[saymaListserv] Current news from New Orleans from a Quaker perspective

Penelope Wright pennywright at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 10 13:41:11 JEST 2005

Dear Friends,
Below please find a communication form Dorian Hastings, former member of Nashville MM and clerk of New Orleans MM (if it still exists). Before Katrina, Dorian was employed by the city of New Orleans in their neighborhood development department (I think that is correct). She and her son received sanctuary in Nashville. She has since been re-hired by the city of New Orleans and it is from this perspective that she gives the following report. Her son remains in Nashville in order to finish out his senior year of high school.
AFSC has a large initiative directed toward relief in New Orleans. Check out their web site to learn of ways you can be of assistance in this effort. In Peace, Penelope Wright


Things are going as well as can be expected here in New Orleans. I hope people do realize the extent of the disaster. The devastation to the city is more along the lines of post-World War II cities such as Dresden, Berlin, and Hiroshima: 80 percent of the city flooded, and probably around 60 percent of homes are uninhabitable. There are not spots here and there of devastation, as with an earthquake or tornado or wartime bombing, but utter and consistent devastation throughout most of the city. Only the areas along the riverfront and Metairie and Gentilly ridges were spared, and many homes and other buildings suffered wind and rain damage. (I happen to live close enough to the river--about 2 ft of water was in my yard and killed my magnolia tree, but did not get into the house, which is built on 2ft 6 in piers!) National Guardsmen stationed here who have served in Baghdad say that New Orleans is much worse.

One can drive for miles and see only dead vegetation, empty houses, heavily damaged schools and businesses--no people, no piles of sheetrock and insulation, no duct-taped fridges. Only a few sturdy souls have returned to these areas to even attempt to strip their homes in preparation for rebuilding. The safety of the levees, patched or whole, is very much in question; the electricity infrastructure was completely wiped out and must be rebuilt almost from scratch.

The federal government does not seem to fathom the extent of the damage. The energy provider, Entergy, has been refused additional funds for rebuilding. Whether or not to rebuild a levee and floodgate system that can protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane continues to be debated. The state, which receives about a third of its income from New Orleans, is also in a terrible bind and has just been billed $3.7 BILLION by FEMA (25% of the overall costs that FEMA has paid out). Sixty percent of the businesses here are threatened with failure and the Small Business Admin. doesn't seem to be able to process critical funds quickly enough. The government's failure during the storm and its immediate aftermath are not its only shortcomings --it is failing to respond even now.

PLEASE contact your own legislators and impress on them the unprecedented enormity of the disaster. Congress must act to restore and preserve this region so vital to the nation: a vital and international port, gas, oil, and chemical production, shipyards, vast fisheries supply and support the rest of the nation. Massive defaults and failure to recover can bring us all down. Dorian Hastings d_hastings at juno.com "
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