The lost city

American writers on the New Orleans disaster

“To my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us ‘Sin City,’ and turned your backs.”
Anne Rice

“Friday, showing up on the fifth day of a national tragedy, Bush made a little humorous aside about the times he was in New Orleans celebrating too much. Beautiful! If he tried to walk fifty yards he could have tripped over somebody’s dead black grandmother under a blanket. How do you like it? How do you like having a president who at a time like this reminisces about getting drunk in New Orleans? White boy with Daddy’s money roaring at Mardi Gras in a town black for the rest of the year. If whites were in trouble in New Orleans, trust that his government would have been there early and the aid massive.”
Jimmy Breslin
Newsday columnist

“In America, even with our incommensurable memories of 9/11, we still do not have an exact human vocabulary for the loss of a city—our great iconic city, so graceful, livable, insular, self-delighted, eccentric, the one New Orleanians always said, with a wink, that care forgot and that sometimes, it might seem forgot to care. … Here now is one more tragedy that we thought, by some divinity’s grace that didn’t arrive, we’d miss. But not. And our inept attempts at words run only to lists, costs, to assessing blame. It’s like Hiroshima, a public official said. But no. It’s not like anything. It’s what it is.”
Richard Ford
Pulitzer Prize-winning author

“Hurricane Katrina was more than a natural disaster. It was a political epiphany, laying bare difficult truths from which, mainly, the United States has been in flight. Most obviously, the flooding of the cities and towns along the Gulf Coast has pulled a curtain back on a huge population of desperately impoverished people. The ‘other’ America, as Michael Harrington called it a generation ago, has shown itself as hardly ever before. The wealthiest nation on earth has its hidden legion of have-nots, and all at once the rest of us saw them. The scandal of rank poverty was exposed, and if beholding it was like seeing something indecent, that’s because such poverty in this nation is exactly that—indecent.”
James Carroll
The Boston Globe

“I don’t think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn’t rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn’t get adequate armor. At a fundamental level, I’d argue, our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.”
Paul Krugman
The New York Times

“What the world has witnessed this past week is an image of poverty and social disarray that tears away the affluent mask of the United States. Instead of the much-celebrated American can-do machine that promises to bring freedom and prosperity to less fortunate people abroad, we have seen a callous official incompetence that puts even Third World rulers to shame. The well-reported litany of mistakes by the Bush administration in failing to prevent and respond to Katrina’s destruction grew longer with each hour’s grim revelation from the streets of an apocalyptic New Orleans.”
Robert Scheer
Los Angeles Times