Chris (chrisjournal) wrote,

Chris clan update

Well, it's good news/bad news again on the family front. Remember where I said that the Casertas were all believed to have been evacuated? Not quite. Aunt Mariam and Uncle DJ (these are the eye-talian Italians, grandpa's brother's son and wife and their branch of family) did *not* leave town. They refused to go with Donnie to MS. I'm only finding this out yesterday/today. That's the bad news, sort of. The goodish news is that while he could not convince them to leave town with him (someday I will write an essay on why I *truly* understand where these folks are coming from), he did manage to get them to go to the Superdome on Sunday before the hurricane broke. I quake in fear as to what they must have been through there, but at least we know the death toll inside the dome wasn't through the roof. The down side is that they're evacuated *somewhere unknown* at this point. They aren't on the Red Cross's lists except for my entry and a family friend's "missing" entry. But we'll call that a 'yet' for now. There's another thing that simultaneously gives me hope and scares me silly: DJ has Alzheimer's, and Mariam has Parkinson's. She is not too bad off yet, and has been caring for him on her own successfully til now. Perhaps their disabilities will have helped them get more quickly to help and support.

In the meantime, I am now diving into the morass that is tring to locate someone who was evacuated through official channels instead of the two rescues of GaGa and uncle Al which went through unusual twists and turns, thanks to the involvement of senior group homes. I'm all ears if you've read or heard details that are specifically about how to trace someone who has been in official shelters (not clear on whether places like Astrodome, etc. are FEMA or Red Cross at this point).

I am beat down by this process, well and truly. The rollercoaster is wearing on me, and my rage and anger grow daily. I leave fighting the good fight to those of you more capable of focusing (please do be careful to direct your attacks to those in leadership positions -- and if someone wanted to go after Gov. Blanco with both barrels, I'd *find* the time to cheer you on in person, and bring my vinegar and cheese grater with). In the meanwhile, I'm going to keep doing what I can to help and encouraging you guys to do the same, and I'm going to keep my vigil up and running for wisemack's family, too. Soon, I hope I'll have time to start tracking down all those friends from the Tulane years who stayed in the city and check in on professors and other places and persons who've meant so much to me over the years.

I still can't process what's really happened here, you know? It's as if everything I ever knew and loved have been turned on an angle, and I can't quite make all the pieces fit together again. One thing I do know, though, is that despite the failure of leadership at all levels, and despite the inadequacy of both governmental and private institutional support for disasters, the people of the Gulf coast will survive, and this country will be the stronger for it all in the end because the *people* of this country have taken back a measure of personal power in finding ways to help all of these people put their lives back together again in the face of incredible, unbelievable incompetence and even deliberate stonewalling.

Finally, those of you who want to know what's really going on in New Orleans, go here and read the Times-Pic. I know these folks, worked with them, and it makes literally me cry (I'm not a cry-person, either) when I think about it all. Chris Rose was one of my teachers in journalism back in those days, and I think this one's especially important for everyone not from Louisiana to read :

Chris Rose: Louisiana ambassadors say hello

Dear America,

I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We're South Louisiana.

We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We're not much on formalities like that.

And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn't ask for this and neither did we, so we're just going to have to make the best of it.

First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.

We're a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don't cotton much to outside interference, but we're not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.

Just don't get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don't try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.

We're not going to listen. We're stubborn that way.

You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you'd probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.

We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of others who don't.

But we'll try not to judge you while we're in your town.

Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.

Often we don't make sense. You may wonder why, for instance - if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state - why in God's name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?

We can't really explain that. It is what it is.

You've probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.

The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.

We are what made this place a national treasure. We're good people. And don't be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.

When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.

But don't pity us. We're gonna make it. We're resilient. After all, we've been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That's got to count for something.

OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.

But what the hell.

And one more thing: In our part of the country, we're used to having visitors. It's our way of life.

So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.

That is our promise. That is our faith.

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