Dec 05

A dispatch from Harry on New Orleans

Patrick, Great to hear from you. I am now in Gulf Shores playing hooky with Mary. We embrace any chance to get out of New Orleans. Indeed the damage is staggering-and depressing. One report estimates that over 50% of local residents have clinically significant depression. Every day brings news of businesses failing or moving away. Even in the French Quarter many shops have shut down. It is a real Catch 22. With so many homes and apartments destroyed or unoccupiable, businesses cannot find workers or customers. Workers cannot return because there is no place to live. It is numbing to drive through New Orleans and see mile after mile of severely damaged homes. Even when utilities are restored many will not be able to build. They may not be eligible for insurance and without that they cannot qualify for a mortgage. Most did not have flood insurance, so they do not have enough equity to obtain a loan. Without employment, a loan is a pipe dream. I think you get the picture. Gotta run. I’ll write more later today. Harry

Dec 05

Response to NYT article on Louisiana’s governor

From Harry …

Thanks for the article. We call her “Meemaw”. There have been some wild editorials in the local paper saying “Meemaw’s tranq’d” . One writer wanted to send the national guard in to free Edwin Edwards from the federal pen so he could be brought back to save La. We know he will steal so we just factor in a percentage for graft! Meemaw had difficulty making deciisons even before the hurricane. This is the 5th governor I have wowrked for and this has been the most unproductive, unchartered time even pre-Katrina. There are Meemaw recall petitions circulating now. Hopefully she will be able to be a help in rebuilding, but so far she has done nothing.

Dec 05

New Orleans …

My correspondence with my cousin and his spouse continues. They live in Metarie, Louisiana, and both are attorneys. Following is most of an e-mail from Mary written in her usual rapid style, typos and all. Of course this is just how she writes e-mails.

GULF SHORES, MISS. — Hey Patrick! It’s Mary-Hope ya’ll had a great Christmas. We’re still alive and fighting to get back to normal. I am in Gulf SHores. I ran away the day after Christmas. I got up, made my specail andouille sausage, left over turkey gumbo and headed to the beach. It is nice to get away from N.O. Harry has finally moved his files, copy/fax machine, computers, secretary, and paralegal out of our house and back to his office. There is still plywood on his office windows etc but the new carpett and wallpaper went in. We need to get him new office furniture, but they will start working there after New Year’s Day. We didn’t decorate much for Christmas because it still rains in our great room downstairs where we put up the tree. We have had 4 patch jobs done to our roof but are still waiting on a full new roof. Then I can hang paintings back up etc. Harry and I run to the attic each time it rains-we have tarps inside the attic as well as out. We bail out the rain and hope no more comes through the ceiling! But we are very fortunate compared to so many. There are now a lot of FEMA trailers on our block. Our neighbors that are back all have 2 story homes. The bottoms are gutted out and they loive upstairs. They have to wash their dishes in the bath tubs and set up temporary kitchens. The FEMA trailers make things easier for them. There were some very creative Christmas decorations on FEMA trailers. It wil be years before the city gets fixed up, but some areas are showing improvement. Our oldest daughter Shelly got to come home for 48 hours! She is in D.C. and has a job and has no vacation time, but it was great to have her home for the 2 days. She is working as the an admin. assistant/office manager for the campaign of the democratic candidate, Doug Duncan, who is running for governor of Maryland. She really likes the job, is making contacts and getting her foot in the door. Her boss is the campaign manager/consultant-he is from La. She is working hard and loves it. It will be interesting to see where she goes after the campaign is over. I think she would eventually like to “work on the Hill”. Julie did not like St Louis. It snowed and she was cold. So she is back to start classes at Loyola on Jan. 9th. Right now she is living at home and is not too pleased. The area around the universities had minor to moderate damage so there are not a lot of apartments available. Tulane is bringing in a cruise ship for some of their students to live on this semester. Julie is very resourceful so I imagine she wil find some aptmt or empty dorm room. I am still not in my office but we hope to get back in by the end of January. I lost half of my attorneys so we should not have to lose anyone in layoffs. We still are missing one or 2 foster children. It is sad but many of our teenage foster children have already been arrested or hospitalized in other states or cities. I guess we will eventually close a lot of cases. Most foster parents want to return to N.O. but many lived in n.O. East which had 10 feet of water. What scares me the most is that no one has a plan for how we should rebuild=which areas, what new code requirements etc. Harry has enough cases to last at least 5-6 years. Since our house is paid for and our kids are out of high school we can just wait and see what happens, but I am glad that I can run away to Gulf Shores! The majority of N.O. still does not have power, water, gas, stop lights etc. Since nothing is being done and hurricane season is just 6 months away, hopefully the levees will hold this next storm season til repairs are made. Have a safe and Happy New Year.

Sep 05

The word from New Orleans

Flooding in a neighborhood in New Orleans


Thanks for your messages. Sorry to be so slow getting back to you.

Sometimes I feel like I’m at the helm of a rudderless boat caught in a whirlpool.
Speaking of the legal system shutting down, tomorrow will be the 1st time I will have a chance to get into my office since the storm. Despite repeated efforts on my part, I have been unable to get any word from my landlord about the condition of my office. From standing on the levee yesterday I saw that the construction crew was using my space to bring out plywood to close window gaps on other floors. Their efforts may have done more harm than the storm. For over two weeks I have had no access to my files, computer data and calendar. I cannot reach my clients and they cannot reach me. The last couple evenings we have had internet access at Mary’s sister’s house in Madisonville, north of Lake Pontchartrain. Before that we had to use the public library in Gulf Shores, Al. Hopefully tomorrow Shelly will get us DSL service in Gulf Shores. We have been getting by on cell phone service and even that did not work for the 1st few days and has been overloaded since then.

It is possible we will have power restored by Friday to our home in Metairie. As great as it will be to get back into our bed, it will be heartbreaking. Our house is on a raised slab and did not flood. All of our neighbors flooded. Many have one story homes and thus lost even their bedroom. Our only flooding was a foot of water in our cabana and water in Shelly’s car. She doesn’t mind because she would like to take the insurance money and apply it to a new car.
Julie was able to transfer for at least one semester to St. Louis Univ. She has been gone 10 days already. Shelly is postponing graduate school for one year and looking for a job in D.C. She and a classmate have already lined up an apartment. Since the rebuilding of New Orleans will take years, and success is hardly preordained, I hope they both seek opportunities elsewhere. It will take the equivalent of the Marshall plan to get this region on its feet again and I doubt that our government will have the resolve to see it through. The workers and customers are all gone and many have no homes to return to; the businesses are shut down with heavy damage; and, the cleanup necessary for any commerce or repopulation to occur will take many months. What a gargantuan task!

Best wishes, Harry

[NOTE: See €œcomments€ for a copy of an article from the NYT on the collapse of the legal system in New Orleans]

Sep 05

Waiting for word from the Gulf Coast

WE ARE AWAITING WORD from our cousin, an attorney, whose family evacuated from New Orleans (both daughters are in University there). He and his spouse (also an attorney) were in Philadelphia on business when the storm hit. His sister reported that he is heading to Texas to pick up one daughter, a generator, and emergency supplies while his wife is headed to Florida to meet up with the other daughter. Their home is in Metairie, near a place called Bucktown (not far from the now infamous I-10 and the Causeway interchange), and is almost certainly under water. They have a place in Gulf Shores they had only recently repaired due to earlier hurricane damage. Located on the western edge of Katrina they are hoping, hoping, there is something there so they will have temporary housing while things sort out in New Orleans. Our only visit to New Orleans was a quarter century ago to attend this cousin’s wedding. He had almost 100 percent participation from his extended family, a success he dryly attributed to the wedding’s location. We all stayed in a hotel on Bourbon Street that was holding a block of rooms for us. I distinctly remember two things about New Orleans. Jackson Square, the French Quarter; and downtown (we were advised to €œstay away€ from other neighborhoods).

We walked to downtown to buy some shoes needed for the wedding and had the very interesting experience away from the tourist area of being virtually the only non-black people in the teeming shopping district. We were served, very politely, in a shoe store and later remarked about the difference in the role reversal. We were curiosities, yes, but experienced no icy treatment sometimes afforded blacks living as minorities almost everywhere else in America. My family are Philadelphians. My cousin went to New Orleans to study law at Tulane, discovered he was trained in a legal system based in French Colonial law found in no other state but Louisiana; married a local girl and; anyway, was swallowed whole by New Orleans culture. He was adopted by a city with a spirit and style that even this disaster will not quell.

WHERE WAS THE CAVALRY? My hope is that the news media will somehow break out of its pack mentality and actually find out WHY it took so long for the federal government to reach the city in force large enough to make a difference, save lives and restore order. I am not proud of my country right now. I would like to understand the things that stood in the way of a more comprehensive, timely, response. As I finished writing this my wife, who is from the Pacific Northwest, said she had just received word from her brother in Eugene that he may be sent to the Gulf Coast to help with disaster relief coordination. Her brother, a retired Seattle fire captain, is a forest fire dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service. I will agree with Mr. Bush on one thing he says. Katrina is a national disaster. Here we are in St. Paul, Minnesota, and can easily describe ways in which this momentous calamity is touching our lives besides forcing up the price of a gallon gasoline to $3.