I arrive at New Orleans’s airport with my head hurting and my eyes watering having just read 60 pages about planning for the rebuilding of New Orleans – oh dear, words fail me on that count……..
So it is with relief that I step into the barmy night air of the Big Easy, I pass the sign offering voodoo juice (only thing that could explain the initial planning process) and head for the shuttle bus, “oh we got a smiley one here”, says the driver to the rest of the passengers. I pile in and listen to his banter accompanied by the titanic theme song (not what I figured this chap would be into in the home of jazz) as we head to the famous French Quarter. He unloads my bag saying “there you go baby girl – just head to them flags baby girl” Wow, given that I’m pushing 6” this ‘baby girl’ thing is surprising but comes across in a strangely charming way, so I tip him.
Next morning I head out into the French Quarter briefly recounting my teenage thing for Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire. I am entranced by some jazz musicians on a street corner, put some money in their case and lament on my ‘lack of cool’. This place is splendid, I am in love but I am also on a mission.
I head to the Katrina exhibition at The Presbytere, Louisiana State Museum. I leave two hours later horrified. Horrified does not come easily given that my career has been a series of disasters – but evacuees being shot, patients on respirators gasping for hours as they slowly die, people dying of dehydration on roof tops, the stories, the footage goes on and on…….it is horrifying and it is man-made.
I’m sure not feeling smiley anymore and feel uneasy about the “Katrina Destruction Dixie Tour’ brochure in my bag. I really hope no one makes a ‘Christchurch Neighbourhood Destruction Tour’ it just seems wrong….
I am interested to understand the impact this epic fail has had on the recovery process – a tough place to start from!