I know it's the holidays. I know that I could and probably will post something cheery this week.
Or not. I am beyond furious, crying as I type this. Anger in my bones wanting to explode out. I can even say that though I'm an avowed pacifist, that there are a couple of people in the video below that I'd like to do in on a public square.
Just prior to Katrina, we lived in Algiers Point. What we did after the storm can be found chronicled at my sister blog, Katrina Refrigerator. On our block there were only four of us. My husband and myself, and Mr. Mitchell and his wife. Mr. Mitchell and his wife are black. The four of us shared a generator for two households, running it about one hour a day. We looked out for each other, made sure we had ice, water, food. Whatever we got, we got enough for them and vice versa.
During that time, my husband and I were running all over the Point and beyond, making food drops, finding people that no one even knew were there. Most of them were old, sick, out of their medication, had no ice, no food and were black. There were some white people, an elderly man not on the Point who couldn't quite navigate the MRE's physically or mentally, the family on the tip of the Point who all needed psych meds and menstrual supplies-one of them is a Vietnam Vet who wouldn't come out of his house, so the rest of the family got his medications together for us to see what we could do. There was old Bernice. She had been born and raised on Algiers Point. Had lived her entire life in a two block area. Well into her 80's maybe 90's, I can't remember now, she had been at an assisted living home and was told the night before the storm that if she had a place to go she should go there, so she did. They put her in a taxi and she went back to the home she had shared with her husband for decades and weathered the storm by herself. Nearly blind and almost deaf, she made it, amazingly.
In our travels around the Point and Algiers area, we learned about guerilla networking. We learned who had what kind of equipment, what kind of supplies. You never knew what you'd need. In fact, we once traded a bottle of Absolut vodka for one jar of mayo that had been kept cold as we had a ton of tuna and nothing to mix in it. Nevermind there were still folks over at the Convention Center. We didn't know that. It was a complete news blackout. One only knew what was going on where they were, period.
We'd heard some guys bragging about shooting other guys. We heard of some guys who had strung beer cans all over the street as a sort of burglar alarm. We knew that some of them had said they'd taken turns as lookouts. But it was the bragging about shooting people that my husband and I talked most about. We thought these guys were idiots, and more to the point, we didn't believe them. We really didn't. They had signs on boards saying they'd shoot if they saw looting. They had a big easy chair in the street, apparently that was where the person on duty would sit for their shift. But again, we talked about their reports of shooting people and decided that they were stressed out and just doing a lot of dick measuring. No way these people would actually shoot anyone "just cuz."
I distinctly remember my husband saying, "They're full of shit."
Evidently, we were stupidly naive.
At the time, we lived in a double on Elmira Street. Our landlords became our friends, and remain so. They sent this article from nola.com to me in an email titled "A Familiar Face and Old Wounds." I read it immediately. Then I watched the video below. It's chilling. I simply cannot wrap my head around my neighbors laughing about shooting people, black people. "Pheasants in South Dakota?"
I am so upset by this on so many levels that I can barely comprehend it. Shot of a house with bunches of American flags on it, oh yeah, this is what America is about. A guy saying he had earned his wings as a New Orleanian by shooting at black people, while his wife says, "He learned about the N word" and nods knowingly.
Over time, my husband and I still agreed that the guys we talked to had to be full of shit as we had heard of no one being prosecuted. Now I see why no one has been prosecuted, and that makes me even sicker to my stomach. These guys were telling us at the time that they'd shot people and tossed them into the river. Evidently they did, and they're still living in their houses patting themselves on the back while the number of "missing" remains over 700.
Why is the national media picking this up before locals? Why aren't the local people talking about it? There has to be something we as New Orleanians can do to get this story up front, get these people prosecuted and put away. I will tell you that I'm not going to let this one go. We were there, we were helping, we were weeping.
I'm still weeping. Now for a different reason. I just don't know where to put my grief, my anger and my shame for not believing this could be true. I guess I thought my neighbors were better than that. I guess I thought wrong.
Katrina NOLA New Orleans Hurricane Katrina Louisiana Algiers Point We Are Not OK