Friday, March 30, 2007


[Dan Baum is doing a online journal for the New Yorker from New Orleans.
This excerpt recounts something that happened on September 8, 2005, ten
days after the flood]

DAN BAUM, NEW ORLEANS JOURNAL - The people boarding the evacuation buses
that day were the holdouts - too poor to leave before the storm, too
stubborn or frightened to leave afterward. (Some New Orleanians had
already begun objecting to the term "refugee," and one man shouted to
nobody in particular, "I ain't no refugee! I ain't no evacuee! I'm a
motherfuckin' evictee!") Many had never left New Orleans at all; a good
number may never even have left the neighborhoods where they were born.
As the crisis wore on, they either were brought to the convention center
forcibly, by police, or dragged themselves in, defeated by thirst,
hunger, and heat. For many, it was a moment of bottomless despair.

A Harrah's Casino bus was waiting to take the holdouts to Louis
Armstrong International Airport. As they climbed aboard, a slasher movie
called "Wrong Turn" was playing on a screen near the front. A thrown axe
decapitated a pretty young woman hiding in a tree, and the camera
followed her headless body as it plummeted through the branches. "Damn!"
a wild-eyed man shouted approvingly; a woman in the back cried, "Why are
they showing us this?" As we waited, we could either watch the movie or
look out the window at Vice-President Dick Cheney. He walked across a
parking lot, surrounded by aides and cameras, and climbed into a
green-and-white helicopter that churned dust as it lifted off. "Wrong
Turn" ended and "Ray" came on, with loving scenes of poor black families
and jazz counterculture. In some ways, it was more painful to watch than
the slasher movie. The bus went quiet, tear-streaked faces gazing up at
the screen. Then we were rolling through eerily deserted streets. . .


No comments: