CityBeat’s Living Out Loud – Cincinnati Blog

{August 29, 2006}   Crawfish on a Sweatshirt

(Editor’s Note: Looking back at Hurricane Katrina one year later, I find myself wondering what we learned from this – anything? A year later, New Orleans is still a mess and most have not been able to return to their homes. The editorial listed below ran in the Living Out Loud column on September l4 of last year.)

I’ve held on to it all these years – this green sweatshirt with a big red crawfish on the front – the caption reading “New Orleans Crawfish.” I found it in a bottom dresser drawer.

That morning, when New Orleans was at its bleakness, I dug out my old sweatshirt and turned off the television for awhile, needed a break from all the news about the flooding, the hurricane, the looting and the evacuation. I wanted to stop thinking about the thousands of people left dead in what was left of their homes or dead in the water that’s full of gas and sewage or those simply left to rot on the sidewalks.

I put on the old sweatshirt, poured myself a cup of coffee and went and sat down in my chair on my porch. I took a deep breath. Memories of The Big Easy started to come back.

James talked me into going down with him for Mardi Gras, February, 1975. His Chevy was old and we weren’t sure if it would make it – but when you’re young, you don’t really think anything bad is going to happen to you. And we were young, both 21 years old.

I never talk much about the trip, mainly because I remember so little about it. I was 21 and could drink. That’s what I did in New Orleans. Booze was everywhere.

The parade, jazz music, people laughing – even buying that sweatshirt is all kind of a blur. I remember James holding me up a lot, helping me walk, because I was so drunk. I remember a blonde girl – who I think was topless – French kissing me on the sidewalk. I remember laughing so hard at things I now can’t even remember.

We only stayed a few days. I was sick as a dog in the back of James’s car on the way home to Cincinnati. James assured me I had a good time and we would be heading back the following year.

But we never went back. Life happened. I got married, had kids and got lost in the corporate world of trying to make a buck. New Orleans simply became a hazy memory. As I sat there in my chair, I found myself feeling sad about it.

I want New Orleans to come back to life and hope we don’t start looking the other way in the weeks and months ahead. Sooner or later, a celebrity will do something that will knock it off the front page. That’s wrong. I want the media to keeping rubbing our noses in it. We need to learn from it.

If anything good has come out of this disaster, it’s that maybe the press seems to have gotten their balls back. Since 9/11 and the war in Iraq, major media sources have let hard questions go or look the other way when bad decisions are made. That’s changed with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

It does my heart good to see the press come after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff with the question of why did the Federal Government wait so long to act? That question has been asked many times with Chertoff saying “what we did right and what we did wrong” will be examined later. He got that line from President Bush who doesn’t know how to answer the question either. It’s pretty clear to me politics and bureaucracy continue to live even in the face of a natural disaster.

Local governments have questions to answer too. The Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation Plan states mandatory evacuation is done by private transportation and for those who don’t have it, school and municipal buses are to be used. The mandatory evacuation didn’t exist for the poor and for the most part; no buses were used to take them away from the city.

Why not, Major Ray Nagin? And Governor Kathleen Blanco: Why wasn’t the National Guard called in to secure the city before the storm? Why didn’t you ask for additional troops later when the city was in total panic? Why did people die when they could have been saved? The media needs to keep asking these questions until they are honestly answered.

As the floodwaters keep receding, I want the media to keep showing us the debris, the sewage and even the dead bodies. Maybe they can report something about these people – who they were and who loved them. I also want the media to show us the cleanup, the rebuilding of New Orleans and some happy endings with families being reunited. Again, I want it all in my face. I want to keep remembering I’m a lucky, lucky man.

When I took off that crawfish sweatshirt, I decided not to put it back in a drawer. I draped it over a chair in my study so I will always see it. I don’t want to forget this nightmare. None of us should.

Larry Gross


Chuck says:

From following the news one year later after Katrina hit, as you say, New Orlens is still cleaning up – basically so is most of Mississippi. Our president – like most things – attempts to put a good (false) face on it, The truth is looking back a year later, we haven’t learned very much at all.

Jim Stanton says:

One year after Hurrican Katrina, Bush is in New Orlens talking about all the progress that has been made. The media (who you state in your editorial now has balls) is quick to point out otherwise. I think in Bush’s mind, if you do a good PR job on it, everything is fine. This man needs to be removed from office.

Karen says:


I remember reading this column almost a year ago. How sad that almost a year later, people in New Orlens and Mississippi are still suffering. Bush and company should be ashamed of themselves.


Ted says:

How nice of Bush to show up in New Orlens one year after the hurricane. Last year, it took him 10 DAYS after the hurricane to even show up!

Beaver Head says:

I can’t believe the citizens there put nagin back in the office. he’s to blame too.

John says:

It is amazing looking at pictures of New Orleans today as compared to last year after the hurricane. It’s like only a few weeks have passed.

Karen @ the hood says:

FEMA is a four letter word.

Tom says:

The physical putdown of our president is what I come to expect in CityBeat and also apparently in this blog.

Billions of dollars have been spent on rebuilding New Orleans but to all the Bush-haters out there, that’s not enough. It has reached the point with all the liberal media out there that this president simply can’t do anything right in their eyes.

President Bush did all he could do – again billions spent. Why everyone gets so hung up on the fact that he wasn’t in the city THE DAY OF THE HURRICANE is just stupid.

Larry Gross says:

Tom –

Let’s be real here.

A lot of us thought it was pretty bad when President Bush sat there for 7 minutes reading “My Pet Goat” when the World Trade Center was under attack, but he even out did himself when it took him 10 DAYS to get down to New Orleans. And can you actually defend FEMA’s lack of response?

Your right when you say billions of dollars have been spent – but maybe a better word is “thrown” at the problem. Now a year later, a lot of that money we can’t even account for. Once again, no accountability when it come to Bush and Company.

Watch the network news tonight, Tom. Take a look at New Orleans, see how it looks a year later. Look how we treated own people. It’s pretty sad.

Defend Bush if you want, but most of us know he has and will continue to drop the ball. Hurricane Katrina helped to bring it out in the open.

Heather says:

It’s interesting, Tom, that you feel the president has done all he could to rebuild New Orleans. Billions spent, you say? Oh, well how generous of Bush to spend billions of US tax dollars to rebuild a US city after a natural disaster. How many billions, Tom? Two? Three? Do you suppose he redirected those billions of dollars from his $310,000,000,000.00 war?

I should write him a note and thank him. I know it was hard for him to spend money on a half-ass reconstruction job, after all, it’s so much more fun to spend our tax dollars on the whole-hearted destruction of oil-hoarding Arab countries.

Tracy says:

Tom, I’m try to defend our president all I can, but you havae to admit when it come to Katrina, he was asleep at the wheel.

Ted says:

Heather’s right. we spend all this money on a war that nobody wants – except Bush – and we forget about our own. How sad. How Bush.

Brenda says:

I can’t say I agree with Tom but maybe New Orleans was hit by god. Please, don’t start jumping on me here. You know I’m not the first person to say this. The city is known to be very sinful and has been forever. Maybe it was god’s way to tell the city to clean up its act.

John says:

No jumping on Brenda————but—————–gee!!!

Ted says:

…and on brenda’s note, i’m leaving the office. brenda, brenda, brenda. maybe you mean well.

C.A. MacConnell says:

Thanks for posting this. I’m learning a lot here, and it reminds me to be grateful.

Robin says:

Like C.A., Thanks for moving your column up a year and thanks for the debate. I feel lucky. So many people lost their homes, jobs and even their lives in New Orleans and Mississippi. Keep that shirt on your chair. Thanks for sharing again.

Oh Brenda, I would be remiss in my duty as a human being if I let this one pass.

The god who lets millions of Africans starve every year? The god who abandons sexually abused children who become prostitutes on the streets of every major city on the globe? The god who refuses to lift a finger while the rich get richer and the poor die of diarrhea because they live in a country where U.N. sanctions restrict the trade of Imodium?

Your god would really kill innocent children, and elderly people trapped in nursing homes? Does your god hate poor people Brenda? Because that’s who died. The people who could afford to leave left. Does your god value the lives of people who have money? Because I’m certain I could look up four or five quotes from Jesus that would say the exact opposite about the very same god.

But no, let’s not be silly. Of course it’s not the poor people god hates (he simply doesn’t care that they always seem to be caught in the crossfire of his wrath). His wrath against the godless homosexuals, is, I believe, how Mr. Falwell put it. But then why was the gayest part of New Orleans hit the least? Why was the French Quarter, the annual site of the acclaimed “gay Mardi Gras” almost completely spared by Katrina?

Is god’s aim so terrible that he missed the French Quarter while hitting huge parts of Mississippi and Alabama?

If this is the kind of god you people love and worship, then it’s no wonder ruthless self-righteous monsters like Bush head this country.

As for me, I believe we’re on our own here, and we’re never going to get anywhere until we take responsibility for ourselves as a species.

Betty says:

I agree with what heather is saying, but she always comes on way to strong.

Jackie says:

What? Heather can’t have an opinion? Excuse me, isn’t this what this thing is all about?

Yeah, sorry about that.

It’s what I do.

But if there is an afterlife, everyone can take comfort in the fact that I will spend eternity annoying the hell out of Satan.

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