Friday, January 06, 2006

Touring disaster areas

Wherein I pass along a request to visit New Orleans

Poppy Z. Brite want you to visit New Orleans (Devastation Tours):

I know this is something like my millionth entry of the day, but I got so excited about the H.T.C. that I forgot to post a link to this article about the tours of our most devastated neighborhoods. I still have mixed feelings about this setup, but the article made me a little more optimistic that they will do some good. Joe Gendusa is a friend and a fine tour guide; not only that, but he endured the horrific post-K conditions at the Convention Center and will be able to give tourists a unique perspective on what we have experienced and continue to experience.

If you've always wanted to come to New Orleans but never did -- or if you came before, but have qualms about returning -- I hope with all my heart that you will still come. We need and welcome you. We're at a point now where we can again provide an easy, fun, safe (probably safer than ever) environment for tourists if that's what you want. The French Quarter is fully functional, plenty of restaurants and bars are open, and the Carnival season begins tomorrow. However, I find myself hoping that if you do come, you'll take one of these tours. I repeat: We need people to see what we look like now. We need them to see that parts of the city are functioning well, that we're not some pathetic ruin buried in toxic sludge ... but we also need them to see what has been lost, and what we face in trying to recover it. The only way people are going to continue caring about us is if they see the devastation firsthand or hear about it from someone they trust. I mean, I've thought about little else but New Orleans over the past four months, and until I saw the worst-hit parts of the Lower Ninth Ward yesterday, even I couldn't comprehend just how bad it was.

In name, at least, we here in South Louisiana are Americans. We provide essential services to America, yet many of us feel that America is not helping us as much as it might another place hit by similar destruction. To much of the rest of the country, New Orleans is a combination playground and barroom -- fun but expendable. People don't think about how something like 75% the coffee they drink, 80% of the bananas they eat, and a huge percentage of the other consumer goods they use came in through our port ... or how much of the country's oil supply is refined down here ... or how they'll like it when they can no longer get fresh Gulf shrimp, not because the shrimp aren't plentiful, but because all the shrimpers have been destroyed by poverty and/or inadequate storm protection.

We desperately need other Americans to understand (A) the situation we're in, and (B) that it mostly isn't due to the storm itself, but to the failure of the federally built levees we were told would protect us. We need tourist dollars, but even more importantly, I'm not sure we can survive without the help of "outsiders" who care and can carry our message back to the rest of the world.

You can also view her New Orleans photos


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