Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Sort of Homecoming

Mostly Sunny - Hi 100 Lo 73 for Baghdad, Iraq
Rain - Hi 59 Lo 51 for Northern KY, USA

Song of the week: A Sort of Homecoming,


I arrived home Saturday from a business trip down to the Gulf Region. Because of my early flight, I slept most of Saturday. Michael and I both decided that we had to have Chinese for dinner. Michael worked until 9:00PM so I was going to drive the 25 minutes one way to pick up P.F. Chang's. Yummy!! All right, so I get there... but wait one second... I check my bag... no credit check book... what the...??? Oh, I remember when I went south, I pulled all my credit cards and check book, and they are all sitting on the counter in the kitchen, of course.... total embarrassment. I called Michael... It was 9:00 PM... He'd meet me at P.F. Chang's in 15 minutes....

The fifteen minutes I had to wait there gave me an opportunity to reflect on my previous 3 days. I spent the latter part of the week down in the Gulf Region. I stayed in New Orleans and traveled to Pascagoula, Mississippi, 120 miles east of the Big Easy. If you have read my blog for any period of time, you know that New Orleans is one of my favorite places on the planet. I love the people, the history, the music, the food, the daiquiris...

As I stood there, contemplating my embarrassment, I started doing what I normally do in crowds, watch and observe people. Directly behind me I watched a table of about 14 or 16 kids having dinner. The young men were all dressed in tuxedos looking somewhat uncomfortable in their pumps, yet proud of the fact that they were looking so handsome. The young ladies were dressed in formals, some not knowing how to walk in the shoes they purchased for this wonderful occasion. I surmise that the fathers of these daughters were all having heart attacks... God give strength to the Dads.... The kids all looked gorgeous and beautiful... Eyes shining, all enjoying the moment, toasting each other and taking snapshots to help remember the night. This night was one of many nights they will enjoy... their senior year in high school... their next big moment... graduation....

Then, in my minds eye I went back to what I saw in Louisiana and Mississippi. Ghost towns, where there is nothing... House payments are still required on a slab of concrete and trash... The devastation was incomprehensible to fathom. This is what I saw:

  1. As you fly in to New Orleans, you notice all the blue roofs. As you get closer you realize that the roofs are in need of repair and the tarps are keeping out the weather.
  2. The French Quarter is fine. The area of town that most worried about survived... Not everything is open yet, but things are coming back. Daiquiris and Hurricanes from Pat O'Brien's is still an option.
  3. Not everything is open.... everywhere in the Gulf Region... Due to a lack of employees. If a place is open, it might be on limited hours... Dying for a Quarter Pounder? Get there early and be prepared to drive 20 miles. Wanna see a movie? Good luck. Go to the mall? Which one? I can't tell you how many malls and shopping centers we passed that were completely vacant. Stores that are open may have a limitation of how many folks they will let enter. Need groceries? OK... better get there, 'cause they only let 10 folks in at a time... Why? Only one person on the cash registers and one other person working in the store...
  4. The coastline between New Orleans and Pascagoula is non existent- That's about 120 miles... My understanding is that Alabama and Florida are just as bad. Nothing is left except for.... nothing... nothingness.... Gulf Port, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Pass Christian... nothing... I understand why the media doesn't spend time there... it just doesn't transfer well to film or video... Showing vacant lots that have been cleaned debris or people... it simply doesn't make for good tv- no before and after pictures... because all the picures went with the house.... Schemers and whiners and looters make for good tv.
  5. A customer of mine drove me through Pascagoula. There we drove down to the East Bank and looked at a street where old Antebellum style homes once sat... some of the homes dating back to the late 18th and 19th Centuries. Trent Lott had a home here. There is nothing left except a few bricks indicating where a fence once was. He lost everything.
  6. It has been 8 months since Katrina and Rita. The folks that are back, are resilient. They aren't the complainers and whiners. When I was visiting in Mississippi, the resentment towards the folks from New Orleans was unpalatable yet understandable. When the media only shows the whiners and complainers... that is bound to make an impression.
  7. The Audobon Zoo only lost one animal... an otter. The aquarium didn't fair so well.
  8. Everyone I spoke with from cabbies to servers to my customers- engineers, buyers, managers- no one was complaining... All wanted to get things back to normal. All wanted and needed to share their personal story and I wanted and needed to listen. The American people are an amazing breed. We are. Honestly. There is so much compassion in the people of this country. I think by far, most would give the shirt off their own back when someone else is suffering. Most like to be quiet about it... no fan fare... but the vast majority of people I spoke to in the Gulf Region wanted to say Thank You... One gentlemen went so far as to give me names of folks from Kentucky just in case I recognized any of them. He said, "Y'all are mighty fine folks up there in Kintucky. I might have to come up for a visit and show my sincere appreciation. And y'all Yankees up there in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.... mighty fine folks... y'all are mighty fine folks, yes, indeed."
  9. Normal - a cabby from India wanted to argue with my travel partner, Tony about Barry Bonds... He wanted to talk baseball and defend the steroid eating guy... (Tony is a Yankees fan... Barry ain't on Tony's list of favorites - fohgitabooutit).
  10. You have to go beyond the highways to see the devastation... You can see glimpses, but it doesn't give the complete picture.... No one was exempt from the flooding and hurricanes... if you lived in it's path... You pay/paid the penance. The 9th Ward was bad... but so was Lakeshore, the Garden District...

So, I think about the kids down south that were starting their school year... I remember how important my friends were to me at that time in my life... People didn't get to say goodbye to each other... Everyone did what they needed to do... So, trivial things like Homecoming dances and plans for Prom and dress shopping just didn't happen. It was no longer a priority. Graduating with your classmates... what classmates? Of all the things that mother nature did to these people... I am sorry that it stripped them of good times and happy moments...

Blogs and Links to Check Out This Week:

New Orleans Jazz Festival

City of Pascagoula, MS

Politics of a Patriot

Reformed Chicks Babbling

Alabama Improper

Below are pictures that I took Wednesday evening. Before you look at them, please understand that these photos do not begin to show the sheer volume of destruction. As far as your eye can see---- that is how much destruction there is. The other thing is, each picture has so much detail it is hard to absorb everything, but a few things to look for and remember...

-waterlines can be seen on the houses

-holes in the roofs where people escaped their homes.

-Spray painted notes on every home. A lot of them will have large Xs- on the top is the date the house was searcehdd, the left side is the the person or organization that did the search. right side and bottom are the number of bodies and dead animals found. Note some of the dates...

-Personal messages to family... often this was the only means of communicating that people were safe.

-The FEMA trailers... Countless villages of FEMA trailers. They are small... Imagine living there while your home is being worked on... I spoke with one woman and her husband is bunking at a FEMA trailer in the parking lot of the company he works for. She and her daughter and youngest son are living in a trailer on their property. The oldest son is living with an aunt. They are doing what they can to restore their own home as much as possible while they wait for a contractor and workers... The woman works evenings and the kids stay with her sister while she is gone. They have made a makeshift living room outside.

-The pictures do not allow you to hear how quiet it is... no birds... no little critters... very eery.

- The pictures do not allow you to smell. The smell of decay is still intense. Walking into some of the abandoned homes although, I found them to be gutted the smell of mold and mildew was just disgusting....

-You can click on the pictures to enlarge.

"A Sort Of Homecoming"

And you know it's time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light in the distance

And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, desire, time
And your earth moves beneath
Your own dream landscape

Oh, oh, oh...
On borderland we run...

I'll be there
I'll be there...
A high road
A high road out from here

The city walls are all pulled down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance

And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill
As the valley explode
Dislocated, suffocated
The land grows weary of its own

Oh, oh, oh...on borderland we run...
And still we run
We run and don't look back
I'll be there
I'll be there

I'll be there tonight...I believe
I'll be there...somehow
I'll be there...tonight

The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz
No spoken words, just a scream...

Tonight we'll build a bridge
Across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light's in the distance

Oh don't sorrow, no don't weep
For tonight, at last
I am coming home
I am coming home

Have a great week everyone!

--P.S. I will proof this later and make corrections to the things that are blatantly wrong. Blogger has been giving me fits all morning... I need a cup of coffee...


Jedi Master Rob said...

Thanks for that post. What an eye-opener. I had assumed that things had improved so much more than they had. It's heartbreaking; the destruction and our short attention spans.

mark said...

Good post. Here's what I think. When the big one hits Houston, no compassion will be left. Not like it is a contest.