Friday, September 02, 2005


Stephanie Grace's latest column

Sorry the formatting sucks again...

Stephanie Grace column8:00 p.m.By Stephanie GracePolitical columnist

A week ago today, Mayor Ray Nagin was positively giddy about New Orleans' prospects. He had good reason: Donald Trump was coming to town. Nagin sat in his corporate-style City Hall office and discussed the newly inked deal to convert a Poydras Street parking lot into New Orleans’ tallest skyscraper, a glitzy hotel-condominium hybrid known in the trade as a “condotel.” He gleefully pondered what Trump’s stamp of approval said about the city’s economic present, and future. “The market has tipped. It's pretty amazing," Nagin said. In fact, he planned to lobby Trump to invest in other projects, from downtown to the potentially marketable riverfront.Could this really be the same city? The same century? Could the mayor who couldn’t stop grinning last Thursday really be the same man who just today issued a “desparate SOS” to anyone who might be able to save the thousands of lives still endangered by Hurricane Katrina and its desperate, violent aftermath?It’s not like Nagin had his head in the sand before. He and everyone else knew that New Orleans was as precarious as it was promising. They just didn’t know how close the edge was. Turns out that the entrenched poverty, the culture of lawlessness, the delicate drainage system and even admirable impulses such as the devotion to home, family and neighborhood that kept so many people from leaving have, it now seems, been New Orleans’ undoing. Just turn on the TV, if you’re lucky enough to be someplace with electricity. Can’t get away from it. You have to wonder: Will the Donald Trumps of the world ever come back? Better question: Will we? So much is gone. There will be no tourism industry for the foreseeable future, and that means no jobs for the huge numbers of locals who eke out a living in the service industry. There’s no school, and interim superintendent Ora Watson has already advised Orleans Parish system teachers to look for work elsewhere and for parents to enroll their kids where they can.By necessity, Tom Benson now gets to see how his Saints like calling someplace other than the tattered Superdome home. Thousands upon thousands of flooded homes will be razed, and who knows when the roads, electricity and water will be fixed. Worst of all, we may never know what happened to all those missing people whose loved ones are trying to find them.If you’re looking for answers here, might as well stop reading now. I’m still trying to convince myself that it really is this week, not last. That my house is standing but the nearby shopping center has been stripped bare by looters. That the convention center is now a backdrop to shootouts instead of not national meetings. That people I know and care for are unaccounted for, and others have emerged to tell of unimaginable horrors on the streets. That our perennially optimistic mayor won’t have anything to smile about for a long, long time.I’m still trying to get my mind around the fact that the decimated landscape on TV is my city. And realizing that despite it all, I do love it, just as I did before, and I want to come back. I don’t think I’m the only one. That’s a start, anyway

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