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Monday, August 31, 2020

NOFD battling a 3-alarm fire Uptown [ Local Stories]

NOFD is responding to a 3-alarm fire Uptown



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City of New Orleans Resource Center opens for Hurricane Laura evacuees [ Local Stories]

As NOLA hotels reach capacity, city leaders offer essentials to evacuees from across southwest Louisiana



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Getting hotter this week, tropics are active [ Local Stories]

We are getting a break from the rain for most of the week as drier air moves in, but it's going to get hotter! The tropics also remain very active.



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Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram named NBA most improved player [ Local Stories]

Acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers last July, Ingram finished the season averaging career-highs in multiple categories.



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Tropical Depression Fifteen forms off southeast U.S. coast [ Local Stories]

Tropical Depression Fifteen has formed off of the southeast U.S. coast but will continue to stay away from land.



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Nyx won't refund former member's dues, court filing says [ Local Stories]

Some 20 women sued Nyx to recover dues paid to ride in the 2021 parade. Scores left the krewe after captain Julie Lea's "All Lives Matter" post on Facebook.



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New Orleans-Area Chefs and Restaurants Help Feed Hurricane Laura Evacuees - [Eater New Orleans - All]


Aftermath of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 30 | Photo by Dave Creaney/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New Orleans restaurants, spared from Hurricane Laura, are working to feed victims and evacuees

When Hurricane Laura made landfall in Lake Charles, Louisiana last week, New Orleans chef Amy Sins was ready to spring into action. By Friday, her Flood and Disaster Outreach group had coordinated with relief organization Second Harvest Food Bank, local restaurant group LeBlanc + Smith (Sylvain, Cavan, Meauxbar), and others, to prepare, package, and deliver meals to Lake Charles residents and evacuees displaced in New Orleans.

Sins, whose organization has spent the last six months getting meals to New Orleans residents during the COVID-19 crisis, has activated such efforts with the arrival of every storm and crisis in the region for the last four years. This week, she’s joined by a handful of other local restaurants and chefs working to feed the 6,000 Hurricane Laura evacuees currently in New Orleans or the victims in Lake Charles:

Johnny Sanchez, the downtown Mexican restaurant owned by Food Network personality and chef Aaron Sánchez, announced Monday that the restaurant be closed this week while the team works on relief efforts.

NOLA Crawfish King, Chris Davis’s popular catering business and food truck, is heading to Lake Charles in partnership with Gulf Coast Disaster Relief to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner to residents there this week, Sunday through Wednesday.

Mandeville restaurateur and caterer Cayman Sinclair converted his restaurant The Lakehouse into a “makeshift relief site” last week, where he and his team began cooking for first responders, government officials, and evacuees. When that space began to flood Thursday, they relocated their efforts to his forthcoming restaurant Inn at La Provence in Northshore, where they continue to cook and package meals that are delivered to local hotels housing evacuees.

New Orleans’s Southern Food & Beverage Museum is serving as a drop-off site for supplies, children’s books, toys, diapers, and formula, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Evacuees can text WELCOMENOLA to 888777 or visit the Nola Ready site for evacuees for information on resources and services during their stay in New Orleans. For places to donate and a full list of volunteer opportunities, see here.

Did we miss a local restaurant or chef participating in relief efforts for Hurricane Laura victims? Let us know.


Source: Eater New Orleans - All


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Financial resources available to those affected by Hurricane Laura [ Local Stories]

CPA Kemberley Washington breaks down several financial resources that are available to people affected by Hurricane Laura.



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Report: Alvin Kamara unexcused absence believed to be contract related [ Local Stories]

Report: Kamara unexcused absence believed to be contract related



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Washington Parish school closes for 2 weeks for ‘potential’ coronavirus exposure [ Local Stories]

The superintendent wouldn't confirm whether any students or faculty had tested positive for COVID-19.



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Where to Find Bagels in New Orleans - [Eater New Orleans - All]


Bagels from Leo’s Bread | Leo’s Bread/Official

Where to get bagels at bakeries, farmers markets, and for home delivery in New Orleans

New Orleans, bagel town? Not quite, but the number of local options for the carb-y treat has certainly grown from a decade ago. In addition to a few bakeries devoted to the craft, independent local bakers are offering the delicacy for home delivery or sale at farmers markets — in at least one case, inspired specifically by the bagel void in New Orleans’s food scene. Shipped in daily from New York or boiled in a kitchen in New Orleans, here are eight options for fresh bagels around town for pickup or home delivery.

Did we miss your favorite bagel in New Orleans? Leave a comment or send an email.


Source: Eater New Orleans - All


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Sewerage & Water Board delays shut-offs indefinitely [ Local Stories]

A spokesperson said the utility will focus on addressing its billing issues and in-person meter reading before it resumes disconnections.



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Jaguars release Leonard Fournette [ Local Stories]

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Monday that the team was releasing Leonard Fournette



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Coroner identifies three people found dead near Pearl River [ Local Stories]

The St. Tammany Parish coroner has identified the three people found dead near Pearl River



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More heat and more storms, active tropics [ Local Stories]

After today, a lot of the area will be rain-free for a few days. Heat and humidity will expand. The tropics are active as we near the peak of hurricane season.



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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Monday thunderstorms, tropics getting active [ Local Stories]

We'll start the week with some heavy rainfall potential before drier weather ahead. Hurricane season continues to be very active.



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Video: SUNDAY SPORTS EXTRA - Talking Saints, LSU and Pelicans [ Local Stories]

SUNDAY SPORTS EXTRA: Talking Saints, LSU and Pelicans



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Gov. John Bel Edwards provides update on storm damage in southwest Louisiana [ Local Stories]

Gov. John Bel Edwards is holding a news conference Sunday to discuss storm damage in southwest Louisiana after Hurricane Laura battered the Louisiana Texas border.



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LSU star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase expected to opt out of 2020 NCAA football season [ Local Stories]

BREAKING NEWS: LSU star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase expected to opt out of 2020 NCAA football season

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63-year-old woman killed, NOPD investigating [ Local Stories]

Police say victim died of an apparent stabbing



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VIDEO: New Orleans Saints hold first practice in Mercedes-Benz Superdome [ Local Stories]

VIDEO: New Orleans Saints hold first practice in Mercedes-Benz Superdome



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Saturday, August 29, 2020

PHOTO GALLERY: Saints practice in the Superdome Saturday night [ Local Stories]

PHOTO GALLERY: Saints practice in the Superdome Saturday night



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UNEDITED Q&A: Saints kicker Wil Lutz on getting ready to kick in an empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome [ Local Stories]

UNEDITED Q&A: Saints kicker Wil Lutz on getting ready to kick in an empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome



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Hurricane Katrina: A defining disaster [ Local Stories]

15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina



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Thunderstorms possible Sunday [ Local Stories]

Heavy rainfall will again be possible on Sunday during the heat of the day.



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New Orleans puts together care bags for evacuees [ Local Stories]

The City of New Orleans teamed up with the United Way of Southeast Louisiana to help the evacuees get essentials.



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Five parishes approved for FEMA aid after Hurricane Laura [ Local Stories]

Gov. John Bell Edwards announced residents in five parishes impacted by Hurricane Laura can now begin to apply for assistance.



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Watch Live: President Trump to visit hurricane-damaged parts of Louisiana [ Local Stories]

President Donald Trump plans on Saturday to tour the damage in Louisiana and neighboring Texas, which were both ravaged by Hurricane Laura.



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Reception Center opens in New Orleans for evacuees [ Local Stories]

All evacuees must go to evacuation center first



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WDSU Chronicle: Katrina 15: Then and Now [ Local Stories]

It is hard to believe that 15 years ago this week one of the worst natural disaster in U.S. History affected all of us.



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President Trump approves major disaster declaration for Louisiana [ Local Stories]

In a news release, FEMA said federal funds are now available to help Louisiana supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in affected areas.



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Dispatches from the Middle: Hurricane Katrina — 15 years later [ Local Stories]

The episode interview's WDSU Chief Meteorologist Margaret Orr and anchor Travers Mackel who reported on the storm when it made landfall.



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Wu-Tang Clan RZA, says Cut Throat City was filmed in NOLA to depict aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [ Local Stories]

Director RZA says there were challenges in releasing the movie amid the COVID19 pandemic



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Mandatory evacuation ordered for Jean Lafitte, voluntary evacuation for Barataria [ Local Stories]

A voluntary evacuation order has been issued for parts of Jefferson Parish.



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Hurricane Katrina memorials are different this year amid the COVID19 pandemic [ Local Stories]

Organizers make changes to events honoring those who died and survived Katrina



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Friday, August 28, 2020

Sunshine with afternoon storms possible Saturday [ Local Stories]

Sunshine with afternoon storms possible Saturday



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UNEDITED Q&A: Saints DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson on name change, playing multiple positions and year two [ Local Stories]

UNEDITED Q&A: Saints DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson on name change, playing multiple positions and year two



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UNEDITED Q&A: Saints QB Taysom Hill on birth of son, improvements during camp and Jameis Winston [ Local Stories]

UNEDITED Q&A: Saints QB Taysom Hill on birth of son, improvements during camp and Jameis Winston



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PHOTO GALLERY: Saints hold first scrimmage this training camp [ Local Stories]

PHOTO GALLERY: Saints hold first scrimmage this training camp



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Gov. John Bel Edwards asks President Trump for expedited disaster assistance [ Local Stories]

Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested expedited disaster assistance after Hurricane Laura battered the Louisiana-Texas border.



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Laura victims may go weeks without power; deaths climb to 11 [ Local Stories]

The death toll from Hurricane Laura has risen to at least 11, and hundreds of thousands of people across Louisiana are still without power or water.



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Gov. John Bel Edwards provides update on damage from Hurricane Laura [ Local Stories]

Gov. John Bel Edwards is holding a news conference Friday after he flew over Hurricane Laura damage in southwest Louisiana.



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Funeral arrangements set for Ronnie Kole [ Local Stories]

Funeral arrangements have been set for famed New Orleans pianist Ronnie Kole.



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Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson diagnosed with COVID-19 [ Local Stories]

The owner of the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans has been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Saints spokesman Greg Bensel.



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Investigation continues into cause of fire at Domino Sugar refinery in Arabi [ Local Stories]

A fire broke out Thursday afternoon at the Domino Sugar refinery in Arabi forcing the evacuation of more than 100 employees.



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KATRINA CHRONICLES: A FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT - [OffBeat Magazine]


In preparing to post this month’s remembrances of Hurricane Katrina from local musicians and writers, I was looking for a good lead photo. I ran across Folsom, Louisiana artist Rolland Golden’s webpage and saw an image that sort of encapsulated the absolute horror that Katrina rained down on New Orleanians, my family, my friends.

Anyone who went through that time has stories, and I heard many of them, and had some to tell on my own. My critically ill mother was trapped with my sister and her family in Lacombe; we had no idea if she’d be able to make it through. To our great relief, my sister and her kids made it to Baton Rouge the evening after the storm hit (where my Joseph and I had evacuated), along with my mother. She was near death, and we immediately took her to the hospital where she stayed for six weeks, not knowing that her house had been flooded with 10 feet of water. It was horrible and heart-wrenching.

Yes, we all had stories to tell, but seeing Rolland Golden’s “Katrina Triptych” brought back memories of a chronicle of a Katrina experience I’d received from Lolet Boutté, the eldest of the musical, artistic Boutté clan. Lo is the eldest of 10 children, including vocalists John and Lillian, artist Peter, and mother to vocalist Tricia (Sista Teedy) Boutté. (All of the lovely Boutté sisters are memorialized in John Boutté’s song “Sisters”). Like all New Orleans families with deep roots, families are of ultimate importance. The matriarch Gloria Boutté, was beloved not only by her family, but throughout New Orleans.

I had no idea back in September 2005 that Lolet, her sister Nettie and their friends had endured the flood, enduring the heat, elements, lack of water and food on the I-10, or their final trip to Houston, where Lolet lived for several years before returning to a Musicians’ Village home in New Orleans.

I love Lolet, as do so many who know her; we were lucky enough to work with her at OffBeat for a few years in the ‘90s, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. She’s a very talented artist and now has her own successful art studio. She’s soulful, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s outspoken and opinionated, and witty as hell. She’s a truth teller. She’s as feisty and gorgeous as ever, 15 years after Katrina, after everything she’s been through.

The following story chronicles what happened to Lolet, her sister Nettie, their friends, and id emblematic of what so many others went through after Katrina. It still brings tears to my eyes knowing that she and so many people had to suffer through this. It does the same now when I think of all the people who are suffering and dying from the pandemic and the economic hardships it’s created for the people in this country. What’s even worse is that we are not prepared to deal with utter catastrophe, not then and apparently not now, either.—Jan Ramsey

A PERSONAL JOURNEY OF THE EFFECTS OF A CATASTROPHE ON ONE LIFE

I OPEN WITH A LOVE LETTER TO YOU

I haven’t been writing much emotional stuff about my view of what happened to me because of Hurricane Katrina. God! I hope that the first female I meet named Katrina is not a 9-month-old baby. I have all intentions of slapping the shit out of the little bitch.

I’ve been living with the most phenomenal people. Without even questioning, they have allowed me to heal the way I know how—with peace and quiet. I showed up at the Longstreth’s house with two pair of pants, three shirts, two pair of shoes and, with  lots of what most females grab up, drawers. I have never felt poor or without since I crossed the state line into Texas. Longstreths and Texas, I can never repay you for your kindnesses.

Mahalia, Granny, Paul [Longstreth]’s 13-year-old German Shepherd, has helped me through my grief of losing Big O Dog, Kingston Dread. He was my backbone through the worst of Katrina. He was my buddy on Derbigny Street and made my Mama feel safe next dor. She told me that she could tell who was coming in the yeard by his bar. Thank you, Mahalia. I miss you Big O.

My sister, Lorna, has taken a heavy load off my soul. She’s taking care of our Mama. My child, Mama, my sisters and brothers, my nieces, my dear friends, may your Creator hold you in the Beatific Vision,  your prayers kept me and Nettie going I never thought for a minute I would die up there, I was praying that you would not look at the shit the mega-news media was showing on TV.

Nettie and I were there and I was listening to the small garbage on a small FM/mp3 player (lots of batteries). It wasn’t what we saw from our bedroom on I-10 West and Poydras. I knew they were scaring you to death.

Now I ask that you let me send the story to you in installments. I started at the end and will go no further tonight. As my spirit calms, I’ll write more. I can promise you that my story is not all sad. Some of it will be heartbreaking, but some of it will be funny, heart-warming, angry and opinionated. I reserve the right to tell the store from my view on what I felt, learned and made me so emotional when I was given the smallest of kindnesses.

It’s 10:25 p.m. in Houston, on Friday, September 30 [2005]. Thank you for letting me share this with you. Teedy [Lolet’s daughter vocalist Tricia Boutté] and I move into our own space tomorrow. With Love, Lolet.

KATRINA, KINGSTON AND ME

When did it start? The days have jumbled up together since the day before the catastrophe. It started for me Sunday August 28th. So I’ll begin there.

Sunday, August 28, 2005.

Kingston Dread a.k.a. Big Ole Dog. Photo: Lolet Boutté

All the bottles and containers are filled with water. I have plastic bags filled and flattened in the freezer to make ice for the cooler when Entergy breaks down. There are lots of canned and boxed food and enough dog food to last Kingston for over a week. When this blows over, I’ll get more and start cleaning up the mess tha this bitch is going to throw around. I have such a problem saying or writing the name, but here goes: “Katrina.”

  1. To answer your question: Why in the hell did you stay, Lolet?

I’ll give you my first and foremost reason only—Gloria Boutté [Lolet’s mother]. She wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t going to leave her. (Sorry, Mama, please don’t feel guilty; I’m a grown-up and take full responsibility for that decision). Second? Kingston.

Yeah, he’s a dog. So what? He was there at her side during some of the most trying times Tricia went through during chemo treatmants; he’s been my good buddy at times when I needed to say things without being judged or criticized, and he would never have left me. Enough?

Anyway, on Sunday afternoon [musician] Kim Longstreth and her crew were leaving for Houston and offered us a ride. Glo wasn’t going, remember? Half an hour later my brother Emanuel and his wife Denise came to the house and demanded that Mama leave with them. Their truck was filled and there was room for one. That’s OK. Peter [Boutté, Lolet’s brother] was coming over to ride it out at Mama’s house. We won’t be alone. When I called Pete to find out when he would be there, I found out that he had followed Manny to Bayou Lacombe. They were going to ride it out with my sister, Leda. I was more worried for them than me because St. Tammany Parish floods a lot.

Peter’s Apartment. Photo: Lolet Boutté

I called my sister, Lynette. She wasn’t going anywhere out of concern for her salon business being damaged and looted if it came to that. OK, I’ll pack up some things and ride it out in Pete’s apartment that’s above the shop on North Prieur and Kerlerec Streets. It was me, Big Ole Dog, a few clothes, meds, my mp3/FM radio player, lots of batteries, my grandmother’s St. Anthony beads, and dog food. When this was over, we’d go back home and assess the damage. We were going to be fine.

That night was spent in front of the TV watching the track of the storm. When I could take it no more, I’d put in a DVD, pause it to check the weather, the go back to watching a movie. Nettie and I stayed in touch by phone. She was just across the street and had four houseguests living with her (BeBe and her three kids).

Late that evening the winds started to blow. Still watching TV and DVD and checking that all was secure in their apartment. We had a large bottle of Kentwood water and lots more downstairs if we ran out. The fridge was still working and had some eats that would be easy to fix, since the stove was gas. About one in the morning, the power went out.

Monday August 29, 2005

Just after midnight, I decided that I would just try to get some sleep until it was over. That lasted for about an hour.

The window at the northeast of the bedroom blew out and wind and rain started to blow in horizontally. I grabbed the two large cushions for the sofa, the portable radio and Kingston Dread. Pete has a tiny hall in the middle of his apartment and I braced one cushion against the door and one on the floor, put the St. Anthony beads around my neck, and sat against the door cushion to brace it against the wind. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced. The entire building was swaying, the wind was working to knock me away from the door and I was sitting there praying on the beads and holding onto Kingston like a lifeline. I’ll never be able to say how long I stayed in that hall. All the windows were covered and I didn’t even know if it was daylight outside.

Room with a view. Photo: Lolet Boutté

I uncovered one of the windows and the sky was absolutely beautiful but I hadn’t looked down. I opened the front door to the apartment and my heart dropped. Water was up to the top steps of all the houses; the cars had water to the dashboards. I knew that Nettie’s shop and Mama’s house had water. I wasn’t sure about Nettie’s house but I just knew my place on Derbigny Street was OK. We lived in the Esplanade Ridge part of the Tremé and we were in one of the highest parts of the city. We made it through Betsy and stayed dry.

The phones were cut and the cell phone towers were blown away but it was quiet enough for Nettie and I to talk to each other over the roof of the salon. She didn’t have water in the house but it was about three inches from getting in. That made me feel better. I knew that my place around the corner would be OK too. For right now, I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t mentally prepared to face walking in the water. Not yet.

Our neighborhood fix-it man, Morris, had been checking on us to see if we had all we needed. He came by with an armload of cigarettes and dog food for Kingston and Tai, Nettie’s dog. When I asked if he broke into someplace, he tells me he didn’t have to. This stuff was floating in the water and it’s all watertight. We welcome anything that will make life easier. I spend the day on the balcony of the apartment watching the folks go by and hearing snippets of news from those brave enough to be down there. All the while, I’ve got the radio on the combined stations of Clear Channel Radio (forgive me for disliking you so much, I considered you a death to small radio stations). Calls are coming in from all over Louisiana about folks stranded, people trying to help and being blocked from coming in. Never anything about help coming, just help being denied. It’s our only lifeline to the outside world and it’s not sounding good. Plaquemines, St. Bernard, the Lower 9, East New Orleans, the levees are not holding up. The 17th Street Canal has ruptured and Lake Pontchartrain is spilling into the city. I watch the water to see if it’s rising but it had already come in. Now we’re watching the tides right here in our own neighborhood. It goes down with the low tide and rises in the daytime. It’s not getting much higher so it must have leveled off.

I hear heartbreaking stories on the radio from people who are stranded and can get no help. The Feds are clueless bitches. I only hear the horrors of the Dome roof being torn off and thousands of people in the dark and panicking in the shelters and I feel secure on that upper balcony.

Big Ole hasn’t done his business in two days because he’s used to going outside. He can’t go down there in the water so he has shut himself down. It’s OK, you won’t be punished. We spend the rest of the day sitting outside and making as much human contact as possible. Nettie and Kim (BeBe) bring some more water and essentials to me. They go into the salon and get water. It’s completely flooded. NOBODY IS COMING TO NEW ORLEANS TO HELP!

The sky is clear and the lake is in the city. Photo: Lolet Boutté

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I slept on the porch last night with as little clothes as possible. It was so hot and damp inside the apartment that I couldn’t sleep in there. Pete has several large towels and I use them to drape the railing, use the two sofa cushions for a bed and keep the radio on constantly. The sky looks like someone pitched a fistful of stars into it. It’s beautiful—ironic, huh? The president of Kenner has seceded from the U.S. and declared the city of Kenner a foreign country so that they can get assistance. Go on, Nick. Dish the bitches out. Aaron Broussard is in a panic trying to get help for his people. A reported on the united radio stations cries that the Gulf of Mexico has reclaimed lower Plaquemines Parish. NOBODY IS COMING TO LOUISIANA TO HELP!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Today’s my only child’s birthday and I can’t even call her.

Nettie calls to me over the salon roof that we are going to try to get to the interstate to get rescued. John’s friend Gregory comes down Kerlerec Street to check on us. He is dry on North Rampart and has phone service. We ask him to contact our folks and let them know that we are OK and going to wade to I-10 to try to get out. I ask him to contact Tricia in Norway and let her know that I’m OK.

We make it around the corner to Derbigny Street to check the damage. It’s horrible. We get into Mama’s house first. The water is hip deep and her beautiful cedar chest that had been in the hall is floating in the middle of the living room. My knees get weak and I have to climb over corrugated paneling to get to my side door. I’m blinded by what I’ve seen at Mama’s and walk into my house where things are floating. I don’t see anything right, so I misjudge the height of the water. I walk to the chest of drawers, get my passport and some underwear. I walk into our second room, open a drawer next to the computer and grab as many of my records on discs that I can find and then leave. We collect several bottles of drinking water, large plastic bins and plastic bags.

When we get back to Prieur Street, we pack as much as we can in plastic bags. We’re going to use the containers as flotation devices to keep our things dry. I go back upstairs to get at least one bag packed and hug and kiss Kingston. Morris has promised to take care of both dogs until he can get the pets rescued. I feel secure in this because we told him he could have anything he wanted out of any of the houses. We have given him keys to Pete’s, Nettie’s, Mama’s and my house. He was also left with the promise by Nettie that he would die the same death as the dogs if they were treated inhumanely. (Thank you, Morris, you did a great job with Big Ole).

OK, we’re ready. We head toward Esplanade Avenue on North Prieur. I’m told to lift my feet high like I’m marching because there are tree limbs underwater. According to the radio reports that’s not the only things in the water. Those small bubbles in the water are cracks in the gas lines, there are oil slicks, sewage, garbage and dead things too.

As we make the corner on Esplanade, my heart breaks. The majestic oak trees are forming a cathedral arch over the neutral grounds. Huge pieces of them are beneath the water and we must meander or step over them until we get to Claiborne Avenue where there are boats abandoned at the gas stations. The water is waist deep. After we negotiated the obstacles in the water, we get on the exit ramp of I-10 East and head west toward Canal Street. Someone tells us not to look to the right because there’s a dead body there. We start our hike. I have my camera with me so that I might document some of the history on our walk. I take some pictures of the outskirts of the Tremé. The weather boards have been ripped off the sides and backs of the houses, the roofing tiles are gone and I can see the skeletons of several homes.

St. Louis Cemetery: Our ancestor are floating. Photo: Lolet Boutté

Oh, no! St. Louis Cemetery is flooded. My ancestors are floating in that swill. How will this city ever recover or go back to what it was? Do we really want it to be how it was?

We (Nettie, Kim, her 4, 10 and 14-year olds, and I) make it as far as Canal Street on the interstate. The fancy palms, the traffic signals and street signs are horizontal to the street. The hotels and businesses [have water] to the tops of their first floor doors. Air boats are speeding down Canal Street! We talk to some of the folks on the highway and they tell us nobody is coming for at least three days. We can’t stay up here with three kids that long! Nettie and I decide to wade back to the houses but we need to leave fast because when the sun sets, it will be too black to find our way back. We get there just before dark. Kingston is so excited to see us that he makes it down the steps and into the water. I help him back up the steps and do my best to dry him off. Back to square one.

That night I thought I heard the Mayor of New Orleans’ balls drop. He’s cussin’ and fussin’. He’s angry and feels helpless. It’s the first time I’ve considered him a man. [Governor] Kathleen [Blanco] has her fingers in her nose and ass. Dubbya has his whole hand up his ass. THEY’RE FIGHTING OVER WHO WILL HELP, WHILE PEOPLE AND BABIES ARE DYING!

Thursday, September 1, 2005
Nettie shouts over the roof that rescues are happening at Mac 42 [McDonogh 42 School] and we’ll be making the walk to the school soon. We start our trek again and have to avoid certain streets because the water is above our heads. We make it to 42 where there are several refugees waiting in the front entrance and on the steps of the school. After about an hour, someone comes by and says that the rescues have stopped for the school. Nobody’s coming to help. We’re on our own again. The Creator is good. One of the streets we bypassed had a mother with her dead baby tied to her chest and she would not leave her. We had babies with us and this would have been way too much for them.

Folks are coming to the school for help, but none is coming. A young man who had negotiated a boat came to the school and we decided that we would go to interstate when the older people and small children are placed in the boat and the rest of us will walk together behind it. Just as we’re leaving, I spot Martha and Mary, seventy-two year-old twin friends of the family. Martha has a pacemaker and Mary has renal failure. They are in flimsy nightgowns and are being helped to walk by Mary’s two children. I ask the boatman to wait and we load them into the boat. We will try to get to the Elysian Fields exit to I-10 East and head west away from the city. When we get to St. Bernard Avenue and North Galvez Street, the water is neck-deep on me, I’m high stepping because of the large trees down under the water. When we get to St. Bernard and North Prieur, they put me in the boat. Nettie is afraid I’ll go under.

When we finally reach the entrance to the interstate we have to leave Martha and Mary. They can’t make it up the ramp yet. It breaks my heart. I hug and kiss both of them and pray they will be safe. WHO THE FUCK IS RESCUING PEOPLE AROUND HERE?

Canal Street and Poydras. Photo: Lolet Boutté

We make it back to the Canal Street spot on I-10 and get an offer from a young man in a truck to get us a little further down the highway. We take it and end up at Poydras Street. We hear, again, that nobody’s being picked up. Nettie and I decide that we’re going to park our asses here until something happens. Buses, military vehicles and trucks with boats are flying by in the middle lane. The other lanes are peopled with refugees— that’s right, refugees—I feel like I’m in a third world country. Some are sitting, some standing, some lying on the concrete and there are a few in wheelchairs. Seniors are looking stunned and kids are clueless and confused. Parents are constantly yelling to keep the children out of that middle lane. We’re in a place where it’s easy to cross over to the westbound side of the highway. This will be our living space until we are rescued.

The hurricane has ripped a good portion of the Dome’s roof. The people in there are suffering. Children are dying. There’s no water or food in there. Folks are losing it and they are being told that, if they leave, they won’t be allowed back in. Helicopters are flying overhead and dropping folks off like there’s actually room and safety in the building. I see a big chopper with “Air Force One” on the side with about four others escorting it to the heliport.

Wait! Oh no they’re not! They are pushing the people back into the Dome for “security” so Bush will be safe at the podium. THIS IS BULLSHIT! According to the radio reports, the air rescues are also halted so that the air space is secure as long as this asshole is in town.

Today I learn another lesson in prejudgment. It’s blazing hot and there’s no water or food being delivered to anyone camped on the interstate. Out of the corner of my eye, I see two young African Americans (male and female) eyeing a Kentwood water truck parked on the exit ramp. As I turn around, I see them driving off with the truck. Where the hell do they think they’re going? How long before someone stops them? How long before they are behind bars?

A little while later, I look to my left and see two Kentwood trucks coming up the wrong way on the Poydras ramp loaded down with water. The young man and woman open the sides and tell the folks on the highway to take what they need. They leave with two young folks riding shotgun and return with FOUR trucks loaded with water and start passing it out to the refugees. In a matter of time, the trucks have made it down to as far as they can go and distributed water to all the folks on the interstate. NEVER MIND, WE’LL SAVE OURSELVES.

Forgive me, young folks, I judged you harshly before knowing what was going on. (Another lesson learned).

Later that day, we get more folks in our area including some Danish and Swedish tourists who were stranded with us. Then we get the kids with their blunts and boomboxes. They have no clue where they are going or what they are going to face. So many awakenings sitting by waiting to be rude to them. Like everybody else, the shock will set in soon enough.

Do they really think the rescue crews will allow pit bulls on the buses?

Interstate-10. The long walk to Canal Street. Photo: Lolet Boutté

It’s still light when we get some new folks in our immediate area. They are friends of my sisters and have a beautiful African American woman suffering from skin cancer. She’s been out in this heat for two days without shade and evacuated so fast that she wasn’t able to get her meds or sunscreen (they were washed away in Lower 9 rushing waters). A covering is built for her with blankets and two grocery carts. She’s at least safe from the sun for now.

We pass the time becoming familiar with our kindred refugees. Whole families are up on this huge piece of concrete. Most of us are hot, dirty and have an air of restrained distress. We chat and reminisce the way New Orleans folks do on their front steps and porches. The resourcefulness of the human spirit.

Occasionally, I cross the concrete barriers of the interstate and talk to a nice lady who has been in the water with foot surgery. Her sons have been fighting and she seems bewildered. She welcomes a little talk about other things besides her kids. There are several small kids with her entourage and they are ravenous. They are eating up everything brought with them and rations passed out earlier. One look at them and I can see they’ve never suffered miss-meal cramps.

The sun is going down and only a very mild wind gives us some relief. Looting, burning and madness are going down in the water, in the shops, in the neighborhoods. Chaos is growing and it’s all being reported on the radio before anything is verified. TURN OFF THE TVS AND RADIOS, NOW!

Wait, I’m listening to a series of events on the radio that seem out of sequence:

First: “HazMat vehicles are lined up on the outskirts of the French Quarters.” (At this time, there are large flashes of blue, red and yellow. Next, I feel the tremor on the highway).

Second: “The French Quarter is ablaze!” (From where I sit, those blasts didn’t happen in the Quarters. They look like a fireworks show on the river behind the roof of the Dome).

Third: “It’s not in the Quarters. It’s on the outskirts on the other side of Elysian Fields. We don’t know what caused the explosion but have been told it was three tank cars on the train tracks in the Bywater!”

First HazMat, second explosion, third French Quarter? Check the sequence….and then comes the smell drifting toward us from the Mississippi.

THEY TRIED TO BLOW US AWAY.
THEY TRIED TO BLOW US AWAY.
THEY TRIED TO BLOW US AWAY.
THEY TRIED TO BLOW US AWAY.
NOW, THEY’RE TRYING TO GAS US!!!!

I turn the radio off. I can’t stand much more.

Our “apartment” in the utter darkness on I-10 with other refugees. Photo: Lolet Boutté

It’s getting dark and, as much as one wants to think some normalcy is happening in the daylight, it gets very dark. There are no lights except for emergency vehicles, noisy air patrol by the helicopters and some news crews parked on the interstate. It’s creepy dark.

No sleeping for this princess. The gravel in the concrete is so big it makes it tough to just sit, let alone sleep on it. I sit up the night and pray that we lose no one up here tonight and that my family finds rest from their worry.

All night, large buses are passing us going toward the ninth ward but not returning or coming back with no people on them. What are they doing? Is anybody being saved? The phone calls on the radio are frantic pleas from the Convention Center where there is no supervision, food, water—nothing. People standing in their own waste, mothers have gone outside where they feel safe but their babies are dying in their arms. There’s rape, murder and suicide in the building. We’ve descended into madness.

Radio notice:

“The Louisiana oil refineries have requested that its workers return to their jobs and bring changes of clothes since they will be on-site until further notice.” Yeah, right. The refineries take priority over the workers’ families.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Day breaks and the strangest things are happening. Our I-10 families are wishing each other a good morning, there are grills up here fixing breakfast and coffee. Folks are washing up with the precious water. Mamas are combing and braiding hair. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE SURVIVORS.

The rest of the afternoon is no more eventful than the others except now there are military convoys with soldiers bracing very frightening guns on their shoulders. Would they shoot us? In a heartbeat. Between the guardsmen are the regulars—buses, trucks with flatboats, emergency vehicles and empty buses (not many of those). The radio tells us that the buses can’t come for us because there are not enough military or police escorts to insure the safety of the drivers. Some try to make it across the Crescent City Connection on foot and are turned back. Seems that inhumane treatment has extended to the locals. Jefferson Parish and [then-sheriff] Harry Lee are on the other side sending people back. They will not be allowed on THEIR dry land. THE CREATOR IS WATCHING YOU GOOD OLE BOYS.

At about 3 p.m. some vehicles start showing up and not flying past us. We are parked close to the Crescent City Connection blockade. It seems to be the right spot since we were among the first groups picked up. There are ambulances taking women and children first. (Too many families lost one another with this method.) Three families get into the third ambulance and we are among these folks. The drivers are all volunteers from Florida who just couldn’t sit by and watch the suffering any more. They take us a small distance from the Dome where we are packed three to a seat and back to belly, standing on Orleans Parish school buses. Each of us is allowed one piece of baggage (on your lap, please). I’ll carry the damn thing on my head. I’m getting out of here!

The excitement dies down when I come to the realization that we do have idiots among us. These young folks will wake up to some new rules that apply outside the Crescent City. Someone jokes about body functions and how bad these culprits are for farting on a packed bus. IDIOTS!!! You’ll never forget that smell and will welcome a fart next time. THOSE ARE BODIES IN WATER FOR FIVE DAYS! May the Creator rest their souls.

We are riding toward Armstrong International [Airport]. Somewhere along the way, we turn off and park along a very dark road. Large tour buses are idling on the shoulder. We are being moved to board for the last leg of this nightmare. Our first kindness is shown by a Louisiana state trooper who allows us to get on a second bus and away from the young thugs from the school bus. The luxury of the air conditioned bus escapes me. I’m freezing after being in the heat for five days. No complaints, there’s leg room, the bags are in the storage compartment, children are sleeping.

Nettie and I settle into the front seat opposite the driver. We ain’t crazy, this man’s making his third run between New Orleans and Texas and we are not about to kiss our asses goodbye in a bus after we showed our asses to Bitch Katrina. We hold pleasant conversation with the driver and find out that we are being brought to Dallas. Our tensions ease a little bit but we won’t rest easy until we speak to the Boutté family. We need to know that everybody is OK, let them know we’re OK and that we love them all very much.

There’s still no sleep for me. I want to be up for sunrise on dry ground. I want to see the sign “Welcome to Texas.” As we ride up to the Texas Visitors Center, I can’t believe my eyes. There are large tables spread out all over the grounds, tables with breakfast foods (hot and cold), a medical tent with doctors and nurses to visit, toys for the children, volunteers serving us like we are special guests. I’m speechless and can only say “thank you.”

We return to the buses for our final destination. Our spirits are lifting a little and we just want to get there. When we reach the Dallas Convention Center there is one more procedure to go through before being allowed into the shelter. Body and bus search must be made for the safety of all survivors/refugees. Those refusing are moved aside and not allowed back on the bus. THANK YOU TEXAS.

Once allowed into the Center, we were processed by the Red Cross, given identification bands and offered free phones, mobile phone charges, bathrooms, sleeping space, and food, food, food. Breakfast wasn’t picked up until lunch was ready. Lunch wasn’t picked up until dinner was ready. Constant arrivals always had food and comfort no matter what time they arrived. A play area was set up for the little ones and hosted by the Dallas cheerleaders. A play area was set up for the bigger ones and hosted by the Dallas Cowboys. THANK YOU TEXAS.

We immediately joined the long line for the phones. Nettie makes the first call and is able to learn that [daughter][ Tanya is OK. After that, she was completely worthless. I have never, never seen my sister cry so hard that she couldn’t breathe. Tanya, your mama loves you very much. She is able to let them know that we were safe and in Dallas. Tanya had made it to Houston and was safe with some dear friends, the Guillets.

I was able to get in touch with Paul [Longstreth]. I knew he and his sister made it to Houston and they would have heard from Tricia. He told me to look for him in three hours. He was coming to get me! I would have refuge with the Longstreths. Tricia is due in from Norway the next week. I’ll be able to hold my baby in my arms.

I won’t tell you what I found in my clothes from three days in them after walking through the water. I will tell you that I started crying and couldn’t stop. Not from weariness, not from hunger, not from fear, not from the sadness that would grip me after my rescue to Houston. I was crying because I felt I was being treated like a human being for the first time since August 29. The smallest kindnesses overwhelmed me. THANK YOU TEXAS.

Paul was there in three hours and we turned around and immediately went back to Houston. I told him that I wanted to take a shower, a bath and another shower. I was welcomed into the Houston Longstreths’ home and made at ease as I have mentioned in my love letter to you.

Texas has been very kind to thousands of New Orleans’ native children and still shows this giving nature to us as I write this. You won’t see much of that side of the story on the news. They are good at showing the bad stuff. It’s what “news” is made of, sadly. Whether this will be our permanent home, whether we will come back home or move someplace else, I have learned that being a survivor means home is deep inside the bones. It has nothing to do with “place” on this earth. My roots go deep, deep in to the silt and wet soil of New Orleans. Our family has a recorded history that leaves its mark all over the city. These roots are not just musical. The creative spirit appears in whatever we choose to do with our lives. We can document twelve, do you hear me, twelve generations in New Orleans. Our family is scattered across the country and it makes no difference. The Boutté ties are so great that we will survive. We will love each other as strongly as we did when we were all in the same house. GRIEVE, NEW ORLEANS, YOU’VE LOST A GREAT COLLECTIVE TREASURE.

I grieve for families lost, I grieve for neighborhoods vanished, I grieve for loved ones displaced, I grieve for the bodies still waiting to be found, I grieve for those washed out to sea and who are not being counted, I grieve for those souls who will have no saints marching them into heaven. MAY THE CREATOR REST YOUR SOUL, NEW ORLEANS. I WAIT FOR YOUR RESURRECTION.

As I complete my story, Yolanda Adams sings “While riding through the storm (I ride safely in my Savior’s arms)…”

—Lolet Boutté, January 3, 2006

About the Author:

Lolet Boutté

Lolet Boutté is the first born of ten artistic, gifted siblings that cover every spectrum of creativity including visual artists, vocal artists, filmmakers, photographers, TV producers and top-notch financial experts and advisors. Her parents were avid readers and encouraged reading to the children at a young age. At three years old, Lolet was allowed to draw in their large Book Club collection, “as long it was in the blank spaces and not on the words.” This strong base of encouragement and school awards in the arts resulted in Lolet graduating from Xavier University of New Orleans with a B.A. in Fine Arts. Her first successful sale was made at her Senior Exhibit just before graduating. The piece was titled “Guitar Player,” a block print on stained rice paper, purchased by a N.Y. State Representative who was the commencement speaker. Boutté’s craftsmanship, under the early tutelage of her grandmother, resulted in her working as a graphic artist with several government contract companies at NASA Louisiana for 17+ years. As “side inspiration,” she kept her creative juices flowing by doing commissions, costume designs, inspired whimsy and teaching traditional Mardi Gras Indian beading. Lolet put her art on hold after the flood in New Orleans had destroyed almost all of her original works but, with the encouragement of living in the Elder Street Artist Lofts in Houston and being surrounded by wonderful people, she “collected” her inspiration and returned home to New Orleans to live among another group of inspiring young and senior artists and musicians. No “style” can be attached to her works because she studied “Liberal Arts” and believes that’s the green light to be liberal in her individual pieces. She has a deep love for pen & ink, gets into personal mythology if she uses an airbrush, always feels a challenge when using colors and may be working on a piece of tree, an old roof shingle or beading a mysterious face. Her website and her Instagram page showcase her works.

The post KATRINA CHRONICLES: A FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT appeared first on OffBeat Magazine.


Source: OffBeat Magazine


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