I apologize for the long wait between chapters but as you may have surmised, I am from New Orleans. Now some of you may not be aware, but New Orleans was devastated by a levee failure that occurred after the worst of hurricane Katrina had passed. Please make no mistake - Katrina did not flood the city - the faulty levees did.
As I have mentioned before, the chronicles are based on real people. Here is a brief rundown of how Katrina, Rita and the levee failure flooding have affected us and other close family.
The real KC attends school in central Louisiana. Her school escaped direct hits from Katrina and Rita. However, Katrina did knock out power for about three days at her school.
KC's real mother stayed in the area north of Lake Pontchartrain to care for some mentally retarded clients. For nearly a week, none of us knew whether "Betty" was alive or dead. She made it OK.
KC's real dad was also incommunicado for some days. He also is OK.
"Jane" (she's alive but did have cancer) and I intended to ride out the storm. Our house, (briefly mentioned in Chapter 4) is around 150 years old. We figured it would be OK. However Jane's mom, another of Jane's sisters and her child came to stay with us. When Mayor Nagin came on the Sat. 10 PM news and said, "This is the worst case scenario!" we evacuated. Two cars, 5 people and 4 cats. We ended up staying in Memphis with Jane's brother for two weeks. Jane, our cat and I stayed with a cousin of hers for another 3 weeks just outside of Baton Rouge.
"Jane" is a mental health professional who works for the State Of La. She was working in Baton Rouge within two weeks of Katrina's landfall. I'm a consultant engineer temporarily assigned to one of the Big Oil companies. Since early October, Jane and I have been living in a hotel in downtown New Orleans. For 3 weeks I commuted weekly to Houston where my company temporarily relocated until the Big Oil company had office space for me. I now commute about 100 miles a day compared to a 10 block commute.
Our cat stayed with the cousin who had four other cats, one 19 years old. On our 17th anniversary our cat died of what apparently was a kitty heart attack. He was only 10 and in great health. In fact, our vet had examined him about a week before his death. One of the hallmarks of finally being at home would have been to watch the tube with our cat purring in our laps. Now that never will happen.
Our house is in the 20% of the city that didn't flood. However the wind knocked over a chimney and we lost many other shingles and a window to the wind. The subsequent rain damage was extensive. Repair estimates are in the $200,000 to $250, 000 range. We have a patch on the roof and are awaiting the check from out insurance company. We have had to have our first adjuster removed. He literally has mental health problems. He told us when he first met us that he is on Zoloft.
My parents, who are 83, lost their house and everything in it except for some Depression glass items that miraculously survived three weeks of flooding. My brother, our wives and I were only able to salvage what you could fit on a standard office desk stacked about 2 feet high from Mom and Dad's home. They are currently living in Florida near Cape Canaveral having to pay rent when they had already paid off their home mortgage. My late uncle's family lives nearby and are keeping a close eye on them. Fortunately Mom and Dad have good pensions and social security.
The brother mentioned above lived very near Mom and Dad and his house flooded extensively also. My brother who is over 50 has a third wife who is a bit over 20. She is in her ninth month of pregnancy. Said brother is attempting to rebuild but is unsure whether his neighborhood will come back.
President Bush was here just a week ago. He made some remarks about how New Orleans looks like it used to. However he didn't tour my folks' neighborhood or any of the other flooded areas.
Folks, the area my parents lived in is still deserted. Lawns are dead. Trees are dead. Bushes are dead. Cats and dogs are virtually non-existent. There aren't even any birds around. Block after block has nothing but empty homes with waterlines 4 and 5 feet high. The waterlines inside my parents' home missed the 8-foot ceiling by inches. At night these neighborhoods are dark. And this goes on for MILES!
A picture in the local paper, the Times-Picayune, from Sunday Jan. 22 shows an aerial view of some 12 blocks in the Lower Ninth ward. About 3 houses remain in that residential area. The rest were destroyed by Katrina. Here is a description of what happened to one of my clients who lived in the Lower Ninth in her own words.
THIS IS D*******, MY FAMILY AND I ARE DOING FINE NOW. DURING THE WAKE OF KATRINA, WE COULD NOT FIND MY BROTHER AND UNCLE FOR WEEKS. THE TWO STAYED BEHIND. THE FAMILY WAS COMPLETETLY DEVASTATED BECAUSE WE HAVE HEARD SO MANY RUMORS CONCERNING THE TWO. FINALLY, WE RECIEVED A CALL STATING THAT MY BROTHER WAS FOUND IN OAKLAHOMA AND MY UNCLE WAS SOMEHOW FOUND IN MEXICO. WE HAVE SPOKEN WITH THE TWO AND THEY ARE BOTH SAFE. MY MOTHER'S HOUSE NO LONGER EXIT. THE UPSTAIRS PORTION OF THE HOUSE FELL INTO THE DIN AND THE BOTTOM PORTION MOVED INTO THE NEXT BLOCK. MY BROTHER WAS UPSTAIRS WHEN THE UPSTAIRS PROTION OF THE HOUSE SPLIT INTO AND FELL DOWN. THE BOTTOM PORTION OF THE HOUSE IS NOW LOCATED ON TOP OF ANTOHER HOUSE IN THE NEXT BLOCK. WE HAVE LOST EVERYTHING. WE WERE NOT ABLE TO SAVE NOT ONE SINGLE THING IN MY MOM'S HOUSE. MY HOUSE WHICH IS IN ST. BERNARD PARISH IS ALSO IN TERRIBLE CONDITION. I TOO WAS NOT ABLE TO SAVE ANYTHING. WE HAVE LOST EVERYTHING BUT I THANK GOD FOR THE LIFE OF MYSELF, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS. I HOPE THAT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY IS DOING FINE AND THAT EVERYONE MADE IT SAFE.
Some of you may be wondering why I'm writing all this. I have two reasons. One is to let you know that the KC Chronicles will continue but at a much, much slower pace. Figure a chapter per quarter at best.
The second reason is to ask you to email your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to help New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Many people I've spoken to have the opinion that people in New Orleans were "just asking for it." Yes, we knew that most of the city was below sea level and that we were at risk of flooding from a hurricane. New Orleans has the best drainage system in the world. We can pump out rainfall at the rate of 1/2" (12 cm) per hour for days before there is significant flooding. Nowhere else in the world can match that.
But it wasn't the rains from Katrina that caused the problems. It was the failure of levees to handle what they were designed to handle. If you watched TV as I did the Monday morning after Katrina had passed beyond New Orleans you saw wind damage but essentially dry streets. I recall with a chill when a CNN reporter announced that water was rising near the Superdome.
We in New Orleans trusted the Army Corps of Engineers to have built levees to certain design specifications. They didn't. For years our legislators have asked that the Federal government give Louisiana the same 50% share of oil and gas royalties that every other petroleum producing state gets. We have asked for help in restoring our coastline from the dredging that has taken place for the benefit of Big Oil. Louisiana normally loses the equivalent of a football field every 30 minutes. Katrina ate up 100 square miles of coastline and interior marsh.
America is spending billions of dollars in Iraq. We feel that as fellow Americans that we are equally deserving. We aren't asking for a handout. We are asking for help in rebuilding one of America's great cities.
Thanks for listening,