictures, in memory and in emotion. What I especially like is the of city landmarks we all love and of scenes we have all experienced, set to the chorus:

Come on, Rise up!
Come on, Rise up!
Come on, Rise up!
Come on, Rise up!

Truly an inspired arrangement. I knew I had to share this video with my readers so I contacted the man who put the video together, Hank Babin. I asked for permission to post and I asked his reasons for putting this together to give a little background with the post. What Hank shared with me via email is so moving and so well-written that I decided to cut and paste it to the blog.
So, here in his own words, is the inspiration for his video:

One of my best friends lived off of Nashville and Claiborne and his house flooded. About 2 weeks after the storm we went into the city to try and retrieve some personal items for he, his wife, and their newborn son. It was a sobering experience. This was when the city was just about empty, starting to dry out, with National Guard checkpoints all over.

At times, we felt like we were in the Twilight Zone. No people. No cars. No sounds. No bugs. No rats. No signs of any life whatsoever.

Anyway, I was pretty moved by it all. Not just with my friend's house, but the enormity of it all. The water marks. The colorless streets. Boats parked on porches. A jet ski in a tree. The National Guard tent city in Audubon Park. Seeing the houses I used to live in flooded. That God awful smell of death everywhere.

When I got home, I threw everything I was wearing away except my wedding ring. I showered for about 2 hours. Then I rubbed cologne on my nose to try and get that smell out of my brain. It didn't help.

About 2 days later, I was listening to my IPod on shuffle while cutting my grass. Over 1,700 songs on that thing and Bruce Springsteen's "My City of Ruins" just pops up. I owned the Rising album but I guess I never really listened to that song before. But it certainly struck a chord then.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing so I went back to the beginning of the song. It took about 30 seconds and I was on my knees crying in the front yard.

For the next 2-3 days I couldn't get it out of my head. I had also been collecting some Internet photos from Katrina. I was hoping to put together some kind of CD with each day in pictures. I wanted to explain it one day to my daughters in a way that history books wouldn't.

So the lyrics and images just kept running through my head over and over. I could see it all so vividly. I took some software on my laptop and made the video. It was actually quite therapeutic for me. I e-mailed it to a few friends and then it kind of took on a life of its own.

I started getting e-mails and phone calls from across the country. Mostly displaced people from the Gulf Coast. I was incredibly humbled by most of the letters and requests. I would cry reading their stories about what they lost and what they said the video meant to them.

People asked for copies to show at conventions and speeches. I would get calls from professors in New Jersey using it in their classes. A priest in South Louisiana uses it and compares the scenes to the Resurrection. A school teacher in Tennessee wrote me and said they show it to assemblies and have a displaced 9-year old tell her story to educate the other students. Congressman Charlie Melancon played it to the Democratic National Caucus and they wrote about it in Roll Call. Like I said, pretty humbling stuff for something I created on my coffee table at 3 am.

Every so often now, I try and find somebody (a legislator, an editorial writer, or an organization sending relief our way) to send it to. I just want to remind people of how bad we all felt those days. I want to show our appreciation for all those people who came to help and continue to do so. And I want to remind them of the positive things about New Orleans. That we are all worth saving.

So yes, feel free to post it or the link. I will always agree to let it be used in any positive manner. And thank you for trying to continue to educate people about "the Thing". It isn't going to be easy. This is a long-term fight we all have here. Like I used to tell people, this is one big shit sandwich and we're only on bite #3.

But I think the country still cares. I'm still amazed at the number of young people in college and high school giving up their time to come down here and help. They are better people than I was at that age.

And some editorial writers from around the country have gotten on board too. Here is a piece one writer sent me from Eugene, Oregon. He pretty much summed it up:

Jim Godbold
'Please don't forget us'

"Hurricane Katrina's victims still need our helpSix months after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the housing in New Orleans and erased much of historic coastal Mississippi with a wrecking-ball storm surge, survivors make a special effort to thank every visitor they meet.

"It's so wonderful of you to come," they say with uninhibited sincerity. And to a person, whether they're in St. Bernard Parish or Pass Christian, Miss., the last thing they say as visitors leave is not good-bye. It's "Please don't forget about us."

"Please don't forget about us" is not a parting pleasantry. It is an earnest plea, so serious that it's said without the gracious southern smile that accompanies almost all farewells.

They entreat us to remember them because they fear if we do not, they'll never secure the staggering amount of federal help they'll need to rebuild splintered homes and shattered lives. It takes very little imagination to see why they're worried.

In fact, six months after the apocalyptic hurricane recalibrated time on the Gulf Coast into pre-Katrina or post-Katrina, it takes no imagination at all. A walk down almost any residential street in low-lying New Orleans does the trick. A drive down U.S. 90 along the Gulfport and Biloxi beachfront in Mississippi requires no narration.

Katrina was a monster storm when it thundered in from the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 29, 2005, with hurricane-force winds at landfall stretching 120 miles out in all directions from its eye. Those winds pushed a gigantic storm surge landward from the gulf. The wall of water was 35 feet high when it slammed into Bay St. Louis, Miss. Take a look at the top of an average flag pole to get a rough idea of how a person or a house stacks up to a 35-foot wave.

The surge blasted homes clean off of eight-foot pilings and turned their contents into torpedoes that damaged property up to 10 miles inland. Countless irreplaceable historic buildings and houses were obliterated. In one disastrous day, more than 65,000 Mississippi dwellings were destroyed, and more than 230 people lost their lives.

To the west, an 18- to 20-foot storm surge roared into New Orleans, and flooding began before the eye made landfall. Catastrophic structural failures in three key levees dumped billions of gallons of water into a city that is essentially a below-sea-level bowl. In a matter of hours, 75 percent of the metropolitan area was covered with as much as 20 feet of water. More than 1,100 people died, and 215,000 Louisiana homes were destroyed.

Despite nonstop media coverage of the unfolding nightmare in New Orleans, nothing can prepare post-Katrina visitors for what they encounter in the Crescent City six months later. Huge parts of New Orleans remain uninhabitable, without water or power, populated only by daytime demolition crews wearing dust masks and white Tyvek suits. Hospitals, schools, restaurants and banks stand vacant, often with the telltale "still water line" — where the water finally stopped rising — clearly visible halfway or more up the outside walls. Hundreds upon hundreds of flooded cars, many with their doors and trunk lids wide open, remain abandoned under freeway overpasses in a life-imitates-art scene from a disaster movie.

In the hardest hit neighborhoods, don't bother looking for the water line. There are no walls left. Anywhere. As far as the eye can see, there's nothing but kindling and concrete slabs littered with the detritus of vanished families — children's toys, small appliances, plumbing fixtures, faded towels. Lifelong residents of these neighborhoods still have trouble getting their bearings. No familiar landmarks are left.

Six months later, much of this almost incomprehensible destruction appears essentially untouched, as if someone had made a conscious decision to preserve it as a memorial to the costliest natural disaster in the nation's history. The shell-shocked citizens of New Orleans, wherever they may live today, can't help but wonder what's taking so long.

From a distance, it's profoundly difficult to comprehend the enormity of the disaster that has befallen Louisiana and Mississippi. What is missing is as shocking as the devastation apparent to the naked eye. Almost a million people were displaced, scattered to at least 45 states in the largest diaspora in U.S. history. Tens of thousands will never return.

Recovering from this history-making calamity will require more money, more effort and more patience than anyone could have dreamed of on Aug. 28, 2005. Our fellow Americans in Louisiana and Mississippi will need our support for years — yes, years — to come.

They're counting on us to keep a fickle Congress and a blame-shifting White House from abandoning a region filled with poor people who lack political clout. They're hoping we'll come see with our own eyes what no TV image, photograph or news account can ever fully convey.

What happened on the Gulf Coast of the United States during the furious storm season of 2005 was not just another bad hurricane down in hurricane country. It was not just another terrible flood in America's most celebrated flood plain.

It was an unprecedented national catastrophe whose consequences will transform a region and its people in ways we cannot yet predict. We must not forget them, and we must not let them down."
(Reprinted with permission, copyright 2006, The Register-Guard.)

Sorry this whole thing isn't exactly "short". But when I start to write about it all, the emotional flood gate opens up. And the Army Corps of Engineers must have built it because it can't hold back the waters!

I'm 35, married, with 4 precious little girls under 6. I have 4 tiny life vests, 1 saw, 1 sledge hammer, and a can of flourescent spray paint in my attic. And that is where they will stay because we don't have 1 inch of hurricane protection levees in Terrebonne Parish. Not 1 inch.

And Russian Roulette season is upon us again....and there's only so many times you can dodge that bullet.

And in a later email:

And speaking of the Guard, as we were leaving New Orleans, we were stopped at a checkpoint. We asked the guys where they were from and thanked them for coming to help. My friend sees a few small tents behind the guy and says, "Sorry ya'll have to stay there." The Guardman replies, "Oh, I'm not staying there. People died waiting for help right there." I don't think we spoke for the whole ride home.

The writer from Oregon's e-mail is: (deleted) Nice guy. If you write him, let him know you found his column from the "City of Ruins" video guy. I think he may remember me.

He and some other editor's columns can be found at:

It occurs to me that through Katrina's dark clouds a small,weak beam of light flickered. Over the past months the flicker has emerged into a ray of hope and going forward we must transform it into a blaze of conviction!


Tags: volunteers


Marco said...

Great post. I'll link to it.

Dangle 24-7 said...

Qoute from Hank Babin's email

"But I think the country still cares. I'm still amazed at the number of young people in college and high school giving up their time to come down here and help. They are better people than I was at that age".

I suppose it is one of the reasons I QUIT posting. So many Katrina Bloggers have gotten so negative, sometimes nasty and never with any solutions or praise, just blame and criticisms while some insist we were in fact forgotten.

I am here to say that the super people of this country have not forgotten us nor have they abandoned us. But we must be smart and realistic. Even we here get Katrina fatigue.

I watched Ellen today because she had Clinton and Bush Sr. on. (I really felt I needed to qualify that). They summed it up so eloquently. What we have here transcends party lines and transcends those who can only lean one way or another and use this to divide us even more than we are. My respect and thanks to these two men for the money they have raised but more so the message they are bringing.

As for "W"? He is sending us money but I am not satisfied with the results so far but I’m not even clear on what the local plan is except for what the Vietnamese are doing in the East. I am also dissatisfied with how much of the money has been spent on the Federal level. Wasting those dollars is unfair to the tax payers of this country and to those in need. But to say “Send us the money” while spitting nails will accomplish nothing nor put us in the kind of light we want to be seen in by our fellow Americans.

As for Saturday's election, all I see is the last 40 years lying before us. (No, there are no typos in that previous sentence) God I pray some lessons have been learned and God I hope we can sit back and remember how many bad things we were dealing with one week prior to the arrival of Katrina.

Thank you Mermaid for bringing us this posting and thank you Mr. Babin for truly a great positive contribution. We can be angry; just let us not become destructive.

TravelingMermaid said...

You should be posting this message on your own blog!(Shaking my finger because I can)

"So many Katrina Bloggers have gotten so negative, sometimes nasty and never with any solutions or praise, just blame and criticisms while some insist we were in fact forgotten." Well, you know how I feel about that.(ie:sewer mouth) Sorry, folks, don't mean to leave ya'all out. Dangle and I have discussed our concern with what we see as some bloggers trending toward the negative. (Trying to be diplomatic!) Yes, we are angry and tired and disgusted....but we need to remember that people outside N.O. read these posts of ours. And we should CARE what opinion is formed by the reader. Not because we want their money, but because we want to prove that we are more and better than the comparisons we've all heard to a third-world, corrupt country.And we are more and better than drunken, breast flashing and leering partiers. We are people just like the rest of the country - with families and jobs and (somewhat) normal lives. We love our city as much as they love theirs ...... and we just want the levees built to protect us so we can live in peace.
(Gets down off soapbox)

Anyway, thanks for your perspective, Dangle. Always a pleasure to hear from you!

slate said...

Many thanks, Mermaid. I linked to this today because it is so wonderful.

As for the anger and negativity, I think sometimes that's what has to be written, not always but sometimes. Had an interesting conversation on Mom's day with my mom. She asked, "What's going on with you?" I told her what was happening here. I told her about BellSouth saying it would be September before I could get a phone and she responded with, "Well things will get back to normal soon. We're going to the lake this weekend. . . . . ." Fact is she doesn't get it. Sometimes the anger I see on NOLA blogs, including mine occasionally, is a reaction to the "New Orleans had Jazzfest so they're okay" mindset that we're confronted with.

And Dangle, if you're reading this, please come back. It's all our voices together that will tell the story. Mermaid's right. You should post that reply to your blog.

Thanks again, Mermaid, and where did you get that cool flag?

Sophmom said...

This is a great post. I am at work but I will listen to/watch the My City in Ruins piece when I can do so without risk of irritating my boss. I was about in tears just hearing about it. Thanks for posting it.

Many of us who are not in New Orleans have not forgotten.

TravelingMermaid said...

Slate & Sophmom: Thanks my blogger sisters!
Slate, read your email.