Commemorating the 5th Anniversary of Katrina
There were so many good ones that it’s hard to choose a favorite, but one issue of No Depression that I’m particularly fond of was our post Katrina issue (#60 Nov/Dec 2005) and the articles excerpted below. Today marks the 5th anniversary of Katrina so I thought it would be interesting to go back and revisit these each of these articles on the aftermath of the hurricane. Let us begin with Grant Alden’s introduction to the series….
It is impossible to have any sustained interest in the music of North America without constantly tripping over seminal figures who came from, settled in, or drifted through the venerable port city of New Orleans. It has been as impossible this last month to turn on the television or read a newspaper or listen to the radio and not be transfixed by the damage done to the Crescent City, and to the entire Gulf region, by Hurricane Katrina (and then by Hurricane Rita).
There is a good chance that, by the time this magazine reaches your hands, the media will have tired of New Orleans, the politicians will have settled firmly into the business of assigning and deflecting blame, and the real estate developers will have drawn up an array of schemes to rebuild the city.
But we will never grow tired of the music and literature and art and food — in short, the culture — New Orleans has produced, nor can we ever fully pay our debt to the nurturing environment the city has long offered to those pursuing creative outlets. The degree to which the disaster was inflicted by nature and subsequently exacerbated by man may be worth examining, but it can’t alter the overwhelming sense of loss among those who called New Orleans home.
What follows is an attempt to talk about what has happened to the people who belong to that community, and to assess what the future might hold for them. For all of us.
For this job we asked two experienced journalists to do some very difficult work, and sought out three artists from the New Orleans area to write what they felt, what they’ve been through, what they knew. It isn’t the whole story. The whole story will take years to be told, and nobody will agree to its details.
But it’s a beginning.
Grayson Capps- The Storm Still Rages
I’m writing you from the foot heels of a destructive woman named Katrina. The relationship with any woman comes with the excitement of the initial experience and goes with the repercussions of the convergence of forces. Whether or not the relationship sustains or wanes, the event is usually life-changing.
In this case, Katrina flooded my life and drowned my home. I happened to be out on the road for a weekend tour to southern Illinois with my band when the hurricane decided what she would do, and like any one-night stand, you think you can go back to your life like it was before, unaffected.
Around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning after Katrina had zipped her dress up and put on her shoes, the waters started rising. Physically I could do nothing about the tempest, but mentally I had to bust out the roof and get to dry land. Then, where are my children? Where are my people? I looked to the church, but Katrina blew off the steeple. We haven’t been able to go home since. (Read the rest here.)
Robert Doerschuk – The everyday players who bind New Orleans music together all have their own ways of dealing with hard times in the Big Easy.
We all know well the trials that have beset New Orleans over these past few months. Most of us appreciate the immeasurable contributions that the city has made to America’s music. We’ve also tracked the survival of the city’s most famous artists: Fats Domino, rescued from his rooftop; Allen Toussaint, holed up in a hotel and catching a bus to Baton Rouge, eventually getting to New York and appearing on the Letterman show; the Neville Brothers, most of them, sharing a house in Franklin, Tennessee, south of Nashville, waiting for the waters back home to recede…
But for every celebrity, there were hundreds of musicians living gig to gig in New Orleans. Cast to the winds by Katrina, they found themselves in places they never thought they’d be, able only to look back to the clubs where they’d played, the flats they’d rented, the instruments and master recordings they’d left behind — and to wonder what hand they would be dealt in the days to come. (Read the rest here.)
Mary Gauthier – Hoping for the best
I was in Hawaii when my sister called in a panic to tell me that it looked like a hurricane was going to hit the Louisiana Gulf Coast in the next 36 hours, and we had to figure out what to do about daddy NOW. My father lives in a nursing home in Houma, Louisiana. He is unable to recognize us, unable to walk, unable to eat without being fed. He is often agitated, needs multiple medications to keep him stabilized, and dehydrates very easily, which requires hospitalization when it happens.
The nursing home’s idea of an evacuation plan is to call patients’ families to come pick up their loved ones, but even though this is the third time this has happened, we never know what to do when the phone rings. So we go into a panic, making frantic phone calls to other family members, hoping for an answer to appear, hoping for the best.
My sister lives in Houston with her husband and three small children and I live in Nashville, but neither one of us could handle my father even if we lived next door to his nursing home in Houma. That’s why he’s in a nursing home to begin with; he needs nurses. (Read the rest here.)
Peter Holsapple – Beans and rice
Today, in Nashville, I have met up with musician friends of mine from the band Beatin Path who had been displaced from their homes in New Orleans. We are having rice and beans at Mike’s apartment, cooked by his wife, who has taken the kids to Wal-Mart to get clothes. After dinner, we stand on the tiny porch and smoke and talk, trying to absorb the facts that we are far from our home and the lives we’ve led for so long, and that we don’t know when next we’ll see each other.
All of us have our moments of emotional silence, punctuated with laughing it off and expressing gratitude to be amongst each other. Someone brings up the hurricane, then quickly apologizes for introducing the topic. But who else do we have that we can talk with about it? We share experiences there together that our well-meaning friends and helpful strangers will never fully understand now.
We speak of the incredible charity we’ve seen and been recipients of. We compare reactions to people finding out where we were from. We catch up on where our other friends have landed. We slide from aggravated to amused at how many people took the time to tell us their considered opinions on what had gone wrong in New Orleans. We consider how different people are in our new boroughs. We note how often we hear Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927″ running through our minds. (Read the rest here.)
Alex Rawls – The battle of New Orleans
Every day after hurricanes Katrina and Rita brings another hint that nothing will be the same in New Orleans. President George W. Bush said, “We’ll not just rebuild, we’ll build higher and better.” Experts talk about bringing the Orleans Parish School District into the 21st century, and of instituting revolutionary, community-based health care; they contemplate ways of repopulating the city that won’t result in large pockets of poor. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin envisions a community of 250,000 to 300,000 for the next year to 18 months — compared to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates of 462,000 in New Orleans proper before the hurricane.
In light of such forecasts, I suspect Bush and I have different notions about what constitutes a better New Orleans, and it’s easy to wonder if his new Crescent City would have room for such iconic, idiosyncratic R&B heroes as Ernie K-Doe, Jessie Hill, Professor Longhair or the cross-dressing Bobby Marchan. Sounds and rhythms that evolved in New Orleans have been crucial to the last century of American music, but where does music figure into the city’s future, and how does the music scene reconstitute itself? (Read the rest here.)