Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A year ago

Emails that I sent to friends and family on Aug. 29, 2006 from inside The Times-Picayune building in downtown New Orleans as Katrina tore through the city:

(Monday, 9:30 a.m. as worst of storm began)
Just got a wi-fi connection here at the office. don't know where its from, but i'm happy to have it. busy working but will update everyone. the atmosphere here is pretty intense. mixture of fear, adrenaline. we're still safe here. trees down all around us. Flooding approaching the back of the building - water about 3 feet deep in some parts of the parking lot. lots of cars underwater. the weather is unbelievable! Constant, terrible wind. can't tell the differnce anymore between sustained wind and gusts. we're getting terrible reports already - 80 windows blasted out at the Hyatt hotel near the Superdome. as you've probably already heard, holes forming in the roof of the Superdome with is packed with about 30,000. They've been evacuated from the dome floor to the upper elevated levels. a report that the miss. river is topping the levees downtown and beginning to flood the French Quarter. Also massive flooding in the lower 9th ward, on the east side of the industrial canal. water so high there that some people have gone onto their roofs. looks like the phone lines are starting to fail. its looking like massive damage around the city already. and massive flooding too. cell phone systems starting to fail. but it looks like we still have landlines. that's all for now.

(Monday, late morning)
the weather is still pretty bad but the worst clearly has passed us. my guess is that wind is down to 70- 80 mph, with higher gusts. rainfall much lighter. my cell phone is down. but can still make some calls from the land lines. we're hearing reports of terrible damage and flooding. can only imagine that things will be much worse once people get out and assess damage. we're all still safe here. hot and sticky - without airconditioning - but safe. I can't believe its only 11 a.m. It feels like it should be the end of the day. We're putting together an issue of the paper today but can't print it until tomorrow at the earliest. But it will be posted on our web page tonight.
Anyone who wants to call me can try me at 504.826.XXXX - it's not my regular line, so don't bother leaving a message. If I don't pick up, keep trying.

(Monday evening)
As grim as things are here in New Orleans, I can't help but be thankful that I made it through this storm unscathed physically.
I could spend the next few hours writing about what I've seen and done today, but I'm too tired, I'm hungry and I desperately need a shower (the colder the better!)
Many of you are probably curious about how we're managing here at The Times-Picayune main office. We'be been without electricity since 4 a.m.,but a generator is powering a small collection of computers being used by alternating shifts of editors, writers and photographers (thank goodness the picture people do everything digital these days).
About 30 of us reporters fanned out as far as we could this afternoon to assess the damage and start gathering the first elements of the remarkable stories we will be telling over the coming months about Katrina and her aftermath.
I reported on the electricity and telephone situations - bad and likely to get worse before getting better.
The "storm" issue of the T.P. will be "published" on our web page at www.nola.com later tonight, and printed tomorrow in Baton Rouge. I encourage all of you to pull up the edition.
It's remarkable that we produced a newspaper just hours after enduring the most powerful storm to ever hit the Gulf Coast. I think in the years to come we all will look back at this work and the stories we will produce in the coming weeks and months with pride and satisfaction.
I could say much about damage to the city but the pictures on our web site and others do more justice.
Myself and a few other reporters ventured outside for the first time around 4 p.m. and climbed onto the elevated expressway that runs in front of the office for a clear view of the Superdome and high-rise district.
It was a painful scene to view. Most of the buildings look as though they had been bombed. I've never seen anything like it. It was terribly sad - not that the buildings were damaged, but that my city, my home was torn to shreds. It took everything I had not to cry.
One item of continuing concern is the rising water approaching the center of the city. It appears that the flood waters of Metairie and eastern New Orleans are slowly flowing toward us. Things still could get much worse for us.
Here are my immediate plans. As soon as my editors finish editing my story, I'll call Mom and Dad, take a shower, then savor a few bottles of Abita Amber and some smoked salmon that a fellow reporter is sharing with us.
The moment will be hot, sticky, dark, and even sad, but I will eat my fill of it as though it was a fine feast. I'll probably never experience anything like this again. I want the memories to be deep and lasting.
I feel like I've been away on a very long and lonely journey. I miss all of you terribly. I miss my house. I miss Nero and Topaz. I miss Constantine. And I already miss this place I call home.
The truth is that our journey has barely begun. Keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers.
I love all of you,

1 comment:

emeyersd@yahoo.com said...

Wow...your experience is very moving, although i feel nothing but stillness as i read.
thank you for sharing.