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  1. #1

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    Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    September 4, 2005- New York Times
    Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?
    By ANNE RICE

    WHAT do people really know about New Orleans?

    Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

    The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

    This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city.

    Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

    Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.

    The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.

    Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.

    Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.

    And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.

    Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.



    I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"

    Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

    Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

    Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

    What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

    And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

    And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.

    I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

    They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

    But 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.

    Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

    Anne Rice is the author of the forthcoming novel "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt."
    -----------------------------------------------
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  2. #2

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Wow, Anne Rice is one of my favorite authors - and everything she said was amazing. One more thing that leaves me feeling shocked and embarrassed that our country is still not prepared to come to aid in a timely fashion.

  3. #3

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    She is incredible, isn't she?

    After we have spent BILLIONS to 'Be Prepared" it is now obvious the only thing we were 'Preparing' were many friends of the president's family fortunes.

    We were no better, in fact worse prepared than back on 9/11/01. Arriving 3 days late killed thousands. I hope those responsible sleep well at night.
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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    I have been thinking about her since all this happened...I saw her on mtV once with her son, and they toured her house which was an AMAZING old one in the French Quarter....I wonder what happened to it....it was such a beautiful, irreplaceable piece of history....as were all the others...so so SO sad!!

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Her history of New Orleans brought me to tears in a way that few things do. What a beautiful legacy to bring to the rebuilding.

    I agree with her, NO *will* rebuild. She will continue. She has always meant life and that will not change. She has survived other problems and while she must change with this calamity, it will not break her. I love that.

    Thank you for posting the letter. I have more respect for her than ever. I don't always like her stories but I always love her style and the places she writes about.
    I pledge allegiance to the Earth, one planet, many gods, and to the universe in which she spins.

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Had the great pleasure of meeting her at a couple of signings over the years. Treasure my signed copies of The Vampire Lestat & Queen Of The Damned.
    Walked in the footsteps of many of her characters during my vacation trips there. Seen one of her beautiful Garden District homes and met some of her friends at Antoine's and Napoleon House. Her love of the city has inspired many for so many years, it has endured fires, disease, war, floods and more.
    Anne Rice's immortals walk there for a reason. It's an eternal city and will rise again.
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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Those were very powerful words. As painful as it is to admit, I can't help but feel that she is right. We have faild New Orleans. Where was the help in the moments after the hurricane? After 5 years of Homeland security, how much safer are we? When storms hit Florida, the help came. When it hits largely black New Orleans, it is slow in coming.

    My heart is breaking over this, because I know that what she says is most surely true and that I myself have not done enough. This is a human tragedy, not just a local one for New Orleans.
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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    I mentioned this is another Katrina thread, but it might bear repeating.
    I did some work and was able to encourage (at my husband's company - not mine) that they dollar match employee contributions for a donation to the American Red Cross. I'm pleased is at least worked out in one of the places. It was a bit of a nightmare making calls and begging and pleading that we needed to do something (employees) and that the companies with all there money needed to kick in.
    I urge all of you to talk to your companies to see if they will institute an employee match program - every little bit will help!

  9. #9

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    I Just got off the phone with my sister. I am SO PISSED at her right now, i cant even see straight. I posted the a bit of our conversation on another thread, about how she refuses to give a dime to the relief effort.

    Glad others are hard at work relieving the suffering.
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    DISNEYLAND: Greatest Man-Made Place On Earth

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Our response to the tsunami was better than our response to our own New Orleans. Bush's response has been disgraceful. Anyone see him hugging that hurricane survivor that looked like she had showered and done her hair? Looked a little staged to me, considering it's hotter than hell out there.

    Excellent letter by Mrs. Rice. She and her son are good people.
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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    What a wonderful letter!

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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Pan - such a heartbreaking read. The part about our country not helping in a timely way really hit me hard. We are first to help other countries, it's a national shame that the South had to beg and plead to get the help they needed.
    I think Ms. Rice is correct, New Orleans will rise from the muck much in the same way Chicago and San Fransisco did. It will be a new city that hopefully will be able to keep the grace it always had.


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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chernabog
    Our response to the tsunami was better than our response to our own New Orleans. Bush's response has been disgraceful. Anyone see him hugging that hurricane survivor that looked like she had showered and done her hair? Looked a little staged to me, considering it's hotter than hell out there.

    Excellent letter by Mrs. Rice. She and her son are good people.

    Speaking of Hell, Renquist just died. Thank he will be able to wear those gold stripes as he shovels hot coals with Reagan and Nixon into Hitlers behind?
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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    Those are incredibly powerful words and it is such a pity and shame that our country had such an issue getting assistance to NOLA ... it really is a sad sad thing, and I hope that George Bush is ashamed of himself.

    It makes me wonder what the response would have been if Katrina had smashed full force into Texas? Would there have been a delay in assistance?
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    Re: Letter From Anne Rice about NOLA...

    THANKS FOR THE E-MAIL DUMB*** ANUBUS REBORN....YES I KNOW THE LETTER IS DATED SEPT 4th AND TODAY IS ONLY THE 3rd. IT IS FROM THE SUNDAY NATIONAL EDITION, AND IT IS NOT FAKE... HOW IN THE ******* DID YOU GET MY E-MAIL?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/op...gewanted=print

    GET A LIFE YOU NEOCON ****
    Last edited by PanTheMan; 09-03-2005 at 10:27 PM.
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    DISNEYLAND: Greatest Man-Made Place On Earth

    YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: Greatest *GOD-Made Place On Earth

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