TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Alternative News re: Katrina

Alternative News re: Katrina

Debbie DKTubiolo (
Mon, 5 Sep 2005 21:54 CST

From: David Melton <>
To:,Debbie DKTubiolo
Subject: Fw: alternative news re: Katrina
Date: Mon, 5 Sep 2005 16:58:17 -0500

> Worth reading. The list of things to be mad about just gets longer and
> longer every day.
> Dave & Midori

> "The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle;
> pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without
> character; business without morality; science without humanity; and
> worship without sacrifice." -Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

----- Original Message -----

Hi family & friends,

Check out this alternative to the news media re: Katrina. I feel it is
important to balance out the info coming out of the major networks with
this kind of info. Jose is a performance artist who sent this to a friend
of the family who lives in N.O. and evacuated. Feel free to forward.

Peace, Dori

Subject: RE: Jose Torres Tama "Hurricane Katrina and the chaos of New
Orleans in her aftermath"

To all loved ones, friends/amigos, I am safe at Andrei Codrescu's
house and writing from there. Below is an account of how I escaped
through a wormhole in the madness. --Jose

Hurricane Katrina and the chaos of New Orleans in her aftermath

Amigos, how do I begin to speak a picture of the aftermath that was
an even greater terror than the physical damage that Hurricane
Katrina spawned as some kind of water fury birthing an urban
Kali-like chaos fueled further by the incompetence of local and
state officials? The continuous quantity of misinformation that
local and national media began spewing out
was irresponsible and more than incorrect at times as the resilient and
mythic city of New Orleans was already being pronounced dead and those of
us who voluntarily chose to stay behind in hopes of helping to repair
whatever damage Katrina might inflict were eventually sequestered by bad
news, the ineptitude of local governance and currently the national
disaster relief creating an apocalypse.

I chose to stay because I am devoted to a city I love and was willing
to ride out any natural storm in a metropolis that has survived yellow
fever epidemics and two early fires that cindered the old French
Quarter to the ground so that the Spanish could rebuild it when it was
a capital of its providences -- even before there was a United
States. New Orleans has a history before the imagination of thirteen
colonies dreamed a revolution against the British to proclaim their
independence. This city is African, Latin, Caribbean, French, Spanish,
Irish, Italian, Vietnamese and Honduran and only after the Louisiana
Purchase in 1803 did it have an "American" presence and become part of
the Union that is now denying it its last breath.

So I ask you where is the compassionate conservative regime that seems
politically poised to punish this first multiracial port city in the
hemispheric Americas that recently voted itself the color blue in a
red state? Is a Christian maniacal executive chief whipping New
Orleans into submission like so many African slaves were whipped by
similar bible-toting masters only a century and half ago?

I am offering such a historical timeline and perspective on how the
past effects the present because we are generally uniformed about this
city that is more than Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and the party town of the
Old South. I am pleading for a collective scream from coast to coast
to save this eclectic relic of a city that has been a home for
many -- from one century to another. New Orleans deserves an organized
effort of heart and efficiency. It has survived hurricanes before, but
it is having trouble surviving the official storm masquerading as a
savior. How is it that this great empire of capital and industry
cannot manage to organize its technology to mount a proper rescue for
the most precious pueblo in its possession?

I was able to get out on the Wednesday after Katrina hit when the city
officials ordered the water shut down. The water was cut and it was
time to go. And I had to flee this city that I have lived in for the
past twenty years not via the efforts of authorized personnel but via
a pirate bus, a yellow vehicle with the Jefferson Parish School Board
brand on its side -- a bus that operated the kind of rescue mission only
imagined in a Louisiana Hollywood bayou version of "Hotel Rwanda." I
escaped with my partner Claudia Copeland, my writer friend Jimmy
Nolan, who is a fifth-generation native born in the middle of an
unnamed hurricane, and his neighbor who I only know as Kip. Kip was on
his third day of survival without access to a dialysis machine that
cleans his liver and allows him to live.

We, the ones who stubbornly stay from one hurricane to another that
places us in the "cone of uncertainty," do so because we understand
that our human resilience after the natural storm will help rebuild
and weather whatever mother nature decides to throw at us. We know how
to live with hurricanes and their aftermath, but we were not prepared
for the official sequestering that unleashed an even more furious
storm of urban desperation. Desperation that festered like an
untreated wound in an August summer.

Yes, Katrina was a force to be reckoned with and her damage was more
catastrophic than Hurricane Andrew which hit west of New Orleans in
the early '90's. Yes, there was flooding in East New Orleans, the
ninth ward, the Bywater, the Lakeside area, but it was never reported
that most of the French Quarter and parts of the second historic
neighborhood called the Faubourg Marigny that borders the old city was
mostly above water and actually very dry only hours after the category
five pounding of Katrina.

We were recipients of all the prayers and rituals that keep New
Orleans from total destruction because the Virgin Mary, Yemaya and the
river goddesses always protect us at the last possible minute and even
Katrina did not hit us directly with her unrelenting winds and
water. In this city that knows respect for the ancients, this city of
ghosts and ancestors is ultimately protected by the magic chants,
offerings and incantations of the local voodoo practitioners who are
at work every hurricane season to make their voices heard so that
mother nature veers her force just enough to allow us another year of
life. I have more faith in the voodoo practitioners and their prayers
for the city than the officials of local and state government whose
perplexing decisions began plunging us into greater despair after the

I live on Dauphine Street in the Marigny neighborhood that extends
down river of the Quarter. We were mostly dry and the camel-back house
that I rent had very little damage with some of the siding blown along
the side yard. I am a pantheist and like other New Orleanians, I have
altars at my house. I am in belief that the one altar to "La Virgen
Maria" inspired the large fig tree to fall towards the spacious yard
and away from the back porch. Had it fallen in the opposite direction,
it would have crushed half of the house. As such, most of the houses
in this area were intact-structurally with one or two houses
compromised by a fallen tree. Yes, trees lined a variety of parallel
streets with names like Royal and Burgundy. These streets were
impassible, but this was minor as compared to the more eastern
sections of the city that were closer to the eye of the storm. We were
spared Katrina's eye and the Northeastern quadrant that always carries
a greater punch as demonstrated by the destructive remnants seen in
Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. Overall, this area and the middle
of the French Quarter where I rode out the storm at Jimmy's house was
not flooded in contrast to local and national reports that were
carelessly assessing the Quarter as being "destroyed".

Can you imagine the terror that this bad information evoked in my
mother who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey and had been praying for
me, Claudia and my friends since before Katrina hit on Sunday night? My
mother is a devout Catholic and she prays with heartfelt belief that
God will hear you in times of despair.

But the misinformation and irresponsible reports began at 10pm that
night when the local CBS affiliate Channel 4, which had relocated a
crew to Baton Rouge, began reporting that the weather conditions in
the French Quarter had already deteriorated. They began sounding off
a false alarm to anyone that had changed their minds at this time of
night and were considering to seek safer shelter. Their "news" was
that it was too dangerous to walk the streets of the Quarter now in
search of shelter at the Superdome because the weather conditions had
"deteriorated." This was absolutely untrue -- false, a fabricated
"news" lie by reporters who were 85 miles away at the state capitol.
I was there in the middle of the French Quarter and the conditions
were such that some light rain and wind was all that you could

In fact, I was on a second floor balcony in the heart of the Vieux
Carre at Dumaine and Royal Street, and certainly if anyone was in
belief of this information, they would have lost a chance to seek
shelter. Where these reporters were getting their misinformation from
and recycling it out to the local community is unknown to me, but for
a crew safely stowed away in Baton Rouge, they had no right to spew
out this nonsense. Not only was this more of the sensationalized
rubbish disguising itself as journalism, but these reporters began
selling panic as a consumer item. Yes, it was beyond being
irresponsible because while they were sitting over-caked in make-up in
a safe makeshift studio, they became an ugly metaphor for the spewing
of misinformation and panic mongering that grew into an apocalyptic
speculation that already had the city under twenty-feet of water even
when Katrina was 100 miles away and moving eastward.

They digressed into a reality TV news show that was now using Katrina
as a measure for high ratings. Be aware that when a hurricane is in
the Gulf the reporters and weather men and women are the stars of the
show. These were not journalists bringing you information, for they
resembled chattering egos positioning themselves for "glorious
coverage" -- not unlike the city council officials who were also
gloating in the applause for themselves for their "contra-flow"
evacuation strategies that again turned the interstate 10 east and
west into a parking lot of more desperation. It seemed that very
little had improved from last year's highway experiment that clogged
evacuees for ten hours to move thirty miles outside of the city in
either direction as Hurricane Ivan "the terrible" had us in its "cone
of uncertainty" then.

Come every June, we, as citizens of New Orleans, know that we will be
placed in the "cone of uncertainty" again and again by newly-named
storms and depressions that may organize themselves into hurricanes of
categories from one to five. We prepare as always by shuddering our
homes, boarding any exposed windows, gathering batteries, canned
foods, candles, flashlights, wine and bottled water. We are efficient
in such rituals and can make our environments hurricane ready in a few
hours of concentrated energy. We are not made desperate by the
threats of hurricanes that come into the Gulf of Mexico every year,
but after Katrina hit, we became some kind of social experiment as
water supplies were cut off and rumors that the city may not be
brought back to even the least of working conditions for the next two
to three months spread as much as the other information that had the
French Quarter flooding on Tuesday afternoon because of the levee
breaches and the failure of the national rescue efforts to secure that

By the afternoon of Wednesday, August 31, on other rumors that private
hotels like the Hotel Monteleone at the Canal St. end of the Quarter
were possibly having buses evacuate their guests to safety, we
purchased the hope of a $45 dollar ticket to Houston, TX on a fleet of
vehicles that were to arrive by 6pm. The hotel management had
organized a twenty-five thousand dollar rescue mission of chartered
buses escorted by state police to take their trapped guests to safety.
A few hundred residents had learned of this priceless information, and
most notably only a few feet away Allen Toussaint, the legendary
composer and musician, was standing in line with myself, Claudia,
Jimmy, and Kip, the three hundred hotel guests and the other
two-hundred lucky residents holding tickets out of the apocalypse.

By 9pm the buses had not arrived and the hotel management was as
confused us all of us waiting as to why we were still standing there
at this time of night with the city police escort they had also hired
just in case their missing buses were rushed by people without the
proper tickets to board. When the yellow pirate school bus cut the
dark like some night creature on the street pointing its blinding
headlight eyes to the waiting hundreds some cheers broke the
whisperings, and we finally thought our hired fleet of heroic rescue
vehicles had arrived. The bus only arrived with the information that
the fleet had been commandeered-confiscated -- stolen by local police
officials acting on martial law.

All along, I had placed myself in waiting close to the hotel
management at the corner of Royal and Iberville to be in proximity to
hear any information on what was unfolding. Only then did I speak to
one of the yellow bus crew of two that told me there were no buses
coming and that they were there relaying this difficult news while
offering passage to Baton Rouge at fifty dollars a head. Imagine how
this conversation was taking place in the flashlight lit dark of night
on a French Quarter street corner where the sounds of madness were
audible a block away on the infamous Bourbon Street that normally
hosts an all-night party for Puritans and yahoos that come to unwind,
drink, and throw up from all parts of the country because they cannot
have that much fun in their own cities of social convention and
Christian repression.

Certainly, we made an offer to the bus driver for the four of us that
was quite below their asking rate, and like any other transaction
under the table in this city, it was accepted. We got on the bus as
the Monteleone management was trying to figure out what to do and if
to relay the bad news to the five-hundred people that were losing hope
as the night grew more ominous. We handed over our collection of
dollars to the bus driver and sat on the cold steel floor, with Allen
Toussaint already having been the first to mount this pirate bus when
it pulled up to the street. He sat among a small group of folks that
were already on board -- occupying one of the coveted seats. I was
ecstatic to be on any vehicle ready to drive me out of town and would
have sat on the roof if I had to.

If the Monteleone could privately engineer a rescue effort to bring in
ten buses, then how is it possible that the city and state could not
organize a fleet of 100 buses to rescue all the people left behind?
These officials could have used the stealth training of the pirate bus
crew that seemed to come in and out of town through back roads that
were quite dry as opposed to news accounts that water compromised all
land rescue efforts. We, the citizens of New Orleans who have managed
to escape, are willing to mount our own pirate and private efforts to
come and rescue our friends and family members who are still trapped
by the infinite and mounting incompetence of those in command.

I ask you to mount a collective scream of outrage and wolf howls into
the airwaves, radio and TV stations, so that we can come in to do what
we have always done in times of disaster and that is to lend a genuine
human effort that is tribal community oriented and truly
compassionate. We are being played as a reality TV show for political
sadists who have the audacity to publicly say we are not worthy of
governmental support because we are an old city. Just yesterday, I
heard that a Republican politician spewed some vitriol to that
effect. Yes, we are an old city in these young United States, and we
have survived a few bad governments, slavery, and tropical
plagues. Right now we are bearing witness to the social plague of
heartlessness and racism, political inefficiency and it is denying
life to this gumbo city of African, Caribbean, Spanish, French, Irish,
and Italian influences. We are being denied the opportunity to rise
into the future of this century. We are being denied the opportunity
to return to the city we love and rebuild it as only we can-re-shape
it into the grand dame that it has been from one century to another.

Jose Torres Tama
Baton Rouge, LA
Saturday, September 3, 2005

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