Monday, April 18, 2011
Meet a Hurricane Katrina Survivor
On August 29, 2005, we all watched in horror as Katrina bore a gaping hole into the heart of New Orleans. Survivors sat on their rooftops, waving flags in an effort to grab the attention of a rescue helicopter. Survivors moved into small FEMA mobile homes (many found to be asbestos-laden). Survivors told anyone who would listen about their trials and triumphs, lives lost and hope furtively grasped.
Since wooden carousel horses aren't exactly chatty, let me tell the story of this particular survivor. Katrina ravaged NOLA's City Park with 10 feet of water at the north end, 4 feet at the south. Luckily for the carousel, dating back to 1906, the building which housed it was raised up; 10 inches of water hit the historic landmark. Still, a flood of that depth can do a lot of damage; floor boards were warped and needed replacing, some horses were lost, but most escaped the deluge and, with some tender care, not only lived to see their 100th birthday, but are still giddy-upping today.
The Carousel Gardens carousel is a beautiful specimen, a tribute to days gone by. But most of all, it's a love letter from the people of NOLA to themselves, to their tenacity and bravery under almost unfathomable conditions. When Mother Nature decided to wipe the Park's slate clean, the people of the Crescent City stood firmly and rebuilt the park, removing hundreds of dead plantings and replacing them. It took painstaking care to refurbish the carousel (the park received some generous monetary donations, but local volunteers did the hands-on work to revive it). The result: a honey-toned, golden sunrise of a ride that delights all who visit it.