September 02, 2005
New Orleans No Longer The Big Easy
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
The hallowed spot where Adam Vinatieri kicked the most famous Patriot field goal lies amidst the worst manifestation of Hell on earth.
People in Mississippi are calling this “our tsunami”.
Refugees had to ride a school bus 350 long, hot and stifling miles to the Houston Astrodome, only to be turned away because there is no longer any room for them.
Now, if you ever complain about the weather anymore, forget about waiting a minute. Just head way down yonder to New Orleans. You’ll grasp a whole new meaning of the word “complain”.
As well as “catastrophe”. “Devastation”. “Chaos”. “Cataclysm”.
When an order is issued to evacuate a city of 500,000 people, you might begin to understand the magnitude of the mass mayhem Hurricane Katrina laid upon the Gulf Coast in general and New Orleans in particular. The Big Easy has born the brunt of all the widespread devastation largely because levees which hold back water from Lake Ponchartrain gave way, dumping billions of gallons of water into a city which lies below sea level. But the damage from Katrina is all over the place in this part of the country, damage which will take years to recover from, if recovery is possible.
If it’s bad, it happened down there. Lives lost. Homes lost. No potable water. No food. Looting. Shooting. Women raped. Shelters reeking of human waste. An emergency system (if you can call it that) which is being exposed as woefully inadequate.
How bad is it? A National Guardsman told a reporter that he would prefer to be in Iraq. Danger, yes, but he would at least have three meals a day and had means to protect himself.
Two weeks ago, the New Orleans Saints came to Foxborough. Two weeks later, the Saints have no home to play in, no city to go home to, and are looking at a lost, vagabond season with a lame duck head coach. The Saints are probably going to play their 2005 home games in San Antonio at the AlamoDome. It will be interesting to see how much these players can concentrate on football. Some players have said that playing football will help the city psychologically, but such talk rings completely hollow. Any flood refugee who has the time to think about Jim Haslett’s job security or Joe Horn’s behavior has a reality detachment problem.
Any football player with ties to this area can’t possibly settle down completely and think football. Brett Favre, who is from Mississippi, gave a long press conference on Wednesday and talked only about the flooding and his family’s situation. Favre gave still another indication of how bad things are down there by saying “I asked (wife) Deanna if I should go down there, could I be of any help, or would I simply just be in the way?” His wife told him to stay put in Wisconsin, he was of no help down in Kiln. Favre sent a message to “send generators” to anyone who would listen. He got a hold of his mother only because a Houston news reporter in her area with a satellite truck was able to use a cellphone.
Perhaps the most maddening reports to come out of this mess (and this helps explain why refugees are angry instead of grateful that they were led out of the area) deal with politicians who are congratulating each other for how they have dealt with this problem. What they are “congratulating” themselves for is a calamity which could have been avoided if the powers that be had paid attention to reports on the condition of those Lake Ponchartrain levees, as well as having literally no viable action plan to get help into such an area quicker.
And President Bush isn’t off the hook either. Many National Guard troops who could have come in and given more help are tied up in Iraq. Any refugee who is anti-war isn’t likely to give the President a favorable job approval rating.
So, what are we up here in New England to make of this?
When you talk about natural disasters and New England, you don’t usually think hurricanes. Hurricane Belle in 1976 was the closest we came to this kind of disaster. A fierce tornado hit Worcester in 1953. One in a blue moon, Maine will get minor earthquakes. Nor’easters are common and damaging, but not to this degree.
The only thing that happens here which can somewhat compare to this is when a violent snowstorm hits. The Blizzard of 1978 crippled the region for several days, but not to the extent where it took years to recover from. New Englanders may have been trapped in their houses for a few days back then, but such widespread human calamity that you have seen in New Orleans might never happen around these parts.
Other parts of the country are prone to natural disasters of other kinds. This writer resides in California, always under threats of earthquakes and brush fires. The Midwest is susceptible to destructive tornadoes. Cities and towns close to the Mississippi River and her tributaries are prone to heavy flooding caused by long and sustained rainstorms as opposed to hurricanes.
Our point? Enjoy New England and don’t complain about the weather.
Yes, it gets humid in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. But New England is largely spared the chance for the sort of extreme calamity which New Orleans is going through. We can get through tough winters and sweltering summers. But what New Orleans is going through staggers the imagination.
If nothing else, this tragedy in New Orleans should make you appreciate New England even more. You love the leaves in the fall and the wistfulness of gentle snowfall around Christmastime. You love the buds in the spring and the lovely green color of the rural mountains and valleys. The seacoast is both charming and inspiring, the older architecture very stately and comforting.
On the other hand, all that is left of a city known for jazz, gumbo, jambalaya and Bourbon Street is massive flooding, civil unrest, sickening stench, dead bodies being swept aside and ignored in order to help save lives, and scared and angry refugees wondering what the hell is going to happen to them. New Orleans as we once knew it may never exist again. If you ever dreamed of visiting Rue Bourbon some day, start working on new dreams.
Those of you who still regard the Super Bowl win by the Patriots in 2002 as a seminal moment in Boston sports history need to give pause and keep this great city in your thoughts. If you have the means to look at Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal over and over again, visions of the wounded Superdome today may cause you to never look at Super Bowl XXXVI the same ever again. All you can do is hope that the area can somehow stem the deaths and anarchy, and that the rebuilding process can begin soon.
In my fair city, new residents complained about 30 straight days of 103 degrees or hotter this summer. If they continue to complain, I have a nice solution for these poor people.
Shut up and head for New Orleans.
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