Monday, August 29, 2005

First view after the storm

This post originally was sent as an email to friends and family from inside The Times-Picayune's headquarters in downtown New Orleans.

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've 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 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.

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