Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina is a Gigantic Spider...

Some things have come to my attention over the last week that I wanted to share on the blog.

  • Katrina's effects are not limited to the Southeast. People are evacuating and relocating to places as far away as Portland, Oregon. Schools, churches and communities have opened their doors for the displaced residents of the Gulf Coast. This will affect school populations, job openings, and availability of housing. Not to mention gas prices everywhere, due to the damage she did in the Gulf.
  • Tip for all business travelers out there: If you are planning on traveling to any city in the USA soon, and intend to rent a car there - make your reservation as early as possible. Many evacuees from Katrina are living (at least temporarily) in cities across the USA and many rental cars are not available, due to the sudden high number of families needing temporary transportation. The same thing goes for hotels. Even though parts of the New Orleans metro area are allowing residents to return soon, the hotels may be booked for the next month or so.
  • The AT&T Universal Card (which is part of Citibank) has a program that allows customers to donate their credit card points as a cash donation to the Red Cross. You simply redeem a certain number of your points in order to give a Red Cross donation. Check with your credit card companies and see if they are doing the same. If they aren't, ask them if they will start a program to do so. After all, their competition is doing it!
  • Many businesses are taking steps to help Katrina victims, even though there may not be any news publication or press release that announces it. I've asked several local businesses if they would put together a program to help Katrina victims, only to be told that their home office is already doing a great deal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Lonely Saxophone

The Lonely Saxophone
Copyright 2005 Elaine Burroughs

The saxophone’s melancholy notes dance in the humid air like lightning bugs flitting about in summertime. The musician is nowhere to be seen, but his music can be faintly heard along the lazy Mississippi River. The rich, slow music is the heartbeat of New Orleans, this port city surrounded by water. The Big Easy.

As the city awakens, noises fill the air but the saxophone still plays. The Creole Queen riverboat makes a loud whistle as she takes tourists down the river. Mounds of crawfish, shrimp, and spicy seafood abound here. Clapping visitors surround street performers in Jackson Square, wanting to see their favorite acts. Horse-drawn carriages make the ‘clop clop’ sound down the narrow French Quarter streets. As my spirit absorbs these surroundings, I smile as I listen to the sad notes of a lonely saxophone, playing faintly as a constant backdrop to my home. The tunes may change, but the music goes on.

Black iron gates flank the streets in this Crescent City. Cherry-red geraniums bloom in decorative pots, and window boxes attempt to contain flowers bursting with pink, white, and purple. The flowers and the ivy cascade from the black iron balconies; they look like children dangling their feet before taking a swim. The spirit of New Orleans – its people and its music - welcomes them all. At the time, I believe that the music will never stop.

On August 29, I was proven wrong. Katrina’s fury drowned the city’s own and the heart of New Orleans stopped beating. Cries for help and sobbing remained. I gasp back tears as I see the rusted saxophone start to sink, its hollow insides consumed with Katrina’s waters.

I hope that one day I can hear the music again. Until then, the absence of the lonely saxophone is deafening.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Heroes in Our Midst

In the aftermath of Katrina's fury, I have discovered one positive thing. There are true heroes in our midst, if only we can stop rushing through life for a few moments in order to see them. This post for the blog is dedicated to the many heroes that are around us. For me, heroes are those individuals who are banding together to help one another survive Katrina's aftermath.

  • It's the person who wrote the "Dear America" letter which is posted on my blog. Despite being heartbroken about their hometown, they still keep their sense of humor.
  • It's the people I've been able to correspond with via email and the internet (many of whom I've never met), who provide support and help. They have forwarded my blog address to others, sent me encouraging notes, and kept my spirits up. As a result, I have received many Louisiana and Gulf Coast stories which I would never hear about on the news. A special thanks to Maria Thompson ( and Lyn Blair (
  • It's the organizations such as i58projects ( and many others that are helping give aid at this crucial time.
  • It's the people like Marcia Yudkin who have access to a large network of individuals, and she agreed to post my "Please Help Katrina Victims" article (located on my blog) on her web site.
  • It's a woman named June in California who had relatives in Louisiana come stay with her when Katrina hit. (Her husband was one of 13 children; many lived in Louisiana.) Her friends and family held a car wash / bake sale to raise money to help support her displaced family. Many heroes stopped by that day, wanting to donate money to help these displaced Louisianans get back on their feet. They raised $1,000 in one day.
  • It's a 13-year-old boy who, upon seeing the car wash / bake sale mentioned above, said he was going to the store but he would come back and donate the change. He came out with a soda in his hand and gave them the change from a $20 bill. He could have donated just a few bucks but instead, he gave the rest of the money he had. I wish I knew his name. I would elect him President when he grows up.
  • It's a woman who, at a gas station in Texas, met some of June's family and learned they were from Louisiana. Despite the polite refusals, the woman insisted on paying for their gas, food, and she gave them $40 spending money.
  • It's the famous individuals who are using their fame status to benefit those affected by Katrina. There are many that are participating in this effort, including Morgan Freeman (who lives in Jackson, MS), Sela Ward (who is from Meridian, MS), Hollywood Producer/Director Sam Haskell, Whoopi Goldberg, and many others. They are helping sponsor a Live Aid concert on October 1, 2005, to be held at the University of Mississippi at Oxford.
  • It's the people across the country who have donated their time, effort, and finances to help in the Gulf Coast's time of need.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Dear America (A letter from South Louisiana)

This was forwarded to me; the author is anonymous but has the wonderful sense of humor displayed by those living in South Louisiana. I know many of you out there are wondering why anyone would return to a land below sea level and face more hurricane seasons. The below describes very well the reasons why, with a humor that is engrained in the brave people who will build New Orleans again. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Dear America,

I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We're South Louisiana. We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We're not much on formalities like that. And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn't ask for this and neither did we, so we're just going to have to make the best of it.

First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue. We're a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don't cotton much to outside interference, but we're not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.

Just don't get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don't try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters. We're not going to listen. We're stubborn that way. You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you'd probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard. We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of those who don't.

We put Tabasco on stuff without tasting it first. But we'll try not to judge you while we're in your town. Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.

Often we don't make sense. You may wonder why, for instance - if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state - why in God's name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots? We can't really explain that. It is what it is.

You've probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere. The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.

We are what made this place a national treasure. We're good people. And don't be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time. When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces. But don't pity us. We're gonna make it. We're resilient. After all,we've been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That's gotta count for something. OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times. But what the heck.

And one more thing: In our part of the country, we're used to having visitors. It's our way of life. So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair. That is our promise. That is our faith.

Please Help Katrina Victims...

New Orleans: the Big Easy, melting pot of the United States, and my hometown. An eclectic mix of cultures and lifestyles unknown to other cities, but its precious spirit is shared freely with locals and tourists alike. The famous seafood gumbo with mounds of shrimp, vegetables, and sizzling spices that give the soup its individuality can be compared to New Orleans itself. Musicians, portrait artists, chefs, street performers – they all enjoyed living in this charming port city along the Mississippi River.

The heart and soul of this rare place - its people – are now displaced across the country. Many will return home to find they have lost everything. Many will have a mound of red tape getting repairs completed in a timely manner. Sadly, many others may not return at all.

I can remember walking through the French Quarter on lazy Sunday afternoons, my friends and I laughing and enjoying the spring breeze. We always made sure to catch our favorite street performer: the guy on the 16-foot tall unicycle. It was hard to miss him, because he drew in the largest crowds. He did all kinds of acrobatics, he juggled flaming batons, he could even kick his own hat from his foot to land on top of his head – all while maintaining perfect balance on this funny-looking unicycle. Crowds would laugh, applaud, and continue their afternoons with a smile. He exuded what New Orleans was famous for – its people, sense of humor, and unique ways to bring smiles to people’s faces. So many people have had to pack up and start over in new cities, I don’t know if I will ever see his show again. I miss it all. Breezes on the river, black iron decor flanking the historic homes, and the sound of jazz in the air.

Katrina took the life and soul from my hometown on August 29. Many have fled New Orleans and won’t return. Many are displaced with relatives or friends and are trying to enjoy what time they do have with family. Many didn’t have anywhere to go – they either went to a hotel to live or they went to a shelter. Many of the shelters – areas that are supposed to be a comforting, safe refuge from the horrors of Katrina – only wound up being worse than standing in the middle of Katrina’s deadly eye.

You’ve probably heard some of the top news stories, but there are more and more personal stories that I am hearing every day. A ten-year-old boy who refuses to let go of his switchblade, because that is what protected his mom from being raped in a shelter. This child who should be playing baseball and enjoying the summer has now been forced to grow up over a period of a few days. Even though he is safe now and has made his way to be with relatives, that child will never be the same. I had the privilege of meeting him just yesterday.

The emotional and physical toll that Katrina took in her raging forces will take time to heal. But you can help. I'll be honest with you. For other disasters such as 9/11, I gladly opened my wallet to the firefighters and the other causes. But this time I need to do more. CNN is not just covering the top news stories; it's the devastation of my hometown. My roots.

All of us want a sense of purpose in our lives. To be part of something. Today, you get that chance. I would like to urge everyone to find the organization of your choice and please give what you can. I am not endorsing any specific organization for helping Katrina victims. There are many different organizations out there, and the ones I strongly believe in helping may not be your first choice. That’s fine – I’m just saying find one that works for you.

If you can’t or don’t choose to give financially, find groups that you can donate your time, talents, blood, or supplies to. Right now the displaced people from New Orleans need your help. We haven’t seen many natural disasters in our lifetime, at least not here in the United States. There have been tragedies, but we rebuild and we survive – because of the good spirited people who reach out and help.

As someone who grew up there, I want to thank you for any way you can help. New Orleans and the gulf coast will become bigger and better – with the help of caring individuals such as yourself. Thank you for taking the time to read through a mourning woman’s stories. Thank you for doing whatever you can to help. I hope that if you have never been to New Orleans, that you one day get to see its beauty and charm. She can do wonders for the soul. So can each of you that help right now.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Relatives of Katrina Victims...

It seems there are many of us out there, in a variety of different states. We're the relatives and friends of people who survived Hurricane Katrina, and we're housing our loved ones with us until they can return (or if they choose to return.)

What I've noticed over the last few weeks is that a wide array of emotions have flooded through my mind. I was worried that my family wouldn't survive (in my case, they could not evacuate before Katrina due to medical reasons), then when the waters receded in their area, they had to drive 500 miles out of their way to arrive here. I am so incredibly grateful that they are safe, yet I am sad to see them (as well as many others now in my area) so displaced from their home. I've taken my parents shopping (as they only had 3 days worth of clothes when they arrived) and I see and hear New Orleans accents throughout the stores. In a way, this is comforting. Like I am surrounded by the people I grew up around once again. In a way, it is disheartening, because I know they miss their native city - the lazy port city on the Mississippi River.

This morning I took my parents out to brunch, and heard a cajun accent behind me ask the waiter if the restaurant had any coffee with chicory in it. My heart just broke when I heard that, because coffee with chicory was one of those things that was just "normal" in New Orleans, but it's not common in other places. Here are these people, displaced, wanting some semblance of home.

Writing has always been a creative outlet for me, and I've begun several poems about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I do urge everyone to donate to whatever group they feel most comfortable with to help Katrina victims. Donate financially, donate your time to sort out goods in various offices/shelters, donate supplies to help those who are displaced.

My family is one of the lucky ones. They have damage, but it can be repaired. Many have lost everything, and are now faced with the decision to rebuild what they had or start over. I can't imagine what that would feel like.

More blurbs on this blog to come...

Signing off for now - Cajungal