Friday, September 02, 2005

Day 5 - Safe in Baton Rouge; Flying over NOLA; Printing again

From LSU Manship School of Mass Communication:

First, let me update everyone on my status.

I've been in Baton Rouge since Tuesday night. After working out of our makeshift newsroom on Florida Blvd., the what's here of the Money section - myself, an asst. business editor two other writers - relocated to LSU Wednesday to join the rest of our editorial staff. The Florida Blvd. site is mainly housing copy editors, graphics, photography and design.

I don't think I'll ever have a day like yesterday.

It started with a full staff meeting at Florida Blvd. where our publisher, Ashton Phelps who has been with us from the start in this ordeal, read a press release announcing the paper would publish a print Thursday edition for the first time since not publishing on paper on Monday.

He couldn't even finish the first sentence without breaking down into sobs. There we were, about 75 people crammed into a small meeting room crying with our publisher, trying to comprehend the deep personal and professional significance of surviving the first days of this tragedy intact.

Even now,I can't talk or even write about this without crying. If you haven't seen it yet, I would encourage you to read our press release on restarting publishing on our web site at

Though we were thankful to publish on the Internet, that's not what we do. What we do is serve our readers by providing them with the information and view of the world that they need to manage their lives. Most of our readers right now don't have Internet access, much less electricity. We all deeply love the printed word, and we're deeply devoted to the mission of our profession. A print newspaper is the only way for us to do our job properly.

We are a newspaper, not an Internet blog. Not printing was painful for all of it. Monday through Wednesday were the first days in more than 160 years that our paper wasn't printed. Even on the day that New Orleans fell to Union forces in the Civil War, we printed a daily edition.

That we are printing again is unimaginably profound.

Next, Ashton told us that every T.P. employee will be receive their full pay and benefits for the next two months, whether they work or not.

I spent the afternoon flying over the city in a helicopter with Entergy Corp., the region's electricity utility, which I cover. The flooding remains widespread, and terrible in may places, especially the Lower 9th Ward, Lakefront, Mid City and the Carrollton area.

One of our main focuses was flying over the levee break on the Industrial Canal. As we flew along the east side of the river to get to the canal, we passed right over my house. And there it was, completely dry, roof intact and still completely boarded up. I fell apart after seeing it.

I spent the evening with my twin sister, her husband and my niece and nephew, who live here in Baton Rouge. The events of the day lifted my spirit a bit and softened my sense of hopelessness.

I took a Tylenol PM before going to bed at midnight and slept till 6 a.m., my first sleep over three hours since Sunday.

But by mid-morning Friday, my spirits were sinking again. The city is burning - a chemical warehouse in my neighborhood of the Bywater and a mid-rise building in the CBD a block from Mother's Restaurant.

The news is filled with reports of visits today by President Bush and Jesse Jackson. We don't need photo ops with the nation's leaders, we need soldiers, money and resources. Here we are five days into this catastrophe and we haven't seen any of those things.

It's shocking how our national leaders are stumbling and bumbling to come to grips with this very real disaster and civil crisis. I simply don't believe this tragedy would be handled as it has been if it were happening in Florida or California or Texas or New York.

Mayor Nagin was right this morning when he said Bush and the rest of the country's leaders will pay for their complete failure when they meet there maker.

A little more about my personal situation.

Constantine and the dogs are still safe at a friends house in Connecticut. He's already working on jobs for his company around the country to try to keep it alive for the time being.

He'll probably come here in a week before going to Texas for a job. Don't know how much we'll see each other over the next couple of months. Don't know when I'll see my pug Nero.

My brother in law told me several times this morning that everything will be okay. I finally told him, no, things aren't okay now and they won't be okay for a very long time.

If you're reading this in other states, get on your phone right now and call your U.S. senators and representatives, call the White House. SCREAM AT THEM!!!!!

My friends could be dying in the city. The city is blown apart, flooded and now burning. Every plague imaginable. This is criminal.


No comments: