Cab Ride II: Haitian Muses About Post-Katrina in New Orleans

New Orleans. Charles, my Haitian cab driver, escaped Katrina, and quickly came back to work in the city. Quite the irony but more on that later.

I told him I’d returned about the same time seeing few women but plenty of male contractors and military. I shared with him that I was afraid seeing so few women around and smelling death.

Haiti. He told his story in a more matter-a-fact way. Charles escaped Haiti many years before the recent earthquake and cholera outbreak on the island.

New Orleans. He returned to transformed a limping distressed Crescent City two months after the hurricane and the flood waters had receded. He told me he got good pay but faced a housing shortage. A friend of a friend got him an hotel room.

Haiti. When I asked him more about Haiti. A fraught weighted silence filled the car signifying that his life had surely been troubled in Haiti, perhaps more so than his experiences in New Orleans before, during and after Katrina. As many have said to me, “Katrina was a bad girl.” Based on Charles’ heavy silence,the troubles in Haiti seemed a wicked step-sister in comparison

The irony: Charles escaped tragedy in Haiti but found another sort in New Orleans. He seemed happy though, grateful to be working and alive in New Orleans.

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Post-Katrina: Remembering New Orleans Five Years Later

Zulu Parade, Mardi Gras, 2005

I am feeling a little melancholy, which is a familiar feeling at this time of the year. It is the five year anniversary of Katrina. I wonder should we use memorial rather than anniversary since the latter suggests a celebration like a wedding anniversary?

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I evacuated New Orleans five years ago. I’d been living on Perrier Street in the Garden District for a year, and loved being in the city. When Katrina started swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, Mayor Ray Nagin called for the people to evacuate.

I haphazardly threw some things into my car because I had evacuated the summer before in 2004 returning quickly to the city. I was working on a book so my files and computer were more important than my clothes.

I went to my brother in Stone Mountain and kept CNN on during all my waking hours. At first, the city was safe, the hurricane had passed. But then the levees breached. There was nothing but chaos in the CNN coverage. They were even showing the faces of missing children but then stopped.

I did not return to live in New Orleans as I did that first year. I stayed in Atlanta struggling with painful emotions in the aftermath for a number of years.

Mardi Gras. Audubon Park. Studio in the Woods. River Road. Algiers. Lower Ninth Ward.

Dean Ziegler’s Nature Photos: Rorschach for the Environment

When I first met Dean Ziegler, he told me he was a photographer. So I asked him, “Do you have any images of insects I could use for a blog?” Don’t ask me what my recent fascination is with bugs. Well, he said, “No, but I have plenty of flowers.” And so we began exchanging emails. 

The photos became a catalyst for considering my own experiences and the environment. What follows is a mixture, a Rorschach test of sorts based on the photos: 

Patmos Carved Shells by DZ

These shells speak to me. My parents are from Jamaica, a place surrounded by salt water, fish, sand, and shells. When I was a child, I remember going to beaches with stretches of white white sand and clear blue water where I saw multi-hued fish and seashells. 

I also remember my trip to Mykonos, an island off Greece. I went on vacation with my brother. Everyday, we went to a different beach with names like Paradise, Super Paradise, and Super Super Paradise on small boats. On one beach, I was looking at the sand one moment and in the next there was a dark-haired man riding a black stallion along the stretch of beach. Hey, it’s Mykonos; it felt like I was in the middle of a movie production.  

Shells also make me think of oil. Today, life along the Gulf and beyond is endangered. Clams and more fill shells that often end up on plates in restaurants on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The BP oil slick endangers the fishing industry and by extension the restaurant and tourist businesses. But even worse are the images of birds slimed by oil and fragile wetlands in southern Louisiana coated by oil. Sigh.

Fresh cut Sunflowers

This one is easy. Two thoughts. First, when I met Dean he told me I looked like a sunflower. Such a nice thing to say. Second, the flowers remind me of my Uncle Basil’s funeral in Jamaica. Some beautiful purplish red waxy flowers appeared the morning of the funeral. It was a sad time missing my uncle. It was also a good time because these funerals brought the extended family together from points all over the United States to Jamaica.

Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Since I’m already talking about death, I’m ok with continuing with this theme. This photo reminds me of the dead cypresses I spotted driving on I-10 south from New Orleans on the way to Grand Isle, Louisiana. I said to my seat-mate–I was with a group–“I think the dead cypressesare beautiful.” He was aghast and said, “What about the living things?” I responded saying, “There is no life without death.” This attitude has deepened for me during my recent internship as a chaplain. I am comfortable with death, while still embracing and enjoying life.

Dean D. Ziegler, originally from Franklin, PA, resides in Harmony, PA, and is the Superintendent of the Butler District of the United Methodist Church, Western Pennsylvania Conference.

He is married to Linda, has two grown children and two grandchildren.

All Photos by Dean D. Ziegler, Copyright 2010 

Rorschach Responses by Dianne Glave

Haiti and New Orleans’ Mayor Ray Nagin

Mayor Ray Nagin recommends slate of changes in federal disaster recovery act

When I lived in New Orleans I fondly referred to New Orleans’ Mayor Ray Nagin as Ray Ray and Nay Nay. I knew of him before, during, and after Katrina.  In my mind he wasn’t always accessible to the people in NOLA and that included the months after Katrina. Just my opinion!

Ray Ray and the Chocolate City

See the Chocolate City Video

He’s back. And he’s calling the federal government out comparing the failures of post-Katrina, particularly FEMA to what is going on in Haiti.

Do you think the US federal government failed after Katrina? Are they doing a better job in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake? Or worse? Are they meeting the needs of Haitians concerning food, water, and medical supplies? Are surgical teams and military forces arriving quickly enough and are they being put to good use? Coming back around full circle to the US, how can the federal government improve their efforts with the next Katrina?

What do you think?