Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"... Under mattresses in the hallway..."

What follows is a quote from the Livejournal of author Poppy Z. Brite. In the past Ms. Brite has been known for her dark fiction, but in recent years she began to write in a decidedly different vein. To some, she is as quintessentially a New Orleans writer as Anne Rice.

A blog entry written August 28, 2005:
It took us eight hours to drive the approximately 80 miles here and I am exhausted. The only cool part was that as we drove through Bayou Sauvage, we saw about a hundred Magnificent Frigatebirds hovering low over the highway. You seldom see these birds over land unless a hurricane is coming or has just passed. These appeared to be all females and juvies -- I guess the men ride out the storm and send their families inland.

Besides the two animals and a few clothes and toiletries, here is what I brought:

-- My computer.

-- My copy of A Confederacy of Dunces signed by Thelma Toole.

-- My copy of When the Saints Go Marching In signed by Buddy D.

It's at times like these that you find out what you really cherish, I guess.

From an e-mail sent on August 30, 2005, information edited at the writer's request:
Ginny and Steve E. have not been heard from since I spoke with Ginny at 11:00AM yesterday(...)I have contacted Red Cross but have heard nothing yet. Ginny's last words to me were "We just lost 2 huge oak trees... my God,they were 300 years old! Listen... we are going to get under mattresses in the hallway..." Hopefully you can send up a Prayer,and maybe...find me someone in the Red Cross besides the robot that answers the phone...
More from the same correspondent, an out-of-state friend of Ginny's, the following written to the author of this blog later the same day, August 30:
I'm Ginnys out of state contact...She and Steve went through Camille when they were youngsters.

They live in Dixie, by Hattiesburg, on 5 acres. Ginny and I were in constant contact Sunday and Monday... till trees fell...

Dixie is tiny town so hoping someone will know something. They have children,too. She promised she would let me know, or have another contact let me know if they were ok...


When airplanes plowed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, it was obvious to anyone watching that in a moment the world had changed, irrevocably.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a disaster of a very different kind, much more slowly revealed, and in its way, equally horrific. It may even be the death of an American city, or at the least the worst blow of any kind to strike a major American city since the ravages of the Civil War, 140+ years ago. New Orleans seems to slowly be turning into the new Atlantis.

And truly, at this moment, no one has a grasp on the destruction that has been wrought in the region of southern Mississippi where the Ginny and Steve about whom you read above live. In Biloxi and Gulfport, the true number of dead may not be known for months to come.

For a different view of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, take a look at the following links to www.flickr.com:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I'm in California. I am saying my prayers and watching and waiting as the worst hurricane in history heads straight for New Orleans. Years ago, my son told me that one like this could hit. But I didn't believe him. Now it looks as if the entire city might be destroyed. Those I love have fled, some with their children. Others are simply trapped there.

A great deal of what I own may be lost forever; but as I sit here, I think these morning glories can bloom as beautifully some place else, too. They don't bloom only here on this mountain with its serene view of the sea. If my life is changed, I will survive. So many many others stand to lose all they possess, and even their lives. Such a terrifying time.

...The words above are a paraphrase of an e-mail from a writer who lived much of their life in New Orleans; identifying information was removed, the structure of some sentences altered slightly to preserve this person's privacy.

The news seems only to get slowly, sadly worse with each passing hour. Now there is news of some kind of riot in the Orleans Parish Prison.

There was also recently a report of two men with AK-47s firing into a police precinct in downtown New Orleans, from Jeff Goldblatt of Fox News.

To see your Storm Stories in this blog, e-mail them to voiceofthestorm5000@yahoo.com.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, came ashore near the border between Louisiana and Mississippi. Prior to the storm most of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, was evacuated, but a number of people unable to leave the city took shelter in various places there, including the Superdome, a covered stadium normally reserved for professional athletic events.

By August 30, 2005, the toll this storm took on the Gulf shore communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama began to be apparent. In the mid-morning hours of that Tuesday the death toll rose in short order from 55 to 80, and the streets of the storied party city of New Orleans, at first thought to have been spared the worst of the storm's fury, were slowly filling with floodwaters seeping out of Lake Ponchartrain.

As a child I experienced a different kind of storm -- the massive tornado outbreak of April 3/4, 1974. On that single day at least 300 tornadoes, many of them in the F-4 and F-5 range on the Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity, ravaged a zone stretching from northern Alabama through northern Ohio -- my own family home was narrowly missed by an F-3 twister that brought widespread destruction to the suburbs in the southeastern neighborhoods of my hometown.

I realized at least 20 years later just what an impact that single day in April had on my life, and that the story of that day was important to me, needed to be told. The story of the weeks after the twisters with no electricity, cooking supper on Coleman stoves on the front porch, even the story of the hour after the storm, when I looked up to see the steel-gray clouds sweeping away at impossible speeds, revealing a few minutes of crystalline blue sky before yet another storm's wrath barrelled in from the southwest.

This blog's purpose is to give voice to those who survived Hurricane Katrina and other storms like her. Stories of storms past and present are welcome.

As the blogger I will function as an amanuensis -- one who "takes dictation or copies manuscripts." I blog, myself, and at least two of my blogs are very popular, but because of the purpose I have set for this particular weblog, I don't feel my identity is important. My own weblogs will not be referenced here or linked.

The way I will be an amanuensis is by soliciting your stories. The method I have chosen to use at first is e-mail. The e-mail address reserved for correspondence and entry material for this weblog is the following: voiceofthestorm5000@yahoo.com.

A large number of people who might have stories of contact with this storm and its aftermath have no internet connection at this moment, but there are probably enough to begin this endeavor. And while this blog begins by seeking stories specific to Katrina, having survived that storm, lost something or even someone to that storm, I felt this journal might have longer life if I made it clear that all stories of survival, hope, even tragedy, from storms past and future are also welcomed.

Submissions to the e-mail address above will be edited for grammar and spelling. I may at times respond to submissions with requests for additional information and clarification. You, the submitter, may remain as anonymous as you like -- it must be made clear as part of your submission how much or how little you would like the readers to know about you.

A secondary source of stories can be the comments for any post, however I would prefer e-mail if your story is lengthy.

I will not respond to requests for personal information about myself or queries to the e-mail provided directed at determining my identity. If you think you know who I am, feel free to e-mail my personal e-mail address, if you believe you know it, to ask, and I will consider telling you. It isn't my intention to be mysterious; I just feel the telling of these stories from The Storm is far more important than knowing who I am or promoting myself in some manner. Make no mistake; I'm not that altruistic -- in my other blogging endeavors I am anything but shy about getting my name 'out there.' But humanity's bewildering, and often terrifying encounters with the implacable forces of nature lend themselves to narrative, and also call for, in my opinion, an effort to preserve the recollections of victims in whatever way possible. The advent of blogging, of "citizen" journalism, provides something many who shared the experience of that massive outbreak in April of 1974 never had -- a place to give voice to the experience, to the fear, to the grief, and even sometimes in the midst of disaster, the joy.

It is my hope that no one will think their story too insignificant to offer, and that I will do your words, your memories, justice.

Again, the e-mail address to submit your stories from The Storm -- voiceofthestorm5000@yahoo.com.

For clarification, I am interested stories from anyone who feels they have one to tell. If you are a reporter who covered this or another, similar event, and you have a wealth of stories that you've never been able to detail, let me hear it. If you are a stormchaser of any sort, write me. If you are just someone lucky enough to have survived and you aren't even comfortable with e-mail but you need to get the experience off your chest, please write a submission and send it to voiceofthestorm5000@yahoo.com.

I welcome all submissions, and should I ever not use one, I will take the time to explain why and in detail -- the only criteria I have is that your experience is connected to The Storm. At the moment, a priority will be placed on stories about Hurricane Katrina, but all stories will eventually make it here after I've reviewed, and if necessary, edited the submission. An example of what I will accept; say you live very far from any of the most recently storm-ravaged zones but you have family there, and you have not been able to reach them, or had an experience where you could not contact anyone to reassure yourself they were okay. This would be an instance where you didn't directly experience the event, but that doesn't make your story any less worth telling. Completely non-event related blather, personal screeds, politics, whatever, won't make it into this blog. So save the rant you've prepared about the true and dark calumnies committed by the Bush Administration or how Bill Clinton really fathered an alien baby by your half-step-sister, they will be deleted from the comments and the e-mails will be chucked.