Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Southern Storm

Born and raised in New Orleans, I have a warm appreciation for, what some call, a country all it's own. It's music, food, culture, and even smells were unique and utterly endearing to all who lived or visited. Most famous for its French-Creole architecture with Spanish influences, it was the quintessential vacation spot for all.

The dialog over these past years regarding Katrina has outraged those who knew the city, particularly me. I was 9 when a similar disaster changed lives and threw communities into disbelief and rage as well.

It was 1965 when Hurricane Betsy arrived in the crescent city. I recall the excitement of having to leave school at 10:30am because of the coming storm. My father prepared the house, boarding up windows and gathering extra water for the worse possible scenario. We went to the stores and bought everything that was not already purchased, as the entire city was out shopping as well. And by nightfall, the winds came and the lights eventually went out.

My dad had gone outside in winds of almost 85 miles an hour to check on neighbors. When he returned he was shouting orders and very anxious. Water had begun to move over the expanse of land that separated our home from the corner of the block. To see it coming in the moonlight was indescribable.

We forged our way to Holy Cross High School for shelter. In the end, we lost our home and most of the real estate that my dad had nurtured and lived on.

He was a community leader for the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the poorest areas of the city. Along with other city officials and community heads, they learned that the levee had been compromised by dynamite.

This was the information that I gathered while listening-in on adult conversations and speaking to others as I grew into my teens. I understood it well. An undercurrent of racial tension and greed existed that tourists and fans of the city did not know. The ninth ward, as impoverished as it seemed, was thriving and boosted a homeownership rate of 59 percent compared to the 46 percent of the parish as a whole. If not financially strong, it was healthy and stable, with some of the strongest grassroots and civic organizations in the city. There were efforts all the time to purchase the land of these residents by city state and national groups but they were faced with strong resistance. This was the climate of the Lower Ninth Ward.

It was understood that there would be a flood in that tremendous hurricane, but where and how? Should it affect prime property in the city or could it be diverted and thus save a thriving upper-class community. This was the premise for many. I feel the same.

Such conflict spawned leaders and activists. My father became the State Representative of the Lower Ninth Ward. His story, when he finally writes it, speaks of corruption from high places, places not seen from the humble streets of proud New Orleanians.

The landscape of New Orleans just before Katrina was not picturesque. Crime was the worse in the country. Big business left. People like myself left to find greener pastures only to learn that the grass was greener and taller in New Orleans.

So when Katrina came and the city experienced the worse catastrophe of our time, everyone who's heart was in it knew the truth. (1) The sound of the explosion was heard by many. The question that remains is "Why?" Government cover-ups are the threads which tie this country together. Who's plan was this?

The place where the levee broke during Katrina was literally in the backyard where I once lived. Who better to tell the story than I?


Magdalen Islands said...

You have done it again, Patricia. This is very well written and of course from a angle that we don't see on CNN. I can't explain in words how impressed I am with your writing and your style.

I wrote a short review on the Gimme A Dream site at
I think it is time you came out into the open, as much as I can bring you anyway.

KB said...

My friend - magdalen islands, recommended your blog. I can see why, your writing is wonderful. Keep up the good work.

Ryane said...

Thank you for your kind words Patricia! As said before you really are a great writer...very well versed.

ladybug said...

Just like dichotomy in politics, and religion, technology is a tool that we can use to help us build a better world, or we can use it to destroy what we have loved. (this is also slightly inspired from your earlier post on cell phones)

If we use the internet to connect to people we don't run into on the street, or to share our thoughts, our stories and our dreams, then I think we are well on our way toward building that better world.

Keep on speaking. Keep on thinking. and by all means, keep on sharing.


keith hillman said...

I have also arrived here from your agent Gimmes site! I hope you are paying her well!

This is a very interesting tale, particularly for me as I am thousands of miles away in the UK. Our 'American' news is always a somewhat filtered version of what is actually happening.

I'm going to have a wander round your site now!