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Katrinaland Revisted - Two Years Later


Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, tearing down any façade of safety the city’s faulty levees were to provide. One and all by now know what come to pass. Mournful remembrances are planned by state and city officials, by religious and other non-profit organizations and even by citizens who trust the date is forever remembered in history as the day of the worst disaster to ever strike the United States of America. This column is a commemoration, of sorts, but it is not likely to be read on CNN or Fox News. It is about a dysfunctional, incompetent mayor.

It was on September 1st (only the second day after Katrina) that Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city’s 1500 police to stop search and rescue efforts to address the looting he said was going on. In Nagin’s judgment, this was more important than providing food and water to thousands of stranded hurricane flood victims warehoused at the Superdome and Morial Convention Center. Exactly, this is what Nagin said on WWL radio that day:

“You have drug addicts now walking around this city looking for a fix, and that is the reason why they were breaking into hospitals and drugstores. They are looking for something to take the edge off their jones, if you will. And right now, they don’t have anything to take the edge off, and they’ve probably found guns. So what you’re seeing is drug- starving- crazy addicts that are wrecking havoc. And we don’t have the manpower to adequately deal with it. We can only target certain sections of the city and form a perimeter around them and hope to God we’re not overrun.” (The mayor did not know the city was by then nearly 80 percent flooded.)

When asked what he needed right then and now to get control of the ever-worsening situation that he perceived, this is what Nagin replied: NAGIN: “I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. We ain’t talking about —— you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here. I’m like, ”You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans. That’s —— they’re thinking small, man. And this is a major, major, major deal. And I can’t emphasize it enough, man.
This is crazy"

It was then that Mayor Ray Nagin issued the order that today stands as totally unjustifiable to any reasonable person: He ordered the city’s police, what was left of them, to stop search and rescue efforts for human beings immediately. The police were, instead of attempting to save lives, to concentrate on the looting, he said. What he never said or perhaps did not know is that fully 35 percent of the NOPD never even mustered to help in the emergency. A few of them were too busy stealing Cadillacs from the Sewell dealership downtown and some others were looting stores themselves.

My wife and relatives lost homes in New Orleans, but also our lifestyles, our friends and our histories. We are now starting our lives over again but not in New Orleans. I have to ask these questions: Does it really make sense for Congress to appropriate billions of dollars for ‘recovery’ in New Orleans? Is it really wise for the non-profits to donate over a billion dollars to help?

Can we believe that the same incompetent leaders who got us into this mess can lead us out of it?

Driving around the city of New Orleans now is nearly as depressing as it was then. The state’s incompetent, dumb and dysfunctional governor is still in office. Mayor Ray Nagin was recently reelected and now rumored to be a candidate for governor. And the former head of FEMA (praised by President Bush for doing a good job) is out of government and charging astronomical fees to give speeches.

In the meantime, a former great city of the United States lies in ruin.

R E Gus Payne
August 2007

Slidell, Louisiana


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