Rebirth, Rebuild, Repeat

Resolutions in the Wake of Ida

The aftermath of major storms like Hurricane Ida, which hit land at Port Fourchon on August 29, always presents profound learning opportunities and fresh perspectives to the people left in their wake. Not only do we question and meditate on the decisions and actions taken in the immediate run-up and occasion of the storm, but we also take stock of our priorities and stations in life. Some might call it a rebirth. To mark the occasion of this latest storm, we’ve compiled some lessons learned and resolutions made—both large and small—by a handful of ANTIGRAVITY contributors, friends, and community members.

Elizabeth Ahlquist
(owner, Blue Cypress Books)

I stayed for the storm and aftermath in order to secure my home and business. Wouldn’t have done it any differently considering the shop sustained significant damage and needed to be immediately mitigated. I strongly recommend not attempting any difficult books during disasters: I read M.O. Walsh‘s The Big Door Prize and Grady Hendrix‘s My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which were perfect reads for the times. My advice for myself and other small business owners: Don’t rush to reopen following trauma; take care of yourself and the wellbeing of your employees.

Lily Keber
(filmmaker, Buckjumping)

I stayed for the storm and left four days later. The hurricane was quite intense, but I got through it because I have such a strong network. My block really came together to make sure everyone’s needs were met (including, but not limited to, a case of wine delivered from Faubourg Wines). I realized that you might think you’ll be fine in your house by yourself, but nobody gets through a storm alone. We’re all part of a community. The most important thing to do before the next hurricane hits is to know the people you’ll be taking care of and the people who are taking care of you. You always need things that you can’t anticipate, so identify your means of communication beforehand, because technology isn’t going to be there. When power and cell phone service goes down, you need to know how to find your people.

William Archambeault
(writer for ANTIGRAVITY, The Japan Times, Cvlt Nation)

The storm itself wasn’t that bad for us but the eight-day power outage felt absolutely miserable. It was especially hard on my parents, who each have health issues that were exacerbated by the sticky situation. My advice to those facing times of distress is to not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I felt very strange letting the internet know about my serious concerns for my parents, but we ultimately got through the power outage because of the kindness and support of others who reached out to us. In turn, we made sure to look out for others in our neighborhood, especially those with transportation issues that made accessing critical resources difficult for them. I encourage people to remember that mutual aid doesn’t just apply to “essentials” like food and water. It’s about getting people what they need to survive. Our elderly, wheelchair-bound neighbor refused most of our offers for assistance, but eventually, sheepishly asked for a pack of cigarettes after a few days. You’re damn right I got him those cigs. My last piece of advice is to find something that helps keep your sanity during chaotic times. I have a portable battery-operated turntable that sounds like absolute shit. 95% of the year it sits in a box collecting dust but, during power outages, it is the one thing that keeps me together. Find something that will keep you together even when every bit of you wants to fall apart.

Tony Bergeron
(drummer of Crush Diamond / co-owner and booking agent at Intracoastal Club in Houma)

My family and I stayed home for the storm and did have some damage to our homes (broken window, fallen trees, roof and ceiling damage, etc.). The bar was a different story, though. We are having to completely rebuild after five years in business. I’m now looking into a tri-fuel generator to next time save our venue’s inventory. Getting a storage unit during every hurricane season is a must, being our roof flew off our venue and we had significant damages to our art, furniture, electronics, and appliances. And last but not least: Always have a massive amount of tarps.

Brad Richard
(author, Parasite Kingdom)

My husband and I evacuated that Saturday with three cats to my in-laws’ place in Mobile. Before we left, we did something we never remembered to do before: put large plastic containers of water in the freezer. RESOLUTION #1: Do this every time I know a storm is coming—those big blocks of ice saved almost everything. We drove back on Wednesday with a load of groceries, pet food, gas, and propane for various people; cleaned out our fridge and freezer (easy! it was cold!); dropped off the brand-new generator from our house at my stepmom’s place and helped her set it up (I mean, my husband did, I watched); and drove back to Mobile. That was a lot, and my exhaustion from all that may partially explain why, on Thursday night, at a family gathering, I finally told off someone I’ve despised for 27 years. RESOLUTION #2: Don’t wait 27 years for moments like that. We returned to New Orleans on Friday night, amazed that we were among the lucky folks to have power. In the 12 days since then, seeing storm damage combining forces with all the other broken elements of this city (“garbage juice” was a term I never wanted to learn) has led me to RESOLUTION #3: Do more to make this place better. It needs it and we all deserve it.

(musician, producer, electrician)

Three thoughts / lessons learned here:

1. I personally will never leave unless it is absolutely apparent that a Cat 4 or 5 eyewall is headed directly over New Orleans—mitigating damage DURING the storm is essential (see part 2).

2. The only reliable insurance is community and learning how to take care of shit yourself. That industry really IS a racket. They are not, and never have been “on your side.” We learned this valuable lesson sitting across the table from O’Neil at Saturn Bar and another 9th Ward legend, Mikey Serebrini.

3. Every single one of us in this region needs to start to seriously consider our options, because this was not a fluke—down with the ship” or “cut and run”—that is what I think we are looking at here.

DJ Soul Sister
(music historian, host of “Soul Power” on WWOZ)

I evacuated to a local hotel, then returned to my home with no electricity, then evacuated to Washington DC on the first day the airport reopened on generator power, then returned home once power in my home was restored. It is beneficial to have a hurricane kit ready to go for the next time you’re stuck in the house with no electricity. I recommend a large battery-operated fan, large battery-operated lanterns, and a battery-operated radio so you can listen to the news coverage, or even some music so you don’t go completely crazy. My mom shared this advice with me about 50 times before the storm: “Fill your gas tank.” I’m glad I listened.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin
(author, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You)

I evacuated with my mama to be with family in Georgia. I’ve always leaned toward evacuation to keep my family safe and to remain productive during the experience. But these later storms are so slow and dump so much more water that I’m even less likely to stay. Climate change is here. In the past, there was a 70 percent chance I’d leave. Now, it’s more like 90 percent.

Louis Michot
(Louisiana French musician, Lost Bayou Ramblers)

We came back from our first fly-out gig since the pandemic started right in time for the hurricane, but then realized we had been exposed to COVID in Denver. We went straight from quarantine into hurricane relief. During the hurricane I kept checking on people—anytime winds are above 100 miles an hour it’s scary. When it was over I started talking to my musician friends in the affected areas. A friend in Golden Meadow had a tree fall through his house. He’s on a lot of meds, has diabetes, and then his mom’s house got destroyed. I thought, he’s going to need some resources. I put out a call for help on the Nouveau Electric Instagram, and then did a fundraiser on Instagram. It’s been non-stop since. After doing two solid weeks of meeting immediate needs—gas and food and all that—I realize that people are never prepared. There’s so much to learn, but my biggest resolution is to change our power grid. I’ve started raising money for solar power so that if this happens again we’ll have power centers that can help people. It’s hard to feel like you’re going against politics and industry—I’m just a musician trying to fundraise. But we can’t afford to think of things like solar power as a luxury when the hurricane has shown us that it’s essential. We’ve learned in this hurricane it’s the people who take care of each other, and we can use this as a chance to see what the possibilities are.

Michael Esealuka
(environmental organizer)

I evacuated to Memphis, not confident my old truck would make it. After Ida my home was fine but my friends in Ironton took on nine feet of floodwater. Guilt gnawed me up. I came home three days later, worried I’d have nothing to do but be miserable in the heat. Instead I found an incredible amount of work needed to be done so I learned how to do it: tarp roofs, haul ladders, use tools, gut homes. I learned what contractors charge for jobs we can do for free, and that when we’re grieving it’s good to find others and get to work together. Next time I will do more, with more people, and we’ll all be in it for the long haul: recovery comes from years of struggle—not weeks of frenzied relief.

Rusty Lazer
(drummer, DJ, producer, artist, spreadsheet creator)

Evacuated to my mom’s with my boo, three cats who don’t care for each other, a rat, and our dog, plus a rescue pup that we rehomed in Austin. Never before have I considered what it really means to prepare for a major weather event that dwarfs so much of what we’ve seen before, both in speed and in duration, like Ida. We evacuated west on the day before the storm. I think it saved our sanity to go north at Hammond and cut across Jackson, Shreveport, and Waco to get there. There was gas and places to pee the whole way, and it took the same amount of time as our friends that stayed on I-10, minus the huge stresses. Plus if anything really went wrong, we were already headed north instead of right into the path of the storm. I applied myself to moving money directly from the friends I know here at home and around the world to the friends I have from the Bounce and larger music community and among my immediate neighbors. It helped tremendously that cell and internet communication from inside and outside New Orleans remained as effective as it did. I was deeply moved by the amount of generosity people had for person-to-person direct requests for support, designed to serve people’s most urgent needs. I’d love to see the numbers on private fundraising through various apps vs. the amounts large organizations usually receive. I’m humbled by the degree to which people put their backs and their bux into this challenging moment. I wish that everyone who wants to stay for any major storm would watch Trouble the Water and When the Levees Broke (all six hours) to understand the potential magnitude of suffering a slight twist in the path could bring, and the degree to which one should be prepared. There’s a lot more we could do to activate those for whom staying is a voluntary decision in preparation to support their less fortunate neighbors. And we put all three cats in a small barn at my mom’s and to our surprise they trauma-bonded! Silver linings!

Jamilla Webb
(ANTIGRAVITY associate editor, registered nurse, graduate student, founder of HER Health Nurse)

I planned to shelter in place. After heeding the forecast of a Category 4 storm and the repetitive warnings of my beloved elder neighbor Ms. Vanessa, I decided to evacuate. We rode to Tuscaloosa, Alabama Saturday morning the day before Ida made landfall. We planned to return immediately after the storm. Once we saw the damage to our apartment and community and heard about the dire situation in the city with no electricity, gas shortages, and a mandatory curfew, we decided to go north. I drove Ms. Vanessa to her family in Virginia and made my way to DC to stay with mine. While I did enjoy seeing my dad, aunt, and friends I was filled with grief and incessant panic. I spent my days making hasty to-do lists: forwarding mail, only to change my address back. I applied for DC and Maryland nursing licenses. I was glued to my laptop studying for final exams after being advised by faculty that I should consider withdrawing or taking an incomplete with all that was going on. I wanted to rest, but my mind was going a thousand miles a minute. Now I am back home and reestablishing my daily routine. My primary resolution is to choose peace, and pace myself instead of panicking. This is the greatest lesson I’ve learned after Ida. After major storms, we need time to grieve, recover, and reflect. I currently don’t have the energy to pour into my business. I have hundreds of emails to sort and dozens of receipts to itemize for FEMA and my renter’s insurance. I passed all of my classes and will be taking one class or an academic hiatus this fall. I’ve postponed my decision to be a travel nurse, giving myself time to sharpen my skills and readjust my personal goals for the rest of this year. I’ve realized the power of love and community. Phone calls, prayers, warm hugs, a safe place to stay, monetary donations, all of those things were gifted to me during a time of great uncertainty. I am ever grateful and at peace with this reality.

illustrations by Kallie Tiffau

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