It was ten years ago this week that Hurricane Katrina almost wiped America’s most interesting city right of the map. I remember watching the drama unfold on TV, in disbelief with each day going by and still nothing seeming to be done. In all honesty, like everyone else, I never really thought it would get this bad and was kicking myself that I hadn’t found a way to get out there sooner, but after a couple of days I was relieved to get a call from People Magazine and I was on the next flight to Houston. I’ve been fortunate to cover many important human interest stories for People over the years and love working on current events with the deeper perspective a weekly magazine can offer, and with no story being bigger than this, I was excited to be a part of the team.After a few days in Houston I drove down to New Orleans proper, along with my buddy and longtime colleague People correspondent Ken Lee (which was an adventure), where I was shocked to find a city completely deserted and literally under martial law. One sight in particular that sticks in my mind from my first day there; a pick-up truck casually pulls onto the freeway ahead of us, pretty normal, until I notice a passenger sitting on the flatbed, scanning the horizon, brandishing a shotgun, cocked and looking for action!It was an unusual time to say the least and very grateful for the experience. There’s really nothing quite like witnessing real life in action; the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve been back to New Orleans quite a few times since then, and happy to say it doesn’t seem to have lost it’s charm, or its edge. Hallelujah!
I spent a couple of days in New Orleans hanging with and shooting Greg Dulli, former frontman of the Afghan Whigs, and currently of The Twilight Singers. Let me tell you, these guys can play. And drink. And eat. But then again, what would you expect in New Orleans. Also Greg is the owner of the uber-cool hangout ‘The R Bar’, where much of our shoot took place. If you find yourself down in N’arleans, you gotta go check it out. Monday’s special is $10 for a shot and a haircut! Seriously. There’s even an old- school barber chair at the bar.
After watching the Saints miraculously win the Super Bowl this past weekend, I began to think about my first trip down to New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I was initially covering evacuees in Houston for People magazine, but once that assignment was over, myself and staff writer Ken Lee decided to make the dicey drive through Louisiana (mainly because ken needed his car back, after it had been stranded at New Orleans airport for the best part of a week). So we stocked the car with four or five cans of gasoline, food and a couple of empty bottles as an emergency bathroom ( you can’t stop once your crossing the swamp). I was fortunate to hook up with a unit of the 82nd Airborne as they patrolled the city, including the Superdome. It was a remarkable sight. There were signs posted outside noting that ecoli was present, which made the experts at the time certain that the building would have to be demolished! I’m happy to say that prophecy did not come true. But the experience of walking this desolate empty space, with just the sound of dripping water, was eerily reminiscant of a scene from a Ridley Scott movie. I just stood there, thinking that this was the sight of so many past great Super Bowls, and every Saints home game, and just a few days ago, the scariest place on Earth. What a remarkable recovery for a team that a short time ago was homeless, just like it’s residents.