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Columns > Note for Note - Holly Isbister

Published: 2005/09/08
by Holly Isbister

Katrina: Frenzy and Aftermath

Tonsillectomies aren’t fun. I know, because I just had one. It is the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. And despite my doctor’s best efforts, the pain medication he prescribed is only partly helping. Thus, for the last five days, I have been in bed in a semi-stupor watching CNN’s coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Included in this coverage was a short segment on the New Orleans Fairgrounds, which yearly played host to Jazz Fest. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to attend Jazz Fest, though every year I said I would. Inevitably my college exams were scheduled at the same time. As I watched the footage of the flooded fairgrounds however, the vastness of Katrina’s devastation hit home. This city of music, and home to so many talented musicians, had been completely and utterly destroyed. The streets I had meandered during a jaunt to the Big Easy for Widespread Panic’s shows in October of 2000 were completely under water. Aside from the human pain and suffering in all of the affected areas along the Gulf Coast (which tugs most strongly at my heartstrings) I am astounded by the loss of what could arguably be named the music capitol of the south.
New Orleans has bred some of the finest musicians of all time, and provided a home for the evolution of jazz and blues. To witness such devastation makes one wonder if the city could ever again become the Mecca it once was for musicians. Will there be a Jazz Fest next year? Has the devastation of Katrina wiped out the impetus for the arts in this region? It seems there is little luxury time to be spent on creative endeavors, while the infrastructure is in dire need of rebuilding. Have we witnessed the end of an era? Friends of mine often joked when referring to New Orleans as "The Big Sleezy." But one has to wonder if a catastrophe of this magnitude might change that image forever. Perhaps the party is over for good.
Regardless of this city’s fate in years to come, it’s important at a time like this to reflect on the memory of what it once was. In order for culture to flourish in the city of New Orleans again, it will first need to be physically rebuilt. I encourage anyone reading this to please make a donation of time or money to the American Red Cross or other agency involved in assisting the victims of Hurricane Katrina. By doing so, you take an action toward restoring one of America’s most valuable artistic centers, not to mention helping countless families along the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives. After all, when the media frenzy is over, it won’t be a matter of who did or didn’t help and why aid didn’t get there fast enough, it will simply be a matter of whether or not you did your part to help.

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