[Mb-civic] Our Hell in High Water - James Nolan - Washington Post
swiggard at comcast.net
Sun Sep 4 04:39:26 PDT 2005
Our Hell in High Water
By James Nolan
Sunday, September 4, 2005; Page B01
The real nightmare began last Wednesday morning, when the city cut off
the water supply two days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New
Orleans. Until then, I hadn't regretted the decision not to evacuate my
second-story French Quarter apartment, even when the electricity flicked
off in the middle of the storm, plunging the city into darkness and
ending most outside communication.
I still had hope.
I'm not particularly brave, but I am a fifth-generation New Orleans
native raised in a culture that knows how to deal with hurricanes. As a
matter of fact, the first light I ever saw streamed from a generator at
Hôtel Dieu, the hospital the Daughters of Charity had founded in the
19th century. I was born there during the unnamed hurricane that wiped
out New Orleans in September 1947, and was rowed home to the Faubourg
Tremé along a flooded Canal Street. So as clouds darkened on Sunday
afternoon, generations of storm folklore -- sheer instinct by now --
sprang into action. I filled the bathtub with water, cut the wick on the
hurricane lamp, froze water in plastic jugs to keep the refrigerator
cool, secured the dilapidated wooden shutters on the front gallery,
stocked up on batteries, food and bottled drinking water, and got out
the portable radio and the plug-in white Princess phone. Then I opened a
bottle of wine. By the time my friends José and Claudia arrived to
weather the storm with me, I'd cooked a three-course meal, which we
topped off with a bottle of Spanish cognac.
"Here's to Katrina," we toasted, "the Russian spy," even as the TV
broadcast its unrelenting instructions to evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.
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