by Kevin Allman
It's because I remember what Harry Connick, Jr. did after the storm.
I remember sitting in a Portland, Ore. hotel room four days after the levee collapse, unable to turn away from the scenes of the Convention Center on MSNBC, and I remember seeing this exact report:
ALISON STEWART: Tony, I know you've seen a lot of things in your career, but have you ever seen anything like that?
TONY ZUMBADO: I've gotta tell you, I thought I'd seen it all, but just when you think you've seen it all, you go into another situation and you see something horrific. I've never seen anything in my life like this. ... I can't put it into words the amount of destruction that is in this city and how these people are coping. They are just left behind. There is nothing offered to them. No water, no ice, no C-rations, nothing, for the last four days.
They were told to go to the convention center. They did, they've been behaving. It's unbelievable how organized they are, how supportive they are of each other. They have not started any mêlées, any riots ... they just want food and support. And what I saw there I've never seen in this country.
We need to really look at this situation at the convention center. It's getting very very crazy in there and very dangerous. Somebody needs to come down with a lot of food and a lot of water. There's no hostility there ... they need support. These people are very desperate. I saw two gentlemen die in front of me because of dehydration. I saw a baby near death.
I went back with Harry Connick Jr. He spoke to them and told them he would do anything he can to help them. They seemed to appreciate that. He's the only person of authority - believe it or not, a musician -- to go in there and tell them that things are going to be ok.
At a time when no one else was at the Convention Center, Harry Connick was there, and I remember feeling proud of him, and of the city, watching it all from 2000 miles away. Later Harry remembered the scene in this interview:
Q; In those first hours, after the news started coming in about how bad it was, about the levees and everything, what sort of thoughts were going through your head?
A: Well, I was just helpless, you know. When they said 80% of the city was flooded, its just hard to imagine. So I was in shock, man, I was just really concerned about my family and seeing what I could do to help them out.
Q: You had family and friends all over the city.
Q: So, it was what, a couple days before you were able to get down there?
A: No, I was down there the day after the flood. So I got down there on Tuesday it flooded on Monday, I got down there on Tuesday.
Q: In the liner notes to your new record, you describe meeting someone on the street Darryl is his name, this guy who showed you around. Was he really just a stranger that you met on the street when you were walking around?
Q: Well yeah, he was on the corner, and he recognized me and asked me if I had been to the convention center, and I told him I hadnt. And he brought me over there and showed me, there were probably 15,000 people just waiting around to be helped. And they had been there for three or four days.
Q: One of the first things you saw when you got the convention center was two dead bodies covered in sheets. How does an experience like that how did that change you?
A: I dont know how it changed me, to be honest with you. It just its like if somebody hit you in the head with a baseball bat and you happen to survive it, you know. You, you I mean, I dont know how that changes you, its just a painful experience that you go through and eventually get over. It was rough to see.
I don't fault Harry; I admire him a lot, but I don't know how he can see all that and then ride with some dirtweasel whose idea of a stand-up act includes Im glad Hurricane Katrina happened. It taught us an important lesson: black people cant swim.
So I'll probably go to Orpheus, as I usually do, and I'll cheer and yell for Bryan Batt and the Reno 911 crew and the bands, and when Mencia comes down the street ... what do we do? Turn our backs? Paper bags on our heads? Because I don't want the words of one jackass from L.A. to ruin a great part of Mardi Gras. I really don't.
Edited to add: And now it seems that Mencia will be performing at the Orpheuscapade.