N'awlins . . .
I received an email from my old Berkeley friend Lionel Jensen, the guy who baffled me with the "Yats" of his hometown, New Orleans. He teaches at Notre Dame these days -- Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, if you must know. Here he is looking directly at you who are so curious.
I'm pasting his "N'awlins" email:
Yeah, he calls me that, but he's the only one who can get away with it (so don't you try).
Thanks for asking about how we are doing. So far so good, considering the enormous devastation. A house we owned in Diamondhead, [Mississippi] . . . was unscathed, even though most of the rest of the community was utterly destroyed. Incredible! The destruction is biblical and can only fire the imagination as reason is dwarfed by the vastness of the damage. New Orleans will recover -- albeit, very deliberately -- but it will not be the same. The sheer number of deaths will dwarf all previous natural (and human incompetence) disasters of the past century. Tens of thousands are dead in New Orleans alone and an incalculable number displaced, wandering, dispossessed. I have an aunt and a number of cousins with whom I have yet to speak, I do not know where they are, but I do believe they were able to get out. This is very harrowing. My question is: what will we learn from this?
If you checked the links that I've set up to Google Maps, you'll see that Lionel's home in Diamondhead, Mississippi is close to the Gulf Coast and not far from New Orleans -- looks like about 50 miles east on Interstate 10. If you go to Wikipedia's article on Katrina, you'll see from these two maps that Diamondhead probably lay directly in the storm's path. How his house was spared when most of the other houses were destroyed remains a mystery . . . though we'll probably figure it out eventually.
I'm shocked by Lionel's estimate of tens of thousands dead in New Orleans. This far exceeds the number of 10,000 recently estimated by New Orleans Mayor Nagin. I'm suspending judgement on who may be right, if either, because I know far too little to evaluate this (though I hope that both are wrong and that the number killed is fewer). Even without knowing the number of deaths, we can clearly see that Katrina is one of the worst storms ever to hit the Gulf Region, comparable to the Great Hurricane of 1780, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, or Hurricane Mitch of 1998.
My 6-year-old son En-Uk has been talking a lot about the 'sea-rain' since that recent Sunday morning that we were caught outside in a downpour. According to him, 'sea-rains' are dangerous because they cover the earth with water. In New Orleans, people know what he means.