French Quarter Holdouts Create 'Tribes'
NEW ORLEANS - In the absence of information and outside assistance, groups of rich and poor banded together in the French Quarter, forming "tribes" and dividing up the labor.
As some went down to the river to do the wash, others remained behind to protect property. In a bar, a bartender put near-perfect stitches into the torn ear of a robbery victim.
While mold and contagion grew in the muck that engulfed most of the city, something else sprouted in this most decadent of American neighborhoods — humanity.
"Some people became animals," Vasilioas Tryphonas said Sunday morning as he sipped a hot beer in Johnny White's Sports Bar on Bourbon Street. "We became more civilized."
While hundreds of thousands fled the below-sea-level city before the storm, many refused to leave the Vieux Carre, or old quarter. Built on some of the highest ground around and equipped with underground power lines, residents considered it about the safest place to be.
Katrina blew off roof slates and knocked down some already-unstable buildings but otherwise left the 18th and 19th century homes with their trademark iron balconies intact. Even without water and power, most preferred it to the squalor and death in the emergency shelters set up at the Superdome and Convention Center.
But what had at first been a refuge soon became an ornate prison.
Police came through commandeering drivable vehicles and siphoning gas. Officials took over a hotel and ejected the guests.
An officer pumped his shotgun at a group trying to return to their hotel on Chartres Street.
"This is our block," he said, pointing the gun down a side street. "Go that way."
Jack Jones, a retired oil rig worker, bought a huge generator and stocked up on gasoline. But after hearing automatic gunfire on the next block one night, he became too afraid to use it — for fear of drawing attention.
Still, he continues to boil his clothes in vinegar and dip water out of neighbors' pools for toilet flushing and bathing.
"They may have to shoot me to get me out of here," he said. "I'm much better off here than anyplace they might take me."
Many in outlying areas consider the Quarter a playground for the rich and complain that the place gets special attention.
Yes, wealthy people feasted on steak and quaffed warm champagne in the days after the storm. But many who stayed behind were the working poor — residents of the cramped spaces above the restaurants and shops.
Tired of waiting for trucks to come with food and water, residents turned to each other.
Johnny White's is famous for never closing, even during a hurricane. The doors don't even have locks.
Since the storm, it has become more than a bar. Along with the warm beer and shots, the bartenders passed out scrounged military Meals Ready to Eat and bottled water to the people who drive the mule carts, bus the tables and hawk the T-shirts that keep the Quarter's economy humming.
"It's our community center," said Marcie Ramsey, 33, whom Katrina promoted from graveyard shift bartender to acting manager.
For some, the bar has also become a hospital.
Tryphonas, who restores buildings in the Quarter, left the neighborhood briefly Saturday. Someone hit in the head with a 2-by-4 and stole his last $5.
When Tryphonas showed up at Johnny White's with his left ear split in two, Joseph Bellomy — a customer pressed into service as a bartender — put a wooden spoon between Tryphonas' teeth and used a needle and thread to sew it up. Military medics who later looked at Bellomy's handiwork decided to simply bandage the ear.
"That's my savior," Tryphonas said, raising his beer in salute to the former Air Force medical assistant.
A few blocks away, a dozen people in three houses got together and divided the labor. One group went to the Mississippi River to haul water, one cooked, one washed the dishes.
"We're the tribe of 12," 76-year-old Carolyn Krack said as she sat on the sidewalk with a cup of coffee, a packet of cigarettes and a box of pralines.
The tribe, whose members included a doctor, a merchant and a store clerk, improvised survival tactics. Krack, for example, brushed her dentures with antibacterial dish soap.
It had been a tribe of 13, but a member died Wednesday of a drug overdose. After some negotiating, the police carried the body out on the trunk of a car.
The neighbors knew the man only as Jersey.
Tribe member Dave Rabalais, a clothing store owner, said he thinks the authorities could restore utilities to the Quarter. But he knows that would only bring "resentment and the riffraff."
"The French Quarter is the blood line of New Orleans," he said. "They can't let anything happen to this."
On Sunday, the tribe of 12 became a tribe of eight.
Four white tour buses rolled into the Quarter under Humvee escort. National Guardsmen told residents they had one hour to gather their belongings and get a ride out. Four of the tribe members decided to leave.
"Hallelujah!" Teresa Lawson shouted as she dragged her suitcase down the road. "Thank you, Jesus!"
For Mark Rowland, the leaving was bittersweet.
"I'm heart-broken to leave the city that I love," Rowland said as he sat in the air-conditioned splendor of the bus. "It didn't have to be this way."
Commentary: The interesting thing about this story is how humans who are strangers to each other react in adverse conditions in order to survive.
The Story: Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle also describes how humans band together to form tribes.
One thing fascinating is that the police themselves formed a tribe of sorts. Taking over a Hotel, commandeering vehicles, and then entered into bargaining with the tribe to remove a body.
I think that what we are seeing here in this article is that this is a microcosm of how human beings would behave during a catastrophic event such as Nuclear or Biological War, where you have a complete breakdown in government, distribution systems: society would rapidly unravel. With some people becoming lone criminals, others forming criminal gangs, and law abiding (or rather "civilized") people forming tribes in order to divide labor and survive.
Food for Thought.
Just like the tv show Survivor. Maybe that show will get some more respect after this.
Another Article on Johnny White's
New Orleans bar keeps doors open through catastrophe
A lone women sits in the middle of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, 31 August 2005, in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The bars of the Big Easy prided themselves on staying open come rain or shine but only one kept serving through the Hurricane Katrina crisis.(AFP/File/James Nielsen)
NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - The bars of the Big Easy prided themselves on staying open come rain or shine but only one kept serving through the Hurricane Katrina crisis.
"We don't have any locks on the door," said Julie Sprinkel, a server at Johnny White's Sports Bar on the normally raucous Bourbon Street.
Pitch dark but for a few candles, the laughter could be heard along the street, famed for its alcohol-fueled debauchery, which on a normal night would have been flooded with hordes of hedonists decked out in cheap Mardi Gras beads.
The warm beer did not bother the regulars who have stayed faithful since Hurricane Katrina hit the city on Monday which was followed by flooding, looting and widespread pillaging.
Bourbon Street largely escaped the floods that hit after New Orleans levees were breached. And in the first days, a few stranded tourists also wandered in to sample the warm beer that became the drink of the day after the power went off and the refrigerators stopped working.
"Whatcha need, darling, you're all right?" the gruff bartender called out to a sweaty customer as he squeezed into her line of sight.
"Something cool, like bourbon," he answered.
Johnny White's has been an island of normalcy in a city shattered by hurricane anarchy and the stench of death.
The tiny joint sits squarely on the corner of Bourbon and Orleans where alcoholics and derelicts mix with a steady stream of yuppies and tourists who play at slumming it.
The doors are wide open.
Nearly a week after the disaster there are not many people walking by to notice. Those that do have stories to tell.
Lisa Smith, 41, is slumped on a bar stool, nursing a rum and coke -- and a huge gash on her side.
"I was floating on a couch drinking Budweiser," she told a friend who walked in as she began to tell the tale of how she escaped the floodwaters and made it back to her home away from home in the French Quarter.
Smith's story was interrupted by cheers which broke out when a man walked in with a cooler of ice.
"Don't get too excited, I'm hoarding this for myself," Sprinkel joked as she lit another cigarette and leaned on a stool behind the bar.
Sprinkel's only reason for keeping the bar open was habit. She definitely did not seem to be doing it for the money. She was only charging four dollars for mixed drinks and two dollars for beer.
"I could be making 1,000 dollars in six hours easy," she said. "It's not right. I'm not going to gouge. Everybody here is local."
It's the spirit of the French Quarter, Smith explained.
"We'll stop partying in a couple of days because everyone will run out of money."
This is how it should be all over.
Kudos to the people who banded together. They may be honest businessmen or druggies (as the first gentleman that died) but they took care of themselves.
My hat is off to them.
Ok... Which tribe has the strippers?
This article illustrates how a catastrophe effects Emergency Service Employees: Firemen and Police.
The article also illustrates on what not to do or say if you were elected mayor. Leaders are supposed to LEAD, not act and sound like a helpless victim.
The photo shows how even the police ( like any other human being ) can become indifferent towards death and human misery.
Suicides among New Orleans police, firefighters: mayor
NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Some New Orleans police and firefighters were driven to suicide by the trauma of trying to hold the city together in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin said.
"Some firefighters and police officers have been pretty much traumatized. And we've already had a couple of suicides," Nagin told CNN.
Local emergency services were overwhelmed by the level of destruction unleashed by Katrina, and found themselves helpless as the city swiftly descended into anarchy with widespread looting and violence.
Outnumbered and unable to deter the looters, a number of police officers simply turned in their badges in disgust.
"They've been holding the city together for three or four days, almost by themselves, doing everything imaginable," Nagin said, "and the toll is just too much for them."
The mayor said his main priority was to cycle the most fatigued emergency personnel out of the city as soon as possible.
"They need physical and psychological evaluations," he added.
Once the evacuation of hurricane survivors from the city had been completed, Nagin said the next priority would be the grisly task of harvesting the rotting corpses from the flooded streets and houses.
"We have to drain this city. We have to get these dead bodies out of the water," he said, estimating that the death toll would be in the thousands.
Nagin has been among the most vocal critics of the government response to the disaster that left 80 percent of New Orleans submerged.
He was especially angered by delays in bringing in sufficient numbers of armed National Guardsmen to help secure the city as the law and order situation broke down.
With the arrival of reinforcements in the last two days, including thousands of active service troops, Nagin said the security situation had improved but the overall picture remained dire.
"I see the same thing I've been seeing for six or seven days now. I see destruction. I see despair. I see suffering. I see death," he said.
This is why I hope they rebuild NO. Once they get it going again, I'm going there for a drink.
The ZOO...can't forget the ZOO..
Shocked but alive, residents of New Orleans zoo emerge from Katrina
The Audubon Zoo General Curator Dan Maloney feeds the zoo's giraffes in New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Other than an alligator on the loose, a couple of dead otters and a host of shell-shocked animals, denizens of the New Orleans zoo came through deadly Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed.(AFP/James Nielsen)
NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Other than an alligator on the loose, a couple of dead otters and a host of shell-shocked animals, denizens of the New Orleans zoo came through deadly Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed.
But Dan Maloney, general curator of the Audubon Zoo is now worried about the danger posed by downed trees and low-flying rescue helicopters that he says traumatize his animals.
Tired and, Maloney was however quick to play down fears that the zoo itself posed a fresh danger to New Orleans, brought to its knees by one of the worst natural disasters in US history.
Residents need not worry about dangerous animals prowling through the wreckage if the city, he said, stressing all were accounted for except for the single errant alligator, he said.
"We were very fortunate," said Maloney, who weathered the storm and its aftermath in the zoo that is home to around 1,500 animals from over 350 species from around the world.
Because it is built on high ground, the zoo avoided flooding and the fatalities were minimal in a city where the human death toll is thought to have reached in the thousands.
"We lost a pair of young river otters," said Maloney evidently upset over the loss of life.
Some animals went missing after the storm and flooding hit Monday, but most returned and were found soundly in the zoo, including a black vulture who was found happily munching on cattle egrits.
"We also had a flamingo that was traumatized. We though he would die but he has returned to the flock. "I'm sure the alligator will return too," said Maloney.
The giraffes were apparently a little upset at the water rationing imposed as the city utilities fell victim to the deadly storm.
Calling out 'come here sweetie, sweetie,' Maloney held out a bucket of extra water for the four animals who timidly approached with what seemed liked a dazed look, retreating a few steps, but eventually lapping up their drink.
The big cats were kept well fed. "We invite journalists in, lock the gates and then they are never heard of again," he joked.
In fact the lions and other fierce felines had bellyfulls of meat thanks to a two week supply kept in massive freezers powered by generators.
For years, the zoo has been preparing for just such a storm, reinforcing concrete structures that house most animals during the hurricane, organizing emergency supplies and preparing for the potential evacuation of staff.
Dozens of zoo officials and wardens sat out the storm and the horrific aftermath alongside the animals they love in what they have now nicknamed "Camp Katrina".
"We holed up in the reptile house," said Maloney, as workers removed downed trees to clear a path for trucks to bring in diesel to fuel generators needed to regulate temperatures in the serpentarium.
Maloney praised the efforts of rescue teams searching for people trapped in their flooded homes, but said he worried about the psychological impact of the low flying helicopters on zoo animals.
"They're getting spooked, this could serious affect them," he said.
He also feared it could take as long as four years to get the zoo back in pristine shape.
But most of all he is relieved virtually all animals survived Katrina's wrath.
As flood waters rose in the low-lying city in the hours after the storm, he had feared they would drown the animals, Maloney said.
"I was this close to building the ark," he said.
Problem is, they have female impersonator strippers there too. You can walk into the wrong bar.
Here is an article on COPs in Orleans..
Most officers working on adrenaline, little else
’I told them that the worst is yet to come’
By Michael Perlstein
When gunshots panicked an already desperate crowd of evacuees inside the nearly pitch-black Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, several New Orleans police officers instinctively pulled their guns and ran toward the pops. Just as quickly, they realized their weapons were useless amid the clusters of bedraggled families.
But they weaved their way toward the muzzle flash anyway, Superintendent Eddie Compass said, shining flashlights, groping with their hands, guided toward the shooter by evacuees pulling on their pants legs. When they got a bead on the gunman, they rushed to disarm him, despite the chance of facing more deadly fire.
Throughout the inundated city, what remained of the New Orleans Police Department was transformed into a virtual militia operation, Compass and other commanders said, forcing officers to freelance without radios, supplies or clear orders. Dozens of officers turned in their badges or fled without a word.
Some joined in with looters and marauders, plunging an already jittery situation into moments of complete societal breakdown.
"These events do two things: they show your strengths and they expose your weaknesses. We had both," Compass said.
But according to Compass, the majority of the 1,700-person force held its ground, figuring out ways to save lives and restore order, working to save the city despite, in many cases, becoming victims themselves.
"The bulk of this police department stood intact," Compass said in an interview, tears streaming down his face. "We fought the most unbelievable war imaginable and we survived . . . Some officers lost their houses and they’re still out there. Some officers lost family members and they’re still out there."
Like every other city, state and federal agency, the police department was almost instantly overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina, Compass said. With the city plunged into a near-total communications blackout, the police radio system was reduced to walkietalkies among small squads.
As much as possible, the squads began organizing themselves at key points around the city, Compass said. The SWAT team tried to quell looting, track down armed gangs and restore order. The vice squad took over the search-and-rescue boat patrols. District patrol officers set up satellite evacuation points as refugees began streaming out of flooded neighborhoods. Compass bounced between the City Hall emergency command post, the law enforcement staging area at Harrah’s Casino and the field.
At one point, there was a rumor that Compass had fled to Baton Rouge. He said the bad information circulated because his car was seen heading to the Capitol, carrying his eight-months-pregnant wife when she went into distress.
"I’ve been rolling on calls, backing people up on the ground, fighting off people with my bare hands," he said.
Police protocol was tossed out the window. The force’s usual show of crisp white and blue uniforms was largely supplanted by t-shirts, jeans, bandanas, hip-waders, shirts with the sleeves torn off. The department’s polished and immaculately groomed spokesman, Capt. Marlon Defillo, armed himself with a pistol in one hand and an semiautomatic shotgun in the other.
More than a dozen 2nd District officers worked shifts at Napoleon and St. Charles avenues, where droves of people were funneled toward them in canoes, rescue boats and, in many cases, after wading through neck-high water, Lt. Eddie Selby said.
Other than a caravan of National Guard trucks that arrived for the mass evacuation of Memorial Medical Center on Wednesday, Selby said, his officers had no transportation for evacuees.
To solve the budding crisis, officers commandeered any vehicles they could find to get people to the Superdome and Convention Center refuge points. A yellow De La Salle High school bus. An Audubon Zoo van. A flatbed truck donated by a volunteer.
On Friday, two lines formed at the pickup point: one for people in medical distress, another for evacuees heading to larger evacuation points. In a line of people headed for the convention center, a woman with a Wal-Mart cart pushed her way to the De La Salle bus.
Through a bus window, she handed up a bag of tampons, boxes of crayons and pencils for her kids, and a brand-new looted 17-inch flat screen television.
The scene was orderly, the officers professional, but Selby said his people were "operating on pure adrenaline."
"We try to break them into 12- hour shifts, but then something happens and we have to call them back," Selby said. "A lot of us are working on three, four hours sleep. We moved about 1,000 people a day the first three days."
Officer Darryl Albert said a handful of volunteers have remained at the intersection throughout the crisis, setting up a cluster of chairs and couches in the street so they could catch moments of rest.
"You see those volunteers loading people up over there?" Albert asked. "Those people are there when we leave at night and here when we get here in the morning. That man doesn’t have to be here. If people like that are going to be out here, there is no way I can leave."
Compass and other commanders said the officers grew increasingly frustrated as the days passed without any substantial backup. Officers were running around-the-clock on wideeyed adrenaline, he said, but the lack of basic items like food, water and clean clothes began to take a toll.
"We were running low on everything," he said. "We fought a battle in knee-deep water with no radios. My people were getting shot at, walking into firefighters in the dark. I don’t know what the feds were doing, what the military was doing, but every one of my deputy chiefs stayed. Every one of my commanders stayed."
Compass said he almost reached a personal breaking point when he couldn’t find the right channels to secure two Blackhawk helicopters parked for several days at the Superdome heliport.
"I called (Jefferson Parish) Harry Lee and he had a Blackhawk on its way from Knoxville, Tennessee, within an hour."
As the city plunged deeper into crisis with each day, officers used common sense to alter their boundaries of legal behavior. What passed for looting on the day after the storm hit was accepted as lifesaving foraging by week’s end. Some officers joined in grabbing supplies from breached stores, carrying off socks, T-shirts, food and other essentials.
With National Guard and other military troops now rolling into the city, the beleaguered NOPD is anticipating an infusion of food, water and generator power, along with badly needed reinforcements so officers can take a break.
But Capt. Timothy Bayard, the narcotics and vice commander now heading the boat rescue operation, said he has warned his officers that the work could be harder before it gets easier. Once rescuers pluck everyone from rooftops and attics, Bayard said, his mission will shift to coordinating the recovery of bodies.
"I have a lot of young officers and I told them that the worst is yet to come. Bodies are going to pop up out of nowhere. The stench will be overwhelming. Bloated bodies are going to pop like balloons. The skin’s going to tear off as soon as you grab it. You’re going to have nothing but bones in your hand. We’ll have to kill dogs and cats because of rabies. Hell, they might find people they know. But you’ve got to keep going back in."
We could always build a wall around the city... this article kinda sounds like "Escape from New York".
ETA: My hat's off to those folks who have managed to remain civilized in that mess.
My question is why are there still pepole hanging out in NO? I thought all were suppoese to leave by now.
Glad to see the zoo is ok, and the aminals are being fed. That mans that some good people around.
So the zoo lost a single alligator. They'll have to pick him out of a lineup before it's over.
Now if they could have just lost him near the gangstas...
Too stupid, too stubborn, too willing to loot, etc. Take your pick as to which one, IMO.