Members of the Rebirth Brass Band, a New Orleans institution, don’t know how they’re going to get home. Stuck in Philadelphia, the musicians feel helpless as they watch on their television screens images of Hurricane Ida’s destructive path through New Orleans.
Keith Frazier, who founded the legendary group in the 1980s with his brother, said they hope to return home soon or find shows to play until they can. The group left for Virginia on an east coast tour last week and had plans to return this weekend.
“We can’t come back to help our family members, and at this point we don’t even know how to get home,” Frazier said over the phone. “Nobody has electricity. People can’t charge their phones, so we can’t call anyone. It’s really terrible.”
Frazier and other New Orleans residents spoke of their immense anxiety after the storm, as well as the deep and special affection they feel for their home in Louisiana. The feelings are complicated, and they are especially heightened due to the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Ida, they said, only further emphasizes the eerie mixture of pain, worry and gratitude they feel on this unsettling anniversary.
“The stress level is very high,” Frazier said. “And we talked about what we can do?” What are we going to do to bring comfort to these people who do not have only basic needs right now?
Ida, which weakened from a tropical storm on Monday, destroyed and flooded homes, uprooted trees and knocked down power lines. More than a million homes and businesses are without power, and the 911 lines in Orleans Parish and Southeast Louisiana are also down. The number of deaths is expected to rise, officials said.
Katrina left New Orleans inaccessible for months. Authorities continued to urge residents to take shelter in place on Monday, demanded that people stay out of town and said it could take weeks to restore power to New Orleans.
Joshua Cousin, who lived through Katrina before being evacuated to Texas for months, stayed at his home in New Orleans on Monday. Cell service was spotty, he said, and the lack of air conditioning was becoming particularly onerous, with the humidity thick and temperatures reaching nearly 90 degrees.
Cousin recalled how Katrina brought dangerous floodwaters and forced him and his family to wait for an evacuation on the side of a freeway. He said he felt immense relief that the city’s protections seemed to be working this time around, and it didn’t look like he and his family would have to get on a bus bound for Texas.
“Now you see the benefits of rebuilding the dikes, cleaning up the drainage, rebuilding all of these projects – it worked,” he said. “Things might not work out for a while, but we’re not complaining.”
It was a common refrain on Monday.
Howie Kaplan, owner of The Howlin ‘Wolf concert hall, said he broke down in tears earlier in the morning when he and his neighbors went to work wordlessly cleaning up the broken glass from the street, later sharing cold water bottles.
The moment crystallized his feelings for the city he intends to inhabit for the rest of his life, Kaplan said.
“When you wake up in New Orleans, you know where you are. You can feel it in your bones. You can feel it in your heart. You feel it in your soul. You hear it,” he said. he declares. “It’s the way people interact with you, how people talk to you, how people treat you. We’re all in the same boat.”
Even more recent residents spoke of a special relationship with the city.
Olivia Morgan, who moved to New Orleans three years ago, said the place has quickly become her home. After her evacuation to Alabama, she helps coordinate food drive efforts with Culture Aid Nola to the best of her ability – the work she did during the pandemic.
“New Orleans is everything to me,” she said. “It’s been my dream my whole life to live there, and it’s just scary not being there right now, not knowing what’s going on and not being able to help. I love her so much. town, and it’s just scary. “
Yet while Ida highlighted the love that many have for the city, it also highlighted some growing challenges.
Cousin said the city has changed a lot after Katrina. The St. Bernard housing project where he lived with his family was demolished after the 2005 hurricane and rebuilt into a mixed-income neighborhood that does not share the cultural history he grew up with. He said other elements of the city’s cultural richness have become more focused on profit.
“New Orleans is a different beast now,” he said. “I like the same things, the elements still exist today, but a lot of things that were unique and natural to us are now being commercialized – that’s television.”
While some shared the same grievance, they said their love for New Orleans and the special kinship they feel with others who live there continues.
It’s a place you really have to live to feel at home, said Frazier.
“It’s hard to live in New Orleans. We know we’re surrounded by water. It’s a constant battle to try to survive,” he said. “People are always watching because anytime thunderstorms, floods or hurricanes can wipe out city streets. It takes a lot to live there, but that means you have to want to be from New Orleans to be. there – that means we don’t take anything for granted. “