Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Resurrection after Hurricane Katrina

IMG_5191 Resurrection - Tiffany Studios of New York
"Resurrection", c. 1894
Executed by the artists and artisans of the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, NY, NY
Restored by the artists and artisans of Associaton of Restoration Specialists, Hoboken, NJ


On Thursday, August 25, 2005, the moderate Category 1 storm named Katrina made her first landfall in Florida. At end of day, Katrina traveled to the Gulf of Mexico where she gathered momentum over the weekend. By Sunday, she was a Category 5 hurricane.

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made her second landfall, this time she assaulted the southeastern Louisiana coastline. Her storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans, submerging eighty percent of the city.

It was surreal to watch the news reports of my husband’s birthplace and our concern for his many relatives there was unbearable. Nearly all of his family members had already evacuated New Orleans over the weekend, but one aunt chose to ride out the storm. Sleep was difficult until we heard from her on Wednesday afternoon. By this time, most who evacuated had run through their two-to-three day supply of essentials and those who are hosted by loving family and friends are beginning to worry about overstaying their welcome. Each and every single one wanted to know whether their home was underwater, but accurate news about the state of the city was hard to come by.

We all hungrily read George’s account of his trip back into the city:

Sent: Fri 9/2/2005 8:43 AM
Excuse the grammar and typos I am quite tired
Hello all I just made a trip in to New Orleans with the assistance a friend in the military. Believe me I was quite concerned for my safety, before we left I was given a handgun and instructed on how to shoot to kill. Not that I don’t own hand guns and have been shooting before but getting instruction on how to kill humans from someone in the military and knowing I may have to was not too exciting.
We left and took I-10 from Baton Rouge about midday today and went through 2 check points before finally getting to Causeway and I-10, the intersection is being used as a transfer point for people leaving the city, most of the area is being used as a helicopter port they are taking off and landing constantly. It was raining and there were hundreds if not thousands of people huddled under the overpasses waiting for buses as well. The helicopters were mainly evacuating hospital patients, they would drive or boat the patients to the location and then fly them out, however they could not get them out fast enough and unfortunately there were many dead bodies there as well.
After a brief stop there (I stayed in the car) we headed down causeway to river road. At the airline overpass you could look to the left to see the city however it was being blocked by thick black smoke something in the city on the uptown side was burning bad. I still don’t know what it was. River road was already cleaned so that there was access to ochsner however you could not get down any of the side streets well maybe one or two but it wasn’t little trees, you would need more than a chainsaw to get through entire oak trees were down. I was expecting to see more damage to homes however it was only a little roof damage here some siding there not a lot of broken windows but the debris was beyond anything I could have imagined uptown does not look the same way, what you see on tv what you think it looks like multiply that by 100 you may be close.
We got to the parish line and things changed. Oak street was about knee deep in water and we saw people, I will refer to them as "urban outdoorsmen" since this email may get passed along, in the street. Perhaps looters but we didn’t wait to find out. We turned on river road the street was fairly clear but we did have to jump up in the rocky area next to the railroad tracks to get through, good thing we had a four wheel drive.
Eventually we made it to st charles and turned towards broadway my goal being to check on my house. I know this was crazy but it’s the not knowing that drives me crazy. When we hit broadway and st charles we could go no further without driving on the neutral ground there was a very big tree down right on the other side. We turned up broadway, at the intersection of freret there was a car parked we weaved past and then there was water. The flooding was not too deep nothing I haven’t seen before it was not over the neutral ground. I knew then that there was no water in my house (its raised about 5 feet) I still wanted to know was there a tree on it? were the doors blown open? was there roof damage? was it looted? We were now at zimple and broadway moving slowly due to the water and one block away appears a bunch of “urban outdoorsman” I don’t think they were up to no good, they weren’t carrying tv’s or any thing like that but there were about 8 of em. My escort was afraid of being car jacked if we drove any closer. We considered parking the car and walking but we didn’t want the car to get looted. He said “you have a gun if you want to go ill wait”. The thought of having to use it was not to appealing, splitting up we both agreed was not a good idea. So there I am a mere 2 and ½ blocks from my house and we had to turn around.
Plan B – carrollton to claiborne to broadway
Carrollton was full of debris as well like I said just unbelievable if they could dump it all in the marsh we could solve part of that coastal erosion problem. We made it to oak street the only real significant damage to property I saw being the nice canopy over nicks. At the rite aid on oak I saw the forklift used to open the steel door still there just like in the picture I think we have all seen by now. However there was one more thing there – a looter I took a pic its quite blurry his arms were full of stuff he could barely see over his loot, we sped by. All of the side streets going back to broadway were impassable and we soon failed with plan b when we couldn’t get past birch street – there was just way to much debris.
We turned around and set forth on our other goals, all in Metairie (we cancelled the remaining new Orleans ones due to anarchy). Metairie is dry, a puddle here and there but we were never unable to get anywhere due to water. The canals were low as well. However we had to drive the wrong way down many a major thoroughfare. I know Aaron Broussard said people could come back on Monday but anyone would be crazy to go. Major street are passable, barely in some places, one lane usually, but we needed to break out the chainsaw (which we had) to get through side streets. Additionally there are no traffic lights etc if too many people show up it will only make things worse. On a very positive note for Metairie entergy was at work with new poles up on west napoleon form clearview to transcontinental and the linemen beginning to work the wire.
Our goal was C’s parents’ house off of avron and clearview. C’s neighbors stayed so we knew her house was high and dry no water,, or any damage of any kind (she lives right off cleary and w metarie if you were curious). We made if to her parents’ house they had about 18” of water in the house it was all drained. We picked up some meds and a case of wine and headed out. We made a little detour to JA’s house on kawanee by east jeff hospital. The damage there was the same, water in the house and there were some shingles missing as well. We took more pics and left.
Last stop zephyr field fema is set up there. While there we found out that the coast guard was ceasing all rescue attempts until they could get bullet proof vests and handguns for everyone. We then left on our return to Baton Rouge.
I took pictures on the trip, I wish I had taken more but the shock of it all - you just stare and look and forget to take the camera out. It was also raining very hard so the windows on the truck were up, and lastly C forgot to charge the battery so it died.
Hope everyone is doing fine.

By October 4, 2005, the official death toll from Hurricane Katrina was 1,836 with more than 2,500 still missing.

With devastation all around, once in a while a silver lining appears. During the cleanup activities after the hurricane, seven Tiffany windows were rediscovered in a storage area of Tulane University.

In 1894, Mrs. Josephine Newcomb commissioned Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York to create three lancets in memory of her daughter, Harriott Sophie Newcomb. The “Resurrections” triptych depicts the risen Christ speaking to Mary Magdalene.

IMG_5193 Supper at Emmaus - Tiffany Studios
"Supper at Emmaus", c. 1895
Executed by the artists and artisans of the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, NY, NY
Restored by the artists and artisans of Associaton of Restoration Specialists, Hoboken, NJ

The following year, Mrs. Newcomb’s closest friend and counselor, Mr. Frank Walter Callender commissioned a coordinating triptych. “Supper at Emmaus” is based on a painting by Rembrandt illustrating the risen Christ and his disciples. Simon, Paul, and Cleophas mistake Christ as a fellow traveler and did not realize until preparing for an evening meal that they are the presence of their Lord.

Supper at Emmaus, 1648
Rembrandt van Rijn, (Dutch 1606-1669)
These windows were in the original chapel of Newcomb College, now part of Tulane University. When the college moved to its present location, the windows were removed and put into storage. They are now installed in the Newcomb Art Gallery of Tulane University.

Read more about Newcomb College’s impressive art program in their newsletter. Pages 7 and 8 of the Summer 2009 edition covers the relationship between the Newcomb College and Tiffany Studios of New York and their role in bringing the English Arts and Crafts Movement to the United States.

I thank George for allowing me to publish his e-mail and congratulate him and all others who survived the devastation for their unflagging spirit of optimism. Having just returned from New Orleans and seeing its vibrancy return stronger than ever,  I believe the rediscovery of these works of art was a fulfilled promise of resurrection to its citizens.


Relyn Lawson said...

OH, they are amazing windows! So glad for the peaks into something I've never seen for myself.

So?? How was the trip?

michael said...

We've heard the story many times but it is still compelling and needs to be retold.

The windows are stunning. They are a good reminder of hope.

Unknown said...

What beautiful stained glass! Katrina was such a devastating time. :(

Ruth said...

I've been dying to get over here since I saw your post pop up at Google Reader Wednesday. At last.

Reading George's email is just as vibrant imagistically as the windows. I was enthralled, after 5 years, to read what someone firsthand saw. These documents are incredibly valuable.

The hope of these windows, and your recent visit to New Orleans, fill my heart.

Ginnie said...

The Phoenix has risen from the ashes once again, DB. But has it really been 5 years???

margie said...

well written reminder of this devastation thank you.

rochambeau said...

Dear Dutchbaby,
Thank you for writing this post, for sharing George's emails.
His words bring a tear to my eye.

Pete and I WILL go hear George read at the 7:30 pm Mass next month. And we tell him you sent us. Pete was taught by Jesuits Priests.

Like you, I too could feel hope coming back when we visited last year. I too was thinking about this last night while listening to this story

New Orleans is such a magical place. I am fortunate that my parents lived there. It makes my heart smile that your husband is from New Orleans!!!! Because I know that You know the secret. In my heart, I'm part New Orleanian and part San Franciscan. Do you think this makes us somehow related?

Please let me know if there is anything I should check out this time around. You never told me if you liked Herb Saint. We had a memorial experience.


ps I'd like to see a photo of your beads too.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
Our trip to Norway was wonderful. It was great to glide along the Norwegian coastline.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear michael,
The story is still very fresh in everyone's mind in New Orleans. Though it's impressive how far the city has come in only five years, there are still many trying to climb back to their pre-Katrina way of life.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear lisaschaos,
It's too bad these photos don't do the windows justice. Next time I'm back in NOLA, I'll try to take some close-ups. Tiffany's work is inspiring.

Unknown said...

Oh my, that is so awesome about the windows. Gives one hope, doesn't it?

There are a lot of people still there doing good work with the restoration. I have gained a lot of respect for Brad Pitt and what he is doing in the Ninth Ward. And Sandra Bullock is putting her money where her mouth is, but then, she always does. They are both wonderful humanitarians.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ruth,
George's e-mail was a gift; his first-hand account gave us information we all hungered for.

The resurrection of the windows turned out to be a metaphor for the area's comeback.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ginnie,

The Phoenix indeed! It's incredible how far this city has come in five years.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear margie,
I agree, the rawness of George's feelings truly came through in his e-mail.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Constance at rochambeau,
Yes, I do know the secret and I definitely think we are sisters.

Thank you for sharing the link of the NPR story. I have a photo of a gentleman covered in hot pink ostrich feathers.

I'm thrilled you will be visiting George at Jesuit Church. He might tell you to visit the Maple Leaf Bar to listen to the Rebirth Brass Band after you have dinner next door at Jacques-Imos Cafe for real Nawlins food. Here are the links:

You won't be disappointed if you follow his advice.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Constance,
Herb Saint was awesome! We ordered several appetizers and a couple of main courses and ate family style. It was all delicious!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Susan,
I see hope in these windows also. Brangelina and Bullock are great role models for the Hollywood set but there are also many, many unsung heroes out there.

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