Gentilly Girl- a part of the 99%

August 22, 2006

This is what I do…

Filed under: Civic Blogging,Gentilly,Katrina,Levees,New Orleans — Tags: , , , , — Morwen Madrigal @ 4:13 am

Two more weeks, and I’ll celebrate the anniversary of the start of my blogging about the News Orleans Flood and the destruction of the Central Gulf Coast by Katrina. ‘Tis been a very long year, and I am in no way the person I was back then.

We didn’t have to axe the roof of our house to escape the floodwaters, we had left the day before. First time I ran from a storm, but I couldn’t indulge myself the luxury of being the tough girl: I have loves and responsibilities now. The trip to Houston was filled with tears and waves of horror over what might befall the city that harbored my family for centuries, the city whose fading lights in the distance along the highway filled me with such longing as a child. New Orleans is my home and my fate.

I remember the motel our girlfriend fixed us up with in Houston: the three of us had stayed in the adjacent room two months earlier for Pride and our filming efforts for a band we had just released an album for. One trip was anticipatory, the latter was one of fear. I remember using the ‘puters of the motel to monitor the storm and the city that night. After many hours I packed it in and went back to the room where Betty and Opal were. I was elated to announce that New Orleans had dodged the bullet, and then I went to sleep. How was I to know that in a few hours the levees would fail, not a victim of a hurricane, but of faulty design and construction?

I awoke in the early afternoon, dressed, and made my way to the ‘puter room to check on our city. Right about then was when the reports started coming in about the levee failures. Sitting there, looking at the positions of the breaks, I saw our home, friends and life slowly inundated with water. I watched New Orleans drown. Never in my life have I felt so wretched.

Within a few days our girlfriend out West was sending us info about the entire scenario. I sat with a magnifying glass to pick out our home in the satellite photos looking at the water level in our yard. I looked over other parts of the city and couldn’t see roofs. At least I could see ours. There was video of folks stranded on roofs and Interstate rises… I couldn’t help them: I was eight hours away.

Frustration became a Spiritual neighbor until I started to cover every news and info source that I could. If I couldn’t help in New Orleans, at least I could help those of Her people that had fled prior to the storm’s arrival. My skills as a researcher became my every waking moment, and through the use of my personal website, my New Orleans e-list and my original Blog “Thoughts of the Dark Rose“, I relayed info as it came in. I offered opinions about the whys and hows of what had occured, and viciously stamped down anyone that assumed the city was dead. It became a crusade and a salve to my soul.

We spent three weeks in Houston trying to set up a base of operations for our work, but Rita came along, and we fled for SoCal and our friend’s house. We needed distance to settle ourselves out.

Through these avenues I managed to meet many folks, and I was even able to account for most of our friends in the Diasphora. Some folks on a Gentilly e-list and I started talking about forming a cooperative to aid our neighborhoods through rebuilding: others joined the chorus, and the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association was the result. Now the GCIA is the umbrella organization for 26 neighborhoods that comprise Gentilly. We speak with one voice concerning the rebuilding, and are now slated to become the model area for the recovery efforts in the city.

None of this has been easy. Fact checking and digging source material takes time and effort. There’s also the time spent considering whether that which you have painstakingly researched is actually complete enough to post. Sometimes I have jumped the gun, but fortunately instinct was right, and I didn’t need to post a retraction. It’s a very fine line between feelings and fact.

Those months of exile between Rita and February continued in this fashion until we returned for a Recon vist, and then my Blogging world changed… We reentered our world called New Orleans. That’s when I began to truly understand the “Thousand Mile Stare”.
Part Two soon.

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