Home Page
Anthology of Louisiana Literature

Mary Nagle.
Katrina Stories.

Erica: (enters) In September of 2003, the Times Picayune ran a five day series of articles entitled "Washing Away."

Rob: (enters) The articles described what could happen in the event that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane were to hit New Orleans.

Erica: (enters reading from newspaper) Times Picayune. September 05, 2003. There currently is no defense against a surge from a major storm, a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale used by meteorologists. Such storms can generate surges of 20 to 30 feet above sea level — enough to top any levee in south Louisiana. Sustained winds from major storms — 131 mph to 155 mph for a Category 4, even more for a Category 5 — can shred homes and do damage to almost any structure. Fortunately, such storms are relatively rare events.

Russa: (enters reading from newspaper) Times Picayune. September 06, 2003. The Mississippi River delta is subsiding faster than any other place in the nation. And while the land is sinking, sea level has been rising. In the past 100 years, land subsidence and sea-level rise have added several feet to all storm surges. That extra height puts affected areas under deeper water; it also means flooding from weaker storms and from the outer edges of powerful storms spreads over wider areas.

Winnifer: (enters reading from newspaper) Times Picayune. September 06, 2003. Computer modeling shows the risks vary dramatically depending on where you live. Communities outside federally built hurricane levees — which protect New Orleans, East Jefferson and parts of St. Bernard, the West Bank and Lafourche Parish — have little protection from storm surges, depending mostly on smaller levees likely to be topped.

Onnig: (enters reading from newspaper) Times Picayune. September 07, 2003. Inside levees, the threat is different. If enough water from Lake Pontchartrain topped the levee system along its south shore, the result would be apocalyptic. Vast areas would be submerged for days or weeks until engineers dynamited the levees to let the water escape. Some places on the east bank of Orleans and Jefferson parishes are as low as 10 feet below sea level. Adding a 20-foot storm surge from a Category 4 or 5 storm would mean 30 feet of standing water.

Sonya: (reading from newspaper)Times Picayune. September 8, 2003. Whoever remained in the city would be at grave risk. Tens of thousands would be stranded on rooftops and high ground, awaiting rescue that could take days or longer. They would face thirst, hunger and exposure to toxic chemicals. Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn't be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins.

Russa: (reading from newspaper) Times Picayune. September 8, 2003. The corps has begun a study to look at whether the levees surrounding the New Orleans area should be raised high enough to prevent that scenario. Local scientists, politicians and some business leaders have forged a consensus that the region's best shot for long-term survival is a major effort to rebuild lost marshes and barrier islands. But it would cost at least $14 billion.

Rob: (reading from newspaper) Times Picayune. September 8, 2003. But it's unlikely the city would be completely abandoned, economists and disaster experts say. Most cities do eventually recover from major disasters — though no precedent exists for the wholesale destruction of "filling the bowl. "

Erica: August 2005.

Rob: March 2006.

Erica: This isn’t a newspaper article.

Rob: This is reality.

Professor Houck: (enters and reads from his journal) August 30th, 2005. Dear Journal. It is Tuesday afternoon and we don’t know a thing. The storm has blown through, some trees are down, poles, wires, pieces of roof. The only station we can get on the radio is a call-in and they begin Oh Jerry I’ve Always Loved Your Show and then they say something about water coming up to the front steps. I go stand outside. A couple comes down the street with plastic bags in both hands, full of clothes, picking their way over the branches. I say, just making conversation, where’s the water? He says, its about four blocks up. Then she says, and there’s a body in it, shot through the head. Then he says, and they ain’t coming to pick him up. Then I say to Lisa, ok, you win, I think we’d better go.

The Saturday before I am in the check out line at Rite Aid, buying flashlight batteries and last minute stuff. The fellow ahead of me has a huge bag, getting ready for Katrina, he says. He empties his bag on the counter, one by one. A fifth of Jim Bean. Another fifth of Jean Bean.

The night before I get a call from a fellow in public radio. You still there, he asks. I say yes. He says, will you talk about the storm when it comes? I say ok. Then he says, what is it about hurricanes you don’t get? I pause. He says, don’t you believe what you have been writing about these things? I have no answer to this either. He says, are you still on the line? I say, this is going to be a difficult interview. (exits)

Sonya: Saturday.

Erica: We left on Saturday.

Russa: Pretty early.

Sonya: August 27th.

Onnig: It was my birthday!

Erica: Saturday, August 27th.

Rob: I left on Sunday.

Onnig: My mother and grandmother called to wish me a happy birthday. What are you doing? they asked me.

Rob: Evacuating.

Onnig: Evacuating!

Erica: We’re evacuating.

Rob: Sleeping.

Russa: Driving to Tucson!

Sonya: Lafayette.

Onnig: Austin.

Erica: Memphis.

Rob: I didn’t really know where I was driving.

Erica: Claire’s family had an open house in Memphis, so we invited everyone we could get a hold of and ended up with thirteen law students and two dogs in our caravan north.

Rob: I was at the Bar Review Friday night.

Erica: Most of us had gone out to the Bar Review the night before.

Rob: But I live out on the West Bank, you know, and so at the end of the night I had to take the ferry back to my car. �And after I walked Mary back to her car, I guess it must have been about 2 in the morning. And the ferry didn’t start up again until 6. So I went to the casino. Then back to Bourbon Street, wandering up and down the street like a homeless guy. I didn’t get home to my apartment until 7, completely inebriated. Saturday just didn’t exist for me. I woke up at 5 in the afternoon, wasn’t feeling well, heard something on the TV about a hurricane, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. Woke up Sunday afternoon, and I turned on the TV—

Winnifer: I turned on my TV—

Rob: �and there’s Ray Nagin—

Winnifer: I saw the mayor saying something about evacuations—

Rob: �The evacuations are mandatory?

Winnifer: Mandatory evacuations?

Rob: Shit!

Sonya: That’s impossible!

Rob: So I grabbed my DVD player and a couple books, and I hit the expressway.

Winnifer: But I was thousands of miles away.

Rob: It took me 8 hours to go 100 miles.

Russa: We drove so many miles away.

Winnifer: I decided last spring that I would spend the semester away in Hong Kong.

Erica: A thousand miles from Memphis.

Winnifer: I experienced everything watching CNN.

Erica: We started watching CNN.

Winnifer: It was gripping.

Russa: I couldn’t stop.

Rob: I didn’t start.

Sonya: I started to get really emotional.

Erica: I started to get pissed.

Winnifer: I was traumatized.

Erica: I wrote this huge nasty email to to CNN after watching Wolf Blitzer just showing things on fire—for hours. For hours all he showed were just random buildings on fire. So I wrote to them. I told them they were using this to get better ratings. They were capitalizing on death and destruction! I don’t need to see buildings on fire! I need news. I need to see people. I need facts.

Winnifer and Erica: I need to know!

Russa: There was so much we didn’t know.

Sonya: Did all of my friends evacuate?

Rob: Did all of the professors evacuate?

Onnig: (laughs to himself) Bet you a million bucks Houck didn’t!

Russa: Did I lose everything?

Winnifer: Did my parents lose everything?

Rob: Where did the levees break?

Russa: What happened to Jenn?

Onnig: Where’s Larry?

Sonya: Where’s the help?

Erica and Russa and Onnig: Where’s FEMA?

Rob: Who’s Michael Brown?

Onnig: Arabian horses? Really?

Rob: I owned a horse once. Does that qualify me to run FEMA?

Winnifer: They looted Mom’s restaurant?

Rob: Will Tulane still have classes?

Sonya: Do we still have classrooms?

Winnifer: Do we still have a home?

Russa: Why do I feel this sad?

Onnig and Erica and Sonya: I don’t know.

Rob: Class of Katrina. That’s what they’ll call us.

Erica: The class of Katrina.

Rob: What the hell kind of a name is Katrina?

Sonya: Hurricane Katrina.

Onnig: Hurricane is an ancient Mayan word.

Winnifer: For the Mayan God of storms.

Rob: So even the Mayans experienced hurricanes.

Erica: I’ve never experienced anything like this.

Russa: Everyone will ask. What were you doing during Katrina?

Rob: Evacuating.

Sonya: Driving.

Winnifer: Watching.

Onnig: Nothing heroic. Just driving. Saving myself and my cat.

Russa: Leaving an entire city behind.

Sonya: On the way out, as we were driving through Oklahoma, it hit me. I was abandoning New Orleans. Leaving when times got hard.

Erica: Maybe I shouldn’t have left.

Winnifer and Russa: I felt so guilty.

Sonya: I started to cry. I was abandoning the city I loved.

Onnig: Goodbye New Orleans.

Rob: Hasta la vista.

Russa: See you later.

Winnifer: I hope.

Erica: �My name is Erica Rancilio, and when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I was driving to a lake house with twelve other Tulane law students. This is our story of how we experienced Hurricane Katrina. (exits)

Lauren: My name is Lauren Kittredge, and when Hurricane Katrina hit, I was evacuating to Arizona with my husband, my daughter Nicole, and my baby Andrew. This is a story of how my family and I experienced Hurricane Katrina. (exits)

Rob: �My name’s Rob, and when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I was sleeping in my car in the parking lot of a Burger King. That’s how I experienced Hurricane Katrina. Not much of an interesting story, just me in a parking lot because I couldn’t find a hotel room. But I suppose we all have a story to tell. (exits)

Onnig: Professor Dombalagian. I teach corporate law at Tulane Law School—and when Hurricane Katrina was striking New Orleans, I was escaping a city that I never really knew—maybe I never will. (exits)

Sonya: My name’s Sonya, and I am a law student at Tulane. I guess you could say I’m one of the lucky ones. I got out. (exits)

Winnifer: My name is Winnifer. As a child, I grew up in New Orleans. New Orleans is my home. It's a warm spirit — filled with culture, food, love, and music. People are friendly, genuinely friendly. As a child I watched my mother’s Chinese restaurant grow from just a hole-in the wall restaurant to a classic New Orleans institution. Now as a young adult, I’ve watched as first a hurricane, and then looters, took it all away. But this isn’t just my story. This isn’t just a story of how I experienced Hurricane Katrina. This is the story of how we all experienced Hurricane Katrina. (exits)

MARY enters and walks around looking up at the impressive law school building. �She is followed by her mother, SARAH.

Sarah: Mary Kathryn, you’re going to have get those pants hemmed.

Mary: Mom! Ok.

Sarah: Well I know you think it’s stylish to trapes around with your pants dragging on the ground, but your law professors are just going to think it’s trashy.

Mary: Well you’re not my law professor. What do you think that building is?

Sarah: I bet that’s the law school.

AARON enters and sees MARY.

Mary: But I thought the map said it was over there. Maybe I’m just turned around.

Aaron: Hey, you a first-year?

Mary: Yeah, do I look lost enough?

Aaron: I’m a 1L too. Name’s Aaron.

Mary: (shakes his hand) Mary.

Sarah: Hi Aaron! I’m Mary Kathryn’s mother. It’s great to meet you. Where are you from Aaron?

Mary: Mom, please—

Sarah: I’m just asking the young man where he’s from!

Aaron: I’m from the Boston area. Where are you two from?

Sarah: Kansas.

Aaron: Kansas, wow.

Mary: So anyways, do you know which building is the law school?

Sarah: We were just trying to figure that out!

Aaron: Sure, I took the tour yesterday. It’s that one right there (points).

Sarah: Ok, that’s what I thought. And where’s the gym?

Aaron: (pointing) That way, up the walk just a bit.

Sarah: And the library?

Mary: Mom! This isn’t 20 questions!

Sarah: I don’t want you to get lost on your first day of school!

Aaron: Oh, the library, it’s in that building. Up on the third floor. It’s funny, they built it on the third floor so that if a category five hurricane ever hits New Orleans, and there’s 30 feet of water, the library won’t flood.

Sarah: A category five!My goodness. What are the chances of that happening?

Mary: Like one in a million.

Aaron: Seriously, I doubt it ever will happen, but it’s just one of those things you have to plan for.

Sarah: (staring at the third floor) Well that would be crazy huh! In Kansas when a tornado comes we just head to the basement. We never have to deal with thirty feet of water.

Aaron: (to MARY) Guess you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

SARAH exits as DEAN PONOROFF enters and begins to address the audience.

Dean Ponoroff: Good afternoon, and welcome to our 2005 first-year law student orientation. If you haven’t figured it out already, I am Larry Ponoroff, the Dean of the law school, and you’re not. Many of you are probably wondering, what can you expect these next three years at Tulane? What classes will you take? What peers will you meet? Who will be your professors? What will your Tulane Law School experience be? While I cannot answer all of these questions, I can promise you one thing. While you are at Tulane Law School you can expect to experience (shows three fingers) three Mardi Gras, three Sugar Bowls and probably one category 3 or better hurricane, which most students look forward to since it gives you a few days off from school and a chance to catch up on your studies. Your law school experience will not be boring, I can promise you that.

Loud music comes on as a group of ten STUDENTS walk onstage and begin dancing crazily. Some stand talking, others stand watching the others dancing. The music gradually dies down and the students begin exiting one by one, stopping to talk to ASHLEY on their way out.

Ashley: Bye Morgan!

Morgan: Hey Ashley—great Bar Review. I think it’s been one of the best.

Ashley: Thanks! I think a lot of 1Ls showed up. What’d you think of having it at the Goldmine?

Morgan: It was awesome.

Ashley: Well we’ll have to have one here again sometime.

Morgan: Sounds great. See you Monday Ashley! (exits)

Ashley: Yeah, see you Monday.

Drunken 1L: (stumbles up to ASHLEY) I LOVE law school!

Ashley: That’s wonderful.

Drunken 1L: No, you don’t understand, I LOVE law school! Free beer!

Ashley: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed yourself.

Drunken 1L: Free beer for all! Like manna from the heavens. (hugs ASHLEY) I love you!

Ashley: (completely taken aback) Oh. Thank you.

Drunken 1L: I LOVE the French Quarter! (starts walking) I love New Orleans! And I love this beer! (exits)

Sonya: (approaches ASHLEY) Was that a 1L?

Ashley: Yeah, I think so.

Sonya: Great Bar Review Ash.

Ashley: Thanks. So Sonya, you ready for your big engagement party tomorrow night?

Sonya: I hope so. You and Dan coming?

Ashley: You know we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Sonya: Let’s get out of here. I’m tired, and I have to get up early tomorrow. (starts to exit)

Ashley: Ok. (they start to exit) Hey did you hear something about a hurricane out in the Gulf?

Sonya: Yeah but it’s going to turn north and hit Florida.

Ashley: Oh, good. I was just worried about your party.

Sonya: Nothing’s going to get in the way of my engagement party!

Ashley: I know, I just heard something about a hurricane headed towards New Orleans and so I thought—

Sonya: Ashley, in all the years I’ve lived in New Orleans, not once has my family ever evacuated for a hurricane, and we certainly are not going to evacuate in the middle of my engagement party.

Ashley: Alright! I hear you!

Sonya: Besides, the hurricane isn’t even headed our way. (they both exit)

MARY and ROB are the only ones left standing outside of the GOLDMINE. ROB approaches MARY.

Rob: Hey, I think you’re in my contracts class.

Mary: With Snyder?

Rob: Yeah, and I think maybe I’ve seen you in another one of my classes.

Mary: Do you have torts with Couch?

Rob: Yeah!

Mary: Yeah I thought I saw you in there.

Rob: I’m Rob.

Mary: I’m Mary. It’s good to finally meet you.

Rob: Seems like everyone is leaving.

Mary: Yeah, I guess it’s pretty late. My car’s parked just down the street. Do you need a ride?

Rob: Oh, I wish. But I live over on the West Bank, so I have to take the ferry back to my car, and the ferry doesn’t start up again until 6.

Mary: 6 in the morning?

Rob: Yeah.

Mary: So what are you going to do for the next four hours?

Rob: Oh I don’t know. Drink some more. You know, really experience New Orleans.

Mary: Guess so.

Rob: I can walk you to your car if you’d like.

Mary: Sure. It’s this way. (they start to walk) So, what do you think of our torts class?

Rob: Oh, well it’s definitely a lot better than contracts, that’s for sure.

Mary: You don’t like contracts?

Rob: I don’t like reading about hairy hands.

Mary: I can understand that.

Rob: Honestly, I think the best thing about these last two weeks have just been all the people I’ve met. That and the free beer.

Mary: Oh, I know! Everyone is so nice.

Rob: Tulane was always my first choice.

Mary: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s funny. I was really nervous before I came down here.

Rob: Nervous?

Mary: Anxious, you know. Just worried that maybe I hadn’t made the right decision. Maybe I should be working. Maybe I shouldn’t be studying law. Maybe I should have gone to the law school that actually offered me a scholarship! But I chose Tulane. Do you ever have a moment like that? Where you just stop and think what am I doing with my life?

Rob: Yeah sometimes.

Mary: �And then at some point tonight, I think it was when I was watching everyone dance to Love Shack, I realized, you know, I am really happy here. I think I made the perfect choice. I love the people. I love the classes. And I don’t think I could have made a better decision on how to spend the next three years of my life.

Rob: Yeah. I feel the same way. I think it’s going to be a great three years.

Mary: Well, that’s my car. Thanks for walking me back!

Rob: Ok, well I guess I’ll see you on Monday.

Mary: In contracts! You’re sure you’re going to be alright waiting by yourself for that ferry?

Rob: Yeah. I’ll just wonder around Bourbon Street. Maybe check out a casino. I’ll see you Monday morning.

Mary: Ok, see you Monday.

Rob: Bye Mary.

Mary: Bye Rob.

THEY both exit on opposite sides.

ERICA, and JEFFREY enter and sit. HER UNCLE then enters and calls LAUREN on the phone. SHE holds the phone up to her ear, as they both speak on the phone to one another. THEY all speak on their cell phones. AVIONE’s MOM is sitting.

Her uncle: Erica?

Erica: Hello?

Her uncle: Erica, it’s your uncle.

Erica: Oh, hi.

Her uncle: What are you going to do?

Erica: About what?

Rob’s aunt: (enters, talking on phone, calling JEFFREY) Rob! Rob turn on your TV!

Her uncle: Erica turn on the Weather Channel.

Avione: (enters) Mom! Turn on the news!

Rob: Turn on my TV?

Rob?s aunt: Turn on your TV.

Her uncle: Look at the Weather Channel.

Avione: Sally Ann’s and she’s saying we

Avione and Erica and Rob: gotta get out of here!

Avione’s mom: Now?

Rob’s aunt: Now!

Rob: Oh my God.

Avione and Rob: It’s headed straight for us.

Her uncle: It’s headed straight for you.

Avione’s mom and Erica: You’re kidding.

Erica: Last time I checked it was heading for Pensacola.

Rob: It must have turned.

Erica: Are you sure?

Her uncle and Rob’s aunt: You’ve got to get out of there. (they both exit).

Rob and Erica: (jumping up) It’s headed straight for us! (exits)

Avione: Mom, I don’t think there’s gonna be church today.

Avione’s mom: Pastor wants me to go over to the east location and tell people there to evacuate.

Avione: Mom, we need to evacuate now.

Avione’s mom: After we get to church.


ERICA enters talking on the phone to LAUREN CHECKI.

Erica: Lauren, I’m serious! They’ve cancelled classes!

Lauren: Until when?

Erica: Wednesday!

Lauren: That’s awesome!

Erica: We’re all going to Clare’s lake house just outside of Memphis, do you want to come?

Lauren: God, I’m too hungover to make any rational decisions right now. I don’t know!

Erica: Well you can’t just stay in New Orleans. Come on Lauren, it’s going to be so much fun!

Lauren: What should I pack?

At this point, random actors begin running on and offstage, frantically packing their ‘cars.’ They enter, set their stuff in the center pile, and then run back offstage, only to return again.

Erica: Flip flops and Mardi Gras beads!

Sonya: (enters carrying the stuff she is packing and sets it in the center of the stage) Toilet paper and flashlights.

Lauren: Flip flops and Mardi Gras beads?

Jason: (enters, on the phone) Hey Marc! Yeah, I’m packing and, oh, you already left? You’re already in Austin?

Sonya: Bottled water. Candles. Who knows what all I might need in Baton Rouge! (exits)

Dean Ponoroff: (enters carrying his objects and places them in pile) Two pairs of shorts and three tshirts. (exits)

Jason: (calling on cell phone)Hey Jay. Yeah I’m packing. Look when do you think you all will head out? Oh. You already left.

Erica: (runs offstage) It’s going to be a party!

Jason: (calling on cell phone) Hey! How’s it going! Oh, you’re in Mississipp? No that’s cool. I’m cool.

Sonya: (enters) I’m definitely bringing these suits. (exits)

Lauren: Ok, I’m going to get my law books! (exits)

Onnig: (enters) Where’s my cat?

Dean Ponoroff: (enters) Where are my children? I need to find my children. (exits)

Onnig: I can’t leave without my cat. (exits)

Jason: (calling on cell phone) Hey man, what’s up? Look can I catch a ride with you out of town? You’re in Texas? Alright.

HEIDI enters carrying a load of laundary, MARY enters on opposite side.

Mary: Heidi!

Heidi: Hey Mary.

Mary: Are you taking all of that?

Heidi: Yeah. I mean, what do you mean?

Mary: Oh, are you doing laundry before you leave?

Heidi: I’m not leaving.

Mary: You’re not going to evacuate?

Heidi: Evacuate?

Mary: You know, the hurricane.

Heidi: What hurricane?

Mary: The hurricane that is headed straight for us!

Heidi: (drops her clothes to the ground) There’s a hurricane headed straight for us?!

Mary: Have you checked your email? Have you turned on a TV? Oh my God Heidi, where have you been?

Heidi: No! No, I had no idea! I’ve been reading civ pro!

Mary: Manna and I are leaving in half an hour. There’s a hurricane headed straight for New Orleans, and the Dean has already cancelled classes until next Thursday.

Heidi: Oh my god! I’m from Missouri! I don’t know what to do in a hurricane!

Mary: Drive back to Missouri!

Heidi: Are you going back to Kansas?

Mary: Manna and I are driving to Houston.

Heidi: (starts to run off) Oh my god! I have to go tell Jeff!

Mary: Call me ok! Let me know that you’re alright!

Heidi: (turns in her tracks and yells back at MARY) Hey Mary!

Mary: What?

Heidi: �I don’t think you’re in Kansas anymore! (exits)

Jason: (calling again on cell phone) Hey Joe, man where are you’ In Baton Rouge?

Erica: (enters) Ok, I’ve got my laptop, and law books.

Mary: Law books! I need to get my books! (exits)

Sonya: (enters) And flip flops.

Onnig: (enters) Three days’ worth of clothing.

Lauren: (enters, carrying books) Do we need anything else?

Sonya: We’ll only be gone three or four days.

Onnig: At the most.

Erica: Right.

Lauren: Ok. Well I’m just going to leave all of this here.

Sonya: We’ll be back.

Lauren: We’ll be back soon.

Lauren and Sonja and Erica: Road trip! (everyone runs offstage and everyone stops running back and forth in the background)

Jason: (calling on cell phone) Hey Mike! What’s going on! Tell me you’re still in New Orleans! (pause) Shit. No. No man. That’s cool. Good luck to ya. (hangs up phone) I don’t have a car.

Dean Ponoroff: �I’ve lived in New Orleans for 11 years now, and I’ve never evacuated. But I just decided we were going this time. We’ve cancelled classes until Thursday, and I have asked all of my students to leave.

CAR RENTAL enters. JASON approaches HIM/HER.

Jason: Hi. Look, I’ve been waiting in that line over there for two hours, and there’s no one over here in this line—

Car rental: Ok. Can I please see your gold card?

Jason: My gold card?

Car rental: Are you a gold card member?

Jason: No. No I guess not.

Car rental: Then I’m afraid you’ll have to stand in line with everyone else.

Jason: But I’ve been standing in line! Do you see that line? There are 300 people standing in that line! Not everyone here is going to get a car!

Car rental: That’s probably true. But unless you are a gold card member, I can’t rent you a car. You’ll have to stand in that line and wait your turn.

Jason: My turn for what? How are you going to ensure that everyone here gets a car?

Car rental: We aren’t sir. It’s first come first serve.

Jason: So not everyone is going to get a car.

Car rental: There’s nothing I can do about that sir.


Dean Ponoroff: You know, I wish I could put my finger on it and tell you why this time is different than Ivan the year before, or Dennis this past summer. But I can’t. I just feel it. This is the time. We need to get out.

Ponoroff freezes as Morgan enters.

Morgan: There’s a big storm coming and there’s no telling what will happen.   I’m
too caught up in it all to really know what’s going on, but then again,
so is everyone?.

Ponoroff’s son: (enters, Ponoroff unfreezes) Dad’ Are we leaving’

Dean Ponoroff: Yeah. Pack a bag. Grab some sunglasses. We’re going on a short vacation.

THEY both exit.

Morgan: Many have left, but those who have stayed have stayed together.   Some have stayed because they have family here, others because they have nowhere else to go.   There are those who haven’t left yet because no place else is home, and those who haven’t left because they don’t have the means to go.  

The people who’ve stayed are people you’ve known all along, that somehow assume a different stature because they’ve stayed: the meteorologist who assumes the role of authority, the preacher who becomes reveler, and the neighbor who seems like family.   When you see a new side of all these people, you can’t help but think that they have seen a new side of you. In the eternal spirit of this city, you wave to strangers.

So far behind we’re ahead, or that’s what they say.   

We don’t anticipate hurricanes, we drink them — and when there’s a big one coming, we just through a bigger party.   Call it coincidence or destiny, but like the sun and the moon in an eclipse, it just so happens that the Saturday night before landfall there’s a mid-summer’s Mardi Gras.   Catching up with the second-line down by Snake and Jake’s, with everyone in costume, Trombone Shorty leads the brass band down the street.

In the calm before the storm, I’m excited and nervous.   It’s quiet and hot out, and the night seems darker than usual.   Then all of a sudden, when walking down Oak, the skies let loose, and the drops come hard and fast and suddenly.   Even though we huddle under an awning, we can tell that the rain is cool.   And as fast as it starts, it stops.   We walk on, into the hot night with the party behind us, knowing that something is before us.

Together we have come to a simple, common understanding: it’s only when you come close to losing something that you really know what it means. This is a city that lives on in its past — it lives on because it has the wild time to establish in the tomorrow, what will be the past of today.   But that’s too many words to explain what’s really going on:
we’re in for some weather. (exits)

MARY enters, carrying a bag over her shoulder. SHE is exhausted. SARAH enters and rushes to her. TOM enters shortly thereafter.

Sarah: Mary’s here!

Tom: (entering) Well Mary Kathryn!

Sarah: You look exhausted! Tom, take her bag for her.

Mary: My radio wasn’t working the whole drive. And I can’t get a hold of anyone from New Orleans, so I don’t even know—

Sarah: They dodged the bullet!

Mary: What?

Tom: The eye went just to the east!

Sarah: Katrina missed New Orleans!

Mary: Really?

Tom: There was some minor damage.

Sarah: But nothing major!

Mary: What about everyone in the Superdome?

Tom: They’re fine.

Sarah: Some of the roof tore off, but I bet they’ll be going home as soon as tomorrow or Wednesday.

Mary: The levees didn’t break?

Tom: No!

Sarah: There’s hardly any flooding.

Tom: The hurricane didn’t hit New Orleans directly!

Sarah: They really dodged the bullet!

Tom: I bet you’re back in school by next Monday!

Sarah: Come on Tom, let’s take her bags inside. Mary, we’ll put your things in the guest bedroom upstairs. (TOM exits and SARAH hugs MARY) I’m so glad you made it home safely. Sweetheart, you look exhausted. What did you do last night in Houston, stay up all night?

Mary: I couldn’t sleep.

Sarah: Oh! Well you should be able to sleep now that you know you all escaped the major catastrophe! Everyone thought this one was going to be the big one! (exits)

MARY stands as she is joined by MORGAN, and ASHLEY.

Morgan: Storm’s passed now.

Ashley: The eye went just east of New Orleans.

Mary and Morgan and Ashley: I guess I can sleep now. (they all lie down)

A few moments pass. Then SONYA enters. SHE runs to ASHLEY and begins to shake her.

Sonya: Ashley! Ashley!

Ashley: Sonya?

Sonya: Ashley!

Ashley: Sonya is that you?

Sonya: Ashley, they broke!

Ashley: What broke?

Sonya: The levees broke!

Ashley: What?

Sonya: �The whole city is flooding. (starts to exit)

Ashley: Flooding?

Sonya: It’s on the TV. New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. (THEY both run offstage)

SARAH enters and goes to wake up MARY.

Sarah: Mary, Mary, honey, wake up.

Mary: (groaning) I’m sleeping.

Sarah: I know dear, but I think—

Mary: I’m sleeping.

Sarah: Mary, you have got to—

Mary: Mom! I’m sleeping! What part of that don’t you understand?

Sarah: �Mary, they broke.

Mary: What broke?

Sarah: The levees broke!

Mary: What?

Sarah: �The whole city is flooding. (starts to exit)

Mary: Flooding?

Sarah: It’s on the TV. New Orleans is filling up like a bowl.

MARY sprints offstage and SARAH follows

MORGAN is still asleep on ground. PROFESSOR HOUCK enters and bangs on MORGAN’s door.

Professor Houck: Mr. Williams! Morgan? Mr. Williams? Are you in there?

Morgan: (wakes up and walks over to open door) Hey. Good morning.

Profess Houck: The water’s rising! You gotta get out of here.

Morgan: What?

Professor Houck: They broke Morgan.

Morgan: What broke?

Professor Houck: The levees broke!

Morgan: What?

Professor Houck: �The whole city is flooding.

Morgan: Flooding?

Professor Houck: It’s in this street! New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. Now get your dad and get the hell out of here!

Morgan: Dad! Dad! (as HE runs offstage) The water! Dad the water! It’s here! It’s coming down the street!


Professor Houck: August 30th, 2005. Dear Journal. About 5 on Tuesday morning we get a call from our younger boy. The phone still works. He is out in California glued to the television. We know absolutely nothing.

Peter: I think the power went out around 4 in the morning.

Machelle: There was a really strong wind that kept coming in though the front door.

Peter: I was up all night just watching TV and laughing, waiting for updates.

Machelle: It was the most severe wind I’ve ever heard.

Peter: The power of it was indescribable.

Machelle: We watched a lot of the hurricane from the porch.

Peter: It felt like they had parked a jet engine next to the house for 15 hours.

Machelle: It was beautiful.

Peter: I remember watching an entire pine forest bow.

Machelle: The next day we went out and rode our bikes out all over town.

Peter: We had to hike to town because trees were still down.

Machelle: We got to Wal-Mart and watched the police shoot into the air and tell everyone to leave.

Peter: We hiked in the bayou behind town, and it was filthy. Rotting dead fish everywhere. Lots of dead animals. But we were searching for my friends? parents, and they were old. In their eighties.

Machelle: My friend’s dad is a gun collector, and he has several hundred guns.

Peter: We finally got to their house, where they had been with no food and no medicine, and their house flooded up to the rafters.

Machelle: We spent a lot of time sitting on the front porch, reading our books, drinking, and then if someone came by we would stand up and show our guns.

Peter: And I’m like this guy has congestive heart failure. He’s not going to walk out. So we were looking around for a wagon. And I said to the sheriff, why don’t you bring a helicopter?

Machelle: Showing our guns on that porch was a big deterrent.

Peter: He looked me and shook his head, do you think this is a movie? (exits)

Machelle: We had someone who called a helicopter to come and evacuate them from the top of our building. The helicopter turned over the pool furniture, it smashed things into cars. It almost caused more damage than Katrina. The day after the storm we went out and rode our bikes out all over town. We went to the French Quarter and got some hurricanes. We looked behind the cathedral where all the trees had fallen down by the Jesus statute, but Jesus was still standing. People kept calling. My cell phone still worked. “There’s a levee that broke,” I think about twenty people called to say. Where? On the river at canal street, and I was like I’m right here, they’re not broken.

Professor Houck: Get out! My son says. Get out, the levee has broken. I say, Gabe, calm down. I say, when the Corps builds levees they don’t fall down.

Machelle: Then we heard they had broken elsewhere. �We rode our bikes into the Meranie and rode as far as we got to the water.

Police Officer: (enters and approaches MACHELLE) Police! Stop your bike.

Machelle: I’m just crossing Canal Street.

Police Officer: Don’t you see the water?

Machelle: Yes, but I just want to cross Canal.

Police Officer: Alright. You can cross. But if you turn right or left you’ll be shot. (exits)

Professor Houck: We have picked our way down Freret Street and over the bridge and up route 1 towards Baton Rouge. Curious, some people on the bridge are walking, carrying clothing and hauling children, back into the city. Why would they be doing that? They got turned back by the Gretna police but we don’t know a thing. We find a radio station and it is saying that people with boats are being asked to come to the I-10/I-12 split first thing in the morning. We pass some trucks hauling boats coming the other way. Up in Mississippi we begin to hear about the drownings. I think, Jesus Christ, I had fourteen foot flat blat in the back yard with a 14 hp motor and it stayed there, every day. People died in their attics and my boat stayed in the back yard. (exits)

Machelle: Look, I’m not leaving. If I say I am ok, then I am ok. I know when I’m in danger. The news is portraying something other than what we are experiencing. I could told people that a million times, but no one seemed to believe me. (exits)

Anderson: (enters) This Anderson Cooper, and you’re watching a special edition of 360.

Wolf: (enters) I’m Wolf Blitzer and you’re in the Situation Room.

Paula: (enters) Good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us. I’m Paula Zahn, and tonight, we continue CNN's rolling coverage of the desperate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Anderson: There are tens of thousands of people stuck

Anderson and Wolf: in the Superdome

Wolf: right now, crisis in New Orleans — fights, fires, gunfire.

Anderson: This is a special edition of 360.

Paula: What is the latest from there, Chris?

Chris: (enters) Paula, we are right here on top of the roof.

Anderson: A levee broke yesterday. Another levee broke today. Water is still pouring into that city.

Anderson and Wolf: It just keeps getting worse

Wolf: by the hour. We have just received this statement in from the mayor, Ray Nagin.

Ray Nagin: (enters) This is a desperate SOS.

Wolf: I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in the Situation Room.

Chris: Men roaming the city, shooting at people.

Anderson: Chaos, anger.

Chris: attempting to rape women.

Anderson: a desperate city feeling abandoned.

Paula and Anderson: This is America?

Ray Nagin: We’re running out of supplies.

Paula: You’re watching Paula Zahn Now.

Wolf: Were there first-responders?

Paula: FEMA officials, U. S. military personnel?

Anderson: No one.

Chris: I'm telling you Wolf, we are looking at people who are dying in front of you.

Chris and Anderson: It's sick.

Wolf: People standing on the roofs of a building, holding signs, desperate for help.

Anderson: This is a special edition of 360.

Paula: There is desperation and there is danger

Paula and Anderson: in the city of New Orleans tonight

Anderson: I can see just a thick cloud of black smoke.

Wolf: I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in the Situation Room.

Paula: Federal Emergency Management Director Mike Brown joins me now from the FEMA command center in Baton Rouge.

Brown: (enters) Paula, I think it's so important for the American public to understand exactly how catastrophic this disaster is. Every person in that Convention Center, we just learned about that today.

Paula: Sir, you aren't telling me—

Brown: We must take care of those bodies that are there—

Paula: Sir, you aren't just telling me you just learned that the folks at the Convention Center didn't have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off?

Brown: Those people have suddenly appeared. I am going to take control of that. That's the president's demand. The American public demands it, and we're going to do it. (exits)

Paula: You’re watching Paula Zahn Now.

Anderson: Days without food.

Chris: Death toll could go into the thousands.

Wolf: They're defecating on the carpets.

Anderson: This is a special edition of 360.

Ray Nagin: Goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. I won't do another press conference until the resources are in this city, and then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count. Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here! It's too doggone late. Get off your asses and let's do something and let's fix the biggest goddamned crisis in the history of this country. (exits)

Wolf: I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in the Situation Room.

Paula: You’re watching Paula Zahn Now.

Anderson: This is a special edition of 360.

Wolf: I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in the Situation Room.

Paula: You’re watching Paula Zahn Now.

Anderson: This is a special edition of 360.

Wolf: I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in the Situation Room.

Paula: You’re watching Paula Zahn Now.

Anderson: This is a special edition of 360.

Erica: (enters and shouts) Stop it! Just turn it off! (PAULA, ANDERSON, and WOLF are silenced) For hours all you’ve showed are just random buildings on fire. You’re just using this to get better ratings. Capitalizing on death and destruction! I don’t need to see buildings on fire! I need news. I need to see people. I need facts. I need to know. A city I never really knew. People I never knew.


Otis: All those people I half knew in the city where I half lived.   It was only ever fragments to me: second line, mansions, passing band practice on my way home, ancient houses, ancient money, ancient pains like the old maid I rode the streetcar with who said "White folks think they can't do nothing for theyselves.   I tell em 'This ain't slavery time,' but they don't hear me" or a Mardi Gras Indian burial ritual where a eulogist said "The real music of our city is the ability to say good morning, good evening and good night" in a million accents and beneath great great oak trees full of termites and over stories that go on and on to make a point I wouldn't even bring up’  I’m a Calfornian, but I said it too good morning, good evening and goodnight.   I meant it too.   To people who were my neighbors.   Now they are lost, and I don't think I'll ever find them or their like.

I'm safe and sound again.   The thing I feared has passed me by—but that allusion is so inapt isn't it?   I should say that I feel like the preacher in Ecclesiastes "vanity of vanities all is vanities" and more about how what has been is forgotten and what will be will be forgotten.   That when I close my eyes I can see the whole universe, like so much dust, but that's not me anymore either.   All I see are faces like mine, half real, my neighbors their mouths opening in a silent moan.   This time I broke the contract?  Now I'm afraid that all I am is the empty space between me and their suffering.   That all I can do in the face of immense and unjust suffering is shake my head.   The thing I feared most is in my chest. If you can leave your neighbors behind and only stare in dumb wonder as they suffer behind the throbbing glass of a TV, what else will you do?   Or when will you stay, and what are you made of?  

Lauren: (enters) So what do we do now?

Ashley: We wait.

Mary: Tulane will reopen.

Erica: But when?

Otis: Soon.

Lauren: Real soon.

Rob: I doubt that.

Ashley: Maybe I should apply to transfer?

Rob: I already have.

Lauren: Should I visit away for the semester?

Mary: Who would want to do that?

Rob: I called Columbia, Cornell, NYU—

Erica: What should 1Ls do?

Otis: Has anyone heard from Dean Ponoroff?

Erica and Sonya and Mary and Lauren: No.

Rob: Well you know what that means.

Mary: No, I don’t.

Ashley: Maybe we should all apply to the same school!

Lauren: I don’t want to spend a semester away from all of my friends!

Ashley: Let’s all go to Texas!

Erica: I want to go back to Tulane!

Rob and Ashley and Otis: That’s not an option.

Lauren: Who’s applying to other schools?

Ashley and Erica and Otis and Rob: Everyone.

Rob: NYU just called me.

Otis: Howard just called me.

Otis and Ashley and Rob: I got in. (they both exit)

Ashley: At both UT and Penn! What do I do now?

Mary: Should I apply to visit away?

Erica: Should I wait?

Lauren: I’m leaving for Cumberland!

Ashley: I’m leaving for Penn!

Lauren: Alabama, here I come! (exits)

Ashley: Classes start tomorrow morning. (exits)

Erica: I called twenty schools.

Mary: They said they aren’t accepting 1Ls.

Erica: So I think I’ll just wait.

Mary: Tulane will reopen.

Anonymous: (enters) I wouldn’t count on that.

Aaron: (enters) Tulane isn’t going to reopen.

Erica: They have to!

Anonymous: They just want your money.

Aaron: (enters) Arizona is accepting 1Ls.

Heidi: (enters) I called Duke, American, Georgetown—

Anonymous: I called Texas, Arkansas, and Emory

Heidi and Anonymous and Aaron: Harvard, NYU, and Berkeley.

Erica and Mary: What did they say?

Heidi: I put my name on a list.

Mary: What list?

Anonymous: Are you on the list?

Heidi: I’m on 20 lists.

Erica: What list?

Heidi: The list!

Anonymous: The list that everyone is on!

Aaron: Arizona doesn’t have a list. They’ll accept you immediately!

Mary: I don’t want to move to Arizona!

Erica: Why can’t we wait for Tulane?

Aaron: You can if you want to.

Anonymous and Heidi: I wouldn’t advise it.

Mary: Why not?

Anonymous: Tulane is a sinking ship.

Heidi: And your law career will sink with it. (exits)

Aaron: There’s a spot for you at Arizona! (exits)

Erica: (runs offstage) I’ll go call right now!

Mary: Who are you?

Anonymous: A Tulane 1L.

Mary: I know, but what’s your name?

Anonymous: Anonymous.


Father: Jack.

Anonymous: Yes dad?

Father: What schools did you call today?

Anonymous: A lot. I called more than twenty.

Father: And?

Anonymous: And what?

Father: What did they say?

Anonymous: They put me on a list.

Father: A list? They put you on a list?

Anonymous: Yeah.

Father: And that’s it? I go to work all day, and I come home to find out that the only thing you’ve accomplished is putting yourself on a list?

Anonymous: What else am I supposed to do?

Father: Jack, this is your future we’re talking about. I know Tulane was your first choice, but right now, it isn’t a choice. Tomorrow you’re going to call these law schools back and tell them that you don’t have time for these lists. You need to be in law school now, not later. There’s no time to wait. We can all see that Tulane is a sinking ship, and your law career is sinking with it. (exits)

Anonymous: Do you want to move back in with your parents again? (exits)

Mary: No.

Dean Netherton: (enters) I didn’t want to move back in with my parents.

Mary and Dean Netherton: But I did.

MARY exits.

Dean Netherton: I just didn’t want to burden them. My parents are in their 80s and we were staying in their house. My dad fought in WWII. He’s just straight and tall and handsome, 6’ 2” with beautiful silver hair. I was watching CNN all the time, and every time we would pass each other in the hall he would just pat me on the back and say, "It’s gonna be ok Bonnie." We were both biting our lips.

Dean Krinsky: (enters) I have to say that the attitude in our car was almost like we were on a roadtrip. We weren’t scared. We weren’t thinking we wouldn’t be able to go back. I think I packed three days worth of clothing.

Dean Ponoroff: (enters) Tuesday morning I got up very early and went down to the fitness center and when I finished I came back up to the lobby to get some coffee. And while I was standing there this other woman looked at me and asked, Where is the 17th street canal? I didn’t understand why she would ask me that, but then she told me why. I immediately went back up stairs and turned on CNN, and that’s when I realized that we were in for a long-term affair.

Dean Netherton: This is surreal!

Dean Krinsky: I only packed three days worth of clothing!

Dean Netherton: I don’t even know where Larry is!

Dean Ponoroff: Ok Larry, take a deep breath. Let’s see. I have a thousand students. I don’t know where any of them are. I have 50 faculty. I don’t know where any of them are. I have 175 staff. I don’t know where any of them are.

Dean Netherton: The phones aren’t working. I can’t call anyone.

Matt: (enters) Mom! You can send text messages!

Dean Netherton: What?

Matt: (takes cell phone and demonstrates) Look! Text messaging still works!

Dean Netherton: Can I text Larry?

Matt: Yeah. What do you want to say’

Dean Netherton: Shreveport. Just tell him I?m in Shreveport.

Dean Ponoroff: (looks at phone surprised) Shreveport’ Oh! Tondra is in Shreveport!

MATT exits.

Dean Krinsky: And that’s when I got on the computer. Our Tulane server might be down, but we all established gmail accounts before the storm!

Dean Ponoroff: (looks up at computer screen) Oh! Susan is in Little Rock!

Dean Netherton and Dean Krinsky: Larry is in Houston.

Dean Netherton and Dean Krinksy and Dean Ponoroff: We’ve got work to do.

Dean Ponoroff: I just got a call from Frank Alexander, the Dean at Emory, and he asked how he could help.

Dean Krinsky: We’ve got to establish a presence online.

Dean Netherton: For our students.

Dean Ponoroff: Emory’s server will host a temporary Tulane Law School website.

Dean Netherton: Great!

Dean Ponoroff: That’s progress.

Dean Netherton: God bless Raymond Jean!

Dean Ponoroff: I don’t know what we’d do without him.

Dean Krinsky: But students are still angry.

Dean Netherton: Scared.

Dean Krinsky: Confused.

Dean Netheron: They want to know more.

Dean Ponoroff: So do I.

Dean Krinsky: I’m getting a hundred emails a day.

Dean Netherton: 150.

Dean Ponoroff: 600 in the last 6 hours.

Dean Krinsky: I get out of bed at 7am

Dean Netherton: And go straight to the computer—

Dean Ponoroff: Where I sit, all day, into the night until—

Dean Krinsky: 2 in the morning! Already?

Dean Ponoroff: I don’t believe it.

Dean Netherton: I still have emails to answer.

Dean Ponoroff: At least 300.

Dean Netherton: So many questions.

Matt: (enters) Mom, when are we going back?

Krinsky’s son: (enters) Mom, what happened to our house?

Dean Krinsky: So few answers.

Ponoroff’s son: (enters) Dad, will I be able to go back to Tulane this semester?

Dean Ponoroff and Dean Krinsky and Dean Netherton: I don’t know.

Ponoroff’s son and Krinsky’s son and Matt: When are you getting off that computer?

Dean Ponoroff and Dean Krinsky and Dean Netherton: Later.

Krinsky’s son and Matt and Ponoroff’s son: What are we supposed to do?

Dean Ponoroff and Dean Krinsky and Dean Netherton: Wait.

THEY all exit. JASON enters.

Jason:��� Hey Morgan, thanks for sending me the number.   I'm freaking out here.   I can't put anything into words right now, this is as close as I can get. I can't begin to mourn. I feel like stone. I hope this is cathartic. I feel painfully numb. I can’t understand the world that is going on, just that it keeps going on. I want it to stop. I can’t wrap my brain around this if it doesn’t stop. I feel deaf and blind. I hear the news, but I need to see New Orleans. I need to be there. I am paralyzed.  I need to eat a muffaletta from Central Grocery. I need to make an illegal left. I need to take a walk with a beer. I need to hear jazz on the streets and twist my ankle on the sidewalk. I need to run into people I haven’t seen in years. I need to hear from Sam (Why hasn’t he called? ). I need to cross the neutral ground to get a cup of coffee. I need more words to say it. I need to take for granted the things I’m too stupid to remember now. I need to know that people didn’t die waiting. I need to be decadent. I need to wait forever for the Magazine bus on Canal Street. I need to be free. I need to know that it will be there again.  New Orleans really is my home. It was the first place I ever felt that I could really be who I am. It was where I figured it out; I was born again. The first time I kissed a boy, the first time I ever felt beautiful. So many things I can’t describe. It was my escape and now I can’t get there and I need to. I want to help, to do something, anything. I need to find Sam.     I have to cry but can’t; I can’t feel anything. I need to see New Orleans.

JASON exits.

SONYA and RAY enter. They are eating at a small diner. SONYA is just pushing her food around on her plate.

Ray: You’re not eating much.

Sonja: I’m not hungry.

Ray: You sure you want to fly out to New York tomorrow?

Sonja: Yes. Dad! Why do you keep asking me that?

Ray: I just feel like you ought to give it some more time.

Sonja: There isn’t any more time! All of the law schools have already started. I’m out of time.

MIKE enters. He sees RAY and approaches the table.

Mike: Hey there Ray!

Ray: Mike, how you doing? You remember my daughter, Sonya?

Mike: Hello Sonya. How could I forget? Now wait a second, am I remembering correctly, aren’t you in law school?

Sonya: Yeah.

Ray: She’s at Tulane.

Mike: Oh! (then realizes Tulane is in New Orleans) OH! Well I guess you aren’t right now!

Sonya: No, not right now.

Mike: God! When will you get to go back?

Sonya: I don’t know.

Mike: What a bummer!

Ray: She’s going to spend the semester in New York.

Mike: Oh. Well see there you go! Making something good out of something bad! And you know, when you get back to New Orleans eventually, Lord knows it will be a better city after all this mess. Now that Katrina’s wiped out all of the bad apples.

Sonya: Bad apples?

Mike: Yeah, well New Orleans has had it coming for years now. I went down there one Mardi Gras, and I saw how they live. The way folks live down there, it’s just not decent. But now that all of those people have been removed, you know, the crime rate is finally going to go down.

Sonya: Excuse me, what do you know about New Orleans?

Ray: Sonja—

Sonya: No! You know absolutely nothing about the people of New Orleans! You know who Katrina wiped out? All the people that serve tourists like you alcohol and clean the shit off your toilet when you stay in a hotel!

Ray: Sonya!

Mike: It’s ok, I know she’s bound to be upset and over-emotional. She’s just been through a horrible tragedy. I’ll let you two get back to your lunch. Call me sometime Ray, and we can discuss the Ridgeview property. (exits)

Ray: Sonya, you are embarrassing me! He’s a client!

Sonya: Can you believe he said that? Can you believe he said that about the people in New Orleans?

Ray: Sonya he’s just ignorant, he doesn’t know—

Sonya: He’s racist. That’s what he is.

Ray: You don’t know Mike—

Sonya: And he doesn’t know the people of New Orleans! But he’s making generalizations, probably based on what he’s seen on TV—that stupid footage they keep repeating of five black people looting food and diapers from a store—

Ray: Sonya the entire country is watching that footage! Not just Mike!

Sonya: I know! That’s the problem!

Manager: (enters and approaches table) Is there a problem here?

Ray: Oh no, I’m sorry, everything is just fine.

Manager: (looks at SONJA’s food) You haven’t eaten a thing. You know, I get worried when I see that one of my customers isn’t eating. Is the food alright?

Sonya: Yes, I’m sorry, it’s me, not the food.

Ray: You’ll have to just excuse her, she just evacuated from the hurricane, and she isn’t feeling well.

Manager: I am so sorry to hear that. You know what, breakfast is on me. If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know. (exits)

Pause. SONYA is looking down at her food, crying (not audibly), not looking at RAY.

Ray: Sonya? (pause) Sonya? Are you crying?

Sonya: Yes. (exits)

RAY sits quietly by himself for a moment, and then he follows SONYA out of the diner.

Professor Houck: (enters) September 13th, 2005. Dear Journal. We left the cat. Couldn’t find it when we left. Didn’t even think to leave foot behind. Just fled. Lisa tells a friend named Charlie in Mississippi that she misses her cat. Then we move on to the north. One night we get a phone call. Ollie, he says it’s Charlie, we’re going in to get your cat. You’re going in to get arrested and there aren’t any courts, I tell him. They’ll send you to Guantanamo. I got a pass, he says, and an AK-47. True, about the gun anyway; I’d seen it, jumping up turf on his country lawn. Next night I get another call. Ollie, says Charlie, put Lisa on. She takes the phone. I hear a loud meow. Lisa starts to cry.

We are up in Virginia, town called Crozet, maybe 300 people with a sidewalk caf� and a single waiter. We say we’re from the hurricane. He says, did you see the President in New Orleans? We say we didn’t even know he was down there. Oh my yes, he says, the President said that he was going to ask everyone to pray for those people in the city and I said right back to him Mr. President those people don’t want you to pray for them, they want you to get them off their fucking roofs. (exits)

WOMAN enters and sits, reading a magazine. SHE tentatively listens to MARY’s conversation. Shortly thereafter, MARY enters, on her cell phone. While MARY is on phone, WOMAN goes to counter to pay her bill.

Mary: Did you get home alright? How was your flight? I mailed the stuff you left in my backseat today. Your CDs, your dress, and your wallet. (laughs) I know! It might be all that you own right now! Oh, that’s not really funny. Yeah, I tried Google Satellite too. Couldn’t see a damn thing. It’s all fuzzy. You’re going to call FEMA? You think they’ll give us money? We don’t even know if we lost anything. Kenny called you? What did he say? He did not! You’re kidding me! He asked you to pay rent? Is he going to ask me to pay rent? He can’t ask us to pay rent! What the hell! I’m not paying rent for a property in a flooded city under a mandatory evacuation! There’s no electricity! There’s no running water! What is he thinking? I can’t pay rent! I don’t have any money! All of my money from my loans is in my Tulane account, which I can’t even access right now—ok, I know, I’m sorry, I’m freaking out in the middle of Jiffy Lube. I’ll call you back in like twenty minutes, ok? Ok, bye. (hangs up phone and sighs) God.

Woman: (from the counter) What’s your name?

Mary: My name? Oh, uh, Mary Nagle.

Woman: Excuse me, sir. I will be paying for Mary Nagle’s oil change today too. Please just add that to my total. Yes, you can just put that on the Visa. Thanks.

Mary: Oh my god. You really don’t need to pay for my oil change.

Woman: I just heard your whole conversation. You’ve been through enough already. God bless you and good luck. (exits)

MARY sits momentarily, and then exits.

Lauren: I lost nothing.

Avione: We lost our house.

Ryan: Pretty much lost everything.

Lauren and Avione and Ryan: So I called FEMA.

Operator: Thank you for calling FEMA.

Second Operator: (enters) This call may be monitored for quality-assurance purposes.

Avione: Hello, yes we lost our home.

Operator: If your home or its contents are damaged, and you do not have insurance, an inspector should contact you within ten to fourteen days after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home.

Lauren: But I’m in New Jersey.

Ryan: My home is underwater.

Avione: It’s gone. There’s nothing left to inspect.

Third Operator: This call may be monitored for quality-assurance purposes.

Operator: Thank you for calling FEMA.

Second Operator: About ten days after the inspection FEMA will decide if you qualify for assistance.

Lauren: I applied three weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing.

Third Operator: FEMA has implemented new technology to help inform you that we have received your documents.

Second Operator: Thank you for calling FEMA.

Avione: We got more than nine feet of water.

Operator: There is an exception for damages caused by flooding.

Avione: It wasn’t a flood!

Ryan: It was a hurricane.

Third Operator: FEMA cannot duplicate assistance from your insurance company.

Ryan: I don’t have insurance.

Operator: Thank you for calling FEMA.

Second Operator: This call may be monitored for quality-assurance purposes.

Lauren: So when will I receive this money?

Second Operator: We advise that you please be patient and wait to receive the recorded message.

Third Operator: Thank you for calling FEMA.

Lauren: Oh I got it!

Ryan: Wow, two thousand bucks. This will replace my lost clothing. (exits)

Lauren: Now what am I going to do with 2000 dollars? (exits)

Operator: This call may be monitored for quality-assurance purposes.

Avione: All these people are getting 2000 dollars in rental assistance. But we lost our home and we can’t get anything.

Operator: Homeowners may qualify for a low-interest loan to help rebuild or repair their homes or business and repair or replace underinsured flood damaged personal property.

Second Operator: Thank you for calling FEMA.

All three OPERATORS exit.

Avione: I don’t want to take out a loan just to rebuild what was already mine. Besides, how do you take out a loan when you have nothing? (exits)

Dean Ponoroff: (enters and addresses the audience) To all of my faculty, students, and staff. You should know that we are making significant progress here in Houston.


It’s hard to describe the situation or put it into words, and the best I can do is to give you two words, and these two words will sound contradictory, but really they are an accurate portrayal of our situation. Things are simultaneously chaotic and under control. By that I mean we have enormous issues to deal with, and we are dealing with them under very difficult circumstances. We were all dislocated. But everyone morning we got together and asked ourselves, What do we have to get done today? And that’s what we focused on that day, and nothing else.

We went in the early days from being on life support, not even knowing if the university was going to survive, to recovery mode. We had no access to any of our systems, or any of our resources. We set up task forces for each of the major issues. There’s about twelve or thirteen people in the leadership group, maybe another 20, 25 staff people around in Houston, and that’s it, that’s all we had.

But now, things are really starting to turn the corner. For the first time last night since August 29th, I got more than five hours of sleep. My wife’s flying in from Chicago, and we are going to spend the weekend together.

Man: (enters) Excuse me, Dean Ponoroff?

Dean Ponoroff: Yes?

Man: We’re all evacuating now.

Dean Ponoroff: Evacuating?

Man: The mayor just issued a mandatory evacuation for Houston. You know, Hurricane Rita. She’s headed straight for us. (exits)

Dean Ponoroff: What is this? Some sort of sick movie? (exits)


Jancy Hoeffel: All I can say is that I do not know who I am or where I am at the moment. I am a mother sitting in a car pool late at a chic local Montessori school (because they took pity on us and let us in—we are too embarrassed to tell them, or the women in Wisconsin who made us quilts—that we are not poor and, as it happens, our house is fine). I am daughter-in-law staying in her husband’s childhood room, seeing her husband in a twin bed from across the great shag divide. I am a professor without a classroom, printing out copies of a work-in-progress at the local library at 10 cents a page. I am a faux suburbunite, living on a cul-de-sac, watching her kids play in something called a YARD, now complete with fallen leaves. I am anonymous here. I am horribly, horribly conflicted.

David Gelfand: (enters) I too am a professor of law at Tulane. During the last few weeks, the news has been dominated by the mandatory evacuation of hundreds of thousands of persons from the New Orleans metropolitan area, both before and immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck.

Jancy Hoeffel: Like everyone else, I watched CNN for days. “Those are my people,” I thought, as I had never thought before.

David Gelfand: Hopefully, during the next few months, a substantial majority of those evacuees will return to their beloved city, though they will probably be sadder and poorer than when they left. Though the Hurricane was a natural disaster, the inadequate preparations and inexcusably delayed responses were human failures which raise many old and, maybe, some new legal issues.

Jancy Hoeffel: Yet, we drive ‘home’ to grandma’s house. I am on autopilot in the streets of Northbrook, Chicago, driving the few blocks between ‘home’, the library, the grocery store, and school. This is how some women live. They move to a suburb with their husbands and kids, never go into Chicago, never see a black person, volunteer for the gazillion school functions, and go to the Multiplex gym in Deerbrook Mall for yoga. They do now know who they are or where they fit in, but they all believe they are “doing the right thing.” After all, this is a wholesome community.

David Gelfand: Unless we insist upon an inclusive, cooperative, localized approach to the planning of reconstruction in New Orleans, that narrow power elite will have their way by cooperating (conspiring) with the same companies that currently hold massive federal, no-bid contracts for ‘redevelopment’ abroad and may have already received some contracts for the ‘new’ New Orleans.

Jancy Hoeffel: So I ask:Should I be living in a safe place to trick-or-treat with my kids on Halloween, or in a place where adults trick and treat each other on a daily basis? In a place with people who look exactly like me and make me even more anonymous, or in a place where every person is unique—a place rich in diversity, history, and the heartaches of life? In a city that sends around a special truck to water the flowers attached to all of the light posts or in a city whose graves float eerily above ground?

David Gelfand: I am working with a group of Tulane Law School faculty, alumni, and students have launched a group called From the Lake to the River. We want to be involved with representing people who aren’t being treated properly. We want to have a public policy aspect in educating legislators in what issues should be addressed. We all know resources are going to be thrown at Louisiana, and we want to make sure they’re distributed equitably—so that the people with the least don’t end up with the least. We don’t want New Orleans to change in that way. We have so many ideas!

Jancy Hoeffel: I cannot really think about it. What is and what was and what could be. It is far, far too sad and too confusing. I made my choice seven years ago, and I choose to go home. When the doors open for us, I will be there. I am scared, but I am coming home to all that was, and still is, New Orleans.

David Gelfand: For reasons I dare not explain, I am still cautiously optimistic that New Orleans will regain some of her faded-elegance character, and that we will again be reminded that a city is composed of its people (of all races, ethnicities, and classes) not just its buildings. But even if that vision proves to be a chimera, I know that on February 28, 2006 (Mardi Gras Day), or sooner, real gumbo will tantalize my tongue, Nicholas Payton’s trumpet will thrill my ears, I will catch throws from a parade on the Avenue, I will sing (as loudly and poorly as ever), and I will second-line while waving my handkerchief in the air — all in my beloved New Orleans.

Winnifer: (enters and looks at DAVID GELFAND) I am also severely affected by a recent passing of David Gelfand, one of my favorite professors at Tulane Law School.

David Gelfand: But, until then, my handkerchief will be soaked in a river of tears for flooded neighborhoods and lost neighbors. (exits)

Winnifer: He was one of the most compelling constitutional scholars of his time. His death is a huge loss for the legal community. (exits)

Otis: (enters) You have to remember that New Orleans isn't the Superdome, it isn't the French Quarter, it isn't the Garden District.   Right now, all of those physical structures remain empty and hold little meaning because their inhabitants are elsewhere. Like beads from a Mardi Gras parade, New Orleans has been scattered all over the U. S.  over these past few weeks.   New Orleans is a dude from Gentilly who went to Brother Martin and can't wait to get back home.   New Orleans is a woman from Treme, sitting in a shelter in Baton Rouge, waiting to get back home.   New Orleans is a teenager from Uptown, missing her senior year at Dominican, waiting to get back home.   New Orleans is a group of guys from the Bywater who play trumpets, trombones and tubas who are waiting to get back home. New Orleans is a couple several months away from retirement from Lakewood South waiting to get back home.   New Orleans is a Mardi Gras Indian who lives in Central City waiting to get back home. New Orleans is an architect from Uptown who wants to get back home.   New Orleans is a housewife from Gert Town waiting to get back home.   New Orleans is a group of police officers and firemen from the Lower Ninth Ward waiting to get back home. New Orleans is a group of law students, scattered all across the country, separated and wandering aimlessly, awaiting the day they can return to their blessed crescent city. New Orleans is you and me.  

Professor Houck: (enters) September 25th, 2005. We say we’re from New Orleans and they won’t charge us for the shirt. I ask directions and the fellow comes out to the street with a map and marks the route on it and gives it to us. We are walking on the two path in Washington DC and I have a short on that says New Orleans and we pass a couple, middle age-plus, and she says are you from New Orleans and I say yes and she says do you need a place to stay?

The cat lost all of its hair. Probably hadn’t eaten in two weeks. Charlie and his friends nursed it back to health on warm milk. It ended up sleeping on the family bed, up by the pillows. Got its hair back. Got fat. Walked out into the street one day and got run over by a car.

So how’d you do? The guy who is asking me lost everything and his family is somewhere in Oklahoma. The only people I see in New Orleans are Mexican roofers and the National Guard. Out in Gentilly there are two guys throwing destroyed stuff out of their living room window, a mattress, women’s underclothing, kids books. The water line’s at the roof. They are the only people in ten blocks. (exits)

Lauren: (enters) After Katrina I tucked my tail between my legs and headed for Jersey, where my family and closest friends were waiting for me with open arms. There was so much kindness waiting for me at home. My former co-workers raised $500 for me out of their own tip money so I could replace some clothing, a regular customer at the Starbucks where I worked gave me $300 to help me get back on my feet, because he knew that “one day I’d use my law school education to change the world.”

Jason: Free meals at restaurants, free drinks at bars—

Lauren: Everywhere I went

Jason: Someone wanted to give me something for free!

Lauren: I found it a little overwhelming!

Jason: I just felt guilty.

Lauren: I’m not poor!

Jason: I don’t really need all of this!

Lauren: But they didn’t care.

Jason: They just wanted to help.

Lauren: And they wanted to help someone they could actually touch.

Jason: It never seemed to end—

Lauren: I would walk into the dry cleaners,

Jason: The vet, Wal-Mart—

Lauren: Jiffy Lube—

Jason: And people just gave me things!

Wal-Mart: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) You’re from New Orleans! I don’t believe it! Don’t worry, you won’t need to pay for this haircut. (exits)

Old-Navy: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) �You’re from New Orleans? Did you know that Old-Navy is offering a discount to everyone from New Orleans? (exits)

Suit Store: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) New Orleans? Wow! Ok, well I’m gonna sell you this suit at 60% off. (exits)

Woman: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) Your oil change is on me today.

Vet: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) Your cat’s vaccinations are on me today. (exits)

Manager: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) Your meal is on me today.

Dean: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) We’ve already purchased your law books for you.

Bartender: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) Two shots of whiskey, on me.

Disney: (enters and walks past DOUG and LAUREN) You’re from New Orleans! Well no wonder you can’t go home! Alright, well your stay here at Disney is on us, until you can figure out where you’re going next. (exits)

Jason: Thanks.

Lauren: �But I don’t think I deserve all of this!

Dean Netherton: (enters) I think I have what they call survivor’s guilt.

Russa: (enters) The worst thing that happened to me was getting caught in traffic for 14 hours.

Dean Netherton: Most of my friends lost everything.

Sonya: (enters) When I finally got back down there to take a look I saw that

Ryan: (enters) My apartment had 2 feet of water.

Sonya: My parents? house was fine.

Lauren: I lost nothing.

Ryan: Pretty much lost everything.

Sonya: We hardly lost a thing! My parents own a bowling alley, so they immediately opened it and started serving real meals to first responders. You know, so police and rescuers could eat something other than a MRE in a box.

David Webster: (enters) I spent days in my house. Waiting.

Russa: It’s like watching the end of the world.

David Webster: When I finally got out of there, they picked me up in a military helicopter and took me to the airport.

Dean Netherton: Driving back into New Orleans for the first time was surreal.

Sonya: Everything I knew from my childhood had changed.

David Webster: Then they transferred me to a Red Cross Shelter.

Ryan: I decided to spend the semester at Penn.

Sonya: So I headed up to the University of Arkansas.

Ryan and Sonya: And I moved in with my fianc�.

David Webster: And there we all were, all 700 of us, living about four hours outside of Atlanta at a 4H camp. It was like college dormitory living all over again.

Russa: I feel like I’m starting all over again.

Ryan: It’s like being a 1L.

Sonya and Ryan: I don’t know anyone.

David Webster: When you come in late

Sonya: You miss that whole “meeting other people process.”

Dean Netherton: My son Matt looked at me the other night and said, what do you want me to do Mom? Ask people to be my friend?

Russa: Hi. My name is Russa

Dean Netherton: Tondra Netherton

Lauren: Lauren

David Webster: David Webster

Sonya: Sonya

Ryan: Ryan

Ryan: And I’m here

Russa and Sonya and Ryan and Lauren: Because of the hurricane.

Everyone: Will you be my friend?

Lauren: Besides, why do I want to make new friends when I’m leaving in less than two months?

Dean Netherton: This has all just been so unexpected.

Lauren: I fell in love!

Ryan: I got engaged!

Lauren and Ryan: And now I have to return to New Orleans!

Sonya: I’m supposed to get married, in New Orleans!

Lauren: I thought I had the formula written.

Ryan: I had it all planned out.

Sonya: I had even picked out the flowers.

Ryan: I bought the ring in Baton Rouge, and I was going to ask her when she came down to Louisiana for Christmas.

Lauren: There was no room for error, no deviation that could distract me from my goal.

Lauren and Sonya and Ryan: But Katrina.

Lauren: And I found myself in New Jersey

Sonya: Arkansas

Ryan: Pennsylvania.

Lauren: And now I spend every waking moment with Jay.

Ryan: I was living with Megan in her apartment, and that ring was burning a hole in my pocket!

Sonya: I had wanted to get married in City Park but—

Lauren: I didn’t plan on falling in love!

Sonya and Lauren: Guess I’ll have to change my plans.

Lauren: Do I leave Ray or do I leave law school?

Ryan: So one day I set up a small Christmas tree in the apartment and wrapped some boxes with Christmas paper, and put a wreath on the door, and put some Christmas music on. When she got home I had on a suit. I got down on one knee, and wished her a merry Christmas and asked her to marry me. You know what she said?

Lauren: Do I really have to make this decision?

Ryan: Yes.

Lauren: There will be other days, other dreams, other men, and hopefully, someday, my one true love.

Sonya: Flowers or no flowers, we’re getting married in New Orleans.

Lauren: For right now, law school has to be my only love.

Dean Netherton: It has been a truly unforgettable experience.

David Webster: �You remember every day and every minute.

Sonya: There was one time I started to cry.

Ryan: Just once! I was picking up photos which had fallen off of my refrigerator and landed in the water, but there was one that had floated down onto its back. It was my Polaroid photo of me and the two children that I used to read to at the elementary school, Crocker, the one over a couple blocks from Freret and Napoleon. And it occurred to me if I don’t know if those kids made it out. I don’t know if they got stuck in the city. Their parents were living paycheck to paycheck to begin with, and a hurricane doesn’t help. And it struck me that at least with my law friends, I know I might not see them again, but at least I know they’re alive. And these kids, they could be anywhere. Anything could have happened to them.

Russa: It’s been an emotional rollercoaster.

Dean Netherton: It was those first couple of weeks

Lauren: You didn’t know if everyone got out.

Ryan: And you knew not everyone got out.

Sonya: There were those who never left.

Lauren: Never had the option.

David Webster: Didn’t have a car.

Dean Netherton: I would get in my car and start to drive somewhere and a few minutes later I would wonder where I was driving.

David Webster: The first thing I did when I got to St. Louis was buy a car. That way the next time a hurricane comes along, I can just drive out.

Russa: And now I’m just waiting.

David Webster: Waiting to return.

Ryan: I’ll be back.


Winnifer: �(enters) Loss. I let it drown me. I’m not just talking the microeconomic scale of personal property and material things. I realize they are replaceable. But it’s dealing with the sense of loss on a grander scale, the sentimental side, the stuff that has true value, that is challenging. Sure I’ve lost a bricks and mortar house, but my childhood home and all its meaningful contents are gone. Yes, our restaurant was heavily looted, but Five Happiness is a New Orleans gem. It was a celebration of life, food, and culture — all the things that New Orleans represents. Above all, it was a symbol of my mother’s success in a foreign country and in life. A testimony of her achievements and business savvy in which she beat the odds and created something that was truly exceptional. It allowed her financial freedom (which often is the most liberating) to send her daughters to the country’s finest schools and universities, to generate a future lawyer and doctor. It wasn’t just the American dream. It was the Immigrant’s dream, and she lived it. (exits)

Mary: (enters on the phone) Hi, yes I just got back to New Orleans, and I am trying to get my electricity turned back on. Entergy said I had to call you. Right, ok, so you’re going to send an inspector out? When do you think that’ll be? Oh, ok. Great. Thanks. (exits)

Todd: (enters) I came back in September. Dean Ponoroff called me up and said Todd, are you ready to get back, and I said I was. Had to get back and open up the building. Somebody had to do it.

Erica: (enters)I just got back.

Jason: (enters) Just got back in January.

Avione: (enters) I just got back.

Todd and Avione: Back to the city where I grew up.

Avione: And this doesn’t look like the city I grew up in.

Todd: Been living in New Orleans for 38 years now.

Avione: My stepdad, well his house took on ten feet of water.

Todd: And now I’m beginning to feel like I don’t recognize it.

Avione: My best friend Kim, her house got ten feet. Tiffany, she got eleven feet.

Avione: Drove by the church I used to go to, and it’s gone.


Todd: Nothing’s the same.

Avione: It’s just gone.

Jason: My landlord told me everything would be alright

Erica: But when I walked into the apartment, all I saw was

Avion and Erica: Black mold. Toxic black mold

Avione: All over the walls. The entire house. And Everybody in New Orleans East has gutted out their house already.

Erica: I don’t have electricity! No hot water! No refrigerator!

Mary: (enters on phone again) Hi, yes someone was supposed to come out to inspect my house to turn the electricity on yesterday and no one came. I was just wondering—next week? Oh, ok, next week. Thanks. (exits)

Avione: (pointing to picture) This vase, we were able to salvage. Cleaned it with Clorox.

Erica: The other night when it was raining, I woke up to find my ceiling cave in.

Todd: You walk down the street

Erica: And all you see are piles of debris.

Jason: Dishes, boxes, mattresses, books

Todd: Refrigerators, photos, couches.

Erica: Years of peoples’ lives

Avione: Piled in the street.

Jason: Headed to the dump.

Avione: We salvaged a few dishes. But our table broke in half.

Erica: But for the most part my neighborhood is fine.

Jason: We have made a little bubble that we live in, knowing that the rest of the city is destroyed.

Erica: Out of sight, out of mind.

Jason: And if we just live in the area of New Orleans that is fine, it almost looks like nothing happened.

Mary: (enters on phone) Hi, someone was supposed to come to my house to inspect the electricity and—next week? That’s what you said last week! (exits)

Avione: (points to picture) That was my bed. All the contents had to be gutted out, including the walls and the flooring and the ceiling. All it is now is beams and concrete at the bottom.

Todd: I’m blessed. I didn’t lose much. But lots of folks did. One guy I know, his family is still living in San Antonio. And another lady that works with us, she lost her home. And Patrick, he’s still living in a trailor.

Jason: New Orleans has always been a city of haves and have nots.

Erica: Now it’s a city of homes and homes nots.

Todd: You can look in people’s faces and see something was taken from them. Something is missing.

Avione: I don’t think my neighbors are coming back.

Todd: We live in the richest country in the world.

Avione: There’s just nothing to come back to.

Todd: I wish I could have helped my family get away safely and stayed here to help.

Jason: And yet there is this sort of post-storm calm that you know, we’re all here, and we all have to deal with this, and we might as well put our best face on it, and accept all these things that we would totally lose our temper over in an instant in any other major American city.

Mary: (enters on phone) Hi. I’ve been waiting for someone to inspect my electricity for six weeks now, and — what? Next week? Ok, right. Next week. Thanks. See you next week. Whatever. At least I have a house with the potential for electricity. (exits)

Jason: Now that’s a New Orleans attitude.

Erica: Been back six weeks now.

Avione: So why does it still feel like Katrina hit yesterday?

Morgan: (enters) Valentine’s Day is breaking my heart. We are half way through week-six at Tulane Law.   Rebirth played at Tipitina’s on Friday night, and Krew de Veux rolled down Frenchman Street on Saturday night.   I am sitting next to a big book, with highlighter in hand and caffeine not far, in the reading room among other students in the library.   It is Valentines Day, and life in parts of New Orleans is almost normal.  

        But New Orleans today is far from normal.

        26,000 people were evicted from their hotel rooms yesterday when their FEMA stipends expired.   Elderly, disable, and children are on the streets and it is cold.   Louisiana is reopening shelters, but the reality is that government at all levels is failing.

        4,000-5,000 defendants are currently in Orleans Parish prisons with no legal representation and no prospects getting lawyers because there is no money. The criminal justice system has ground to a halt, and could disband in coming weeks.

        106 days remain until next hurricane season.   Efforts to consolidate the Levy Board, in order to provide for comprehensive refortification and reduced corruption, are stalled out in the State Legislatures Extraordinary Session.   Waters in the Gulf are warm.

        80-percent of the city’s housing stock is functionally totaled.   It appears that the Baker Bill, which would serve to compensate victims for up to 60-percent of their losses, will fail in Congress.   No alternatives have been brought to the table.

        The people who left their rooms and were put on the street yesterday, left peacefully.   The prisoners who returned to their cells from their right-to-council hearing yesterday, returned without rioting.   But how long can these conditions continue without civil unrest?   How bad do people have to suffer and governments have to fail before there is a moral imperative for civil disobedience?  

        Amidst the landscape of the continuing disaster, there is growing racial tension.   In light of the April 22nd Mayoral and Council elections, there are mounting squabbles.   Crisis can bring people together and inspire action, but it is doing neither in the present case.

        I find inspiration in the dedicated work of some true warriors: Neighborhood Housing Services director Lauren Anderson pushes for the right to affordable housing; local attorneys Tracie Washington and Bill Quigley push for the right to due process in city policy; and people on every block push to clean up their homes.   But as hard as we push, it seems like we are moving backwards.  

Valentines Day is breaking my heart.

Jason: I think we all just want to pretend everything is normal. (exits)

Erica: I’ve gotten really good at pretending. (exits)

Morgan: We all have.

Avione: The question is, will we rise up and become better or plus ca change, plus la meme chose?   Time will tell.

Todd: There’s been a lot folks saying we shouldn’t have Mardi Gras this year.

Avione: I think we should have Mardi Gras.

Todd: It’s reconstruction in a fashion. We have to show the rest of the world we’re making progress.

Avione: But it’s bittersweet.

Todd: The people who deserve to celebrate Mardi Gras the most aren’t here.

Avione: They’re scattered across the country.

Morgan: But lots of other folks came into town to help us celebrate.

Anderson Cooper: I'm Anderson Cooper, coming to you from Bourbon Street, where Mardi Gras celebrations are well under way. There is plenty of beer, plenty of beads. I just caught these beads, they were thrown to me by someone down on the street.

Avione: Once again, we’re national news.

Wolf Blitzer: I’m Wolf Blitzer. You’re in the Situation Room.

Todd: There’s a difference between the New Orleans you see on TV and the New Orleans you see with your own eyes.

Wolf Blitzer: And we’re taking you to New Orleans today, where beads are flying and spirits soaring.

Anderson Cooper: Wolf, many folks have been asking, should New Orleans even be celebrating Mardi Gras this year?

Avione: People who have never experienced Mardi Gras don't understand what it's all about.

Morgan: I think we have to celebrate.

Anderson Cooper: (quoting MORGAN) He thinks we have to celebrate.

Wolf Blitzer: I think we have to celebrate, says one young man from New Orleans.

Anderson Cooper: You heard it first, here on CNN.

Wolf Blitzer: I’m Wolf Blitzer, and you’re in the Situation Room.

Anderson Cooper: Wolf, On Monday on 360, we're going to be coming to you here from Bourbon Street, showing you not only all the Mardi Gras celebrations, but we're going to be taking a look back at the last six months to see how far New Orleans has come and how far this city still has to go.

Todd: It’s been a long six months.

Anderson Cooper: It’s been a long six months, says one tired man.

Wolf Blitzer: And CNN has brought it all to you.

Anderson Cooper: I’m Anderson Cooper, and this is a special edition of 360.

Morgan: The entire country watched.

Michael Brown: (enters) I think everyone in the country needs to take a big collective deep breath.

Wolf Blitzer: With me now is Michael Brown, head of FEMA.

Michael Brown: This is an ongoing disaster.

President Bush: (enters) Good evening. I am speaking to you from the city of New Orleans — nearly empty, still partly under water, and waiting for life and hope to return.

Anderson Cooper: President Bush now addressing the crowd.

President Bush: And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.

Michael Brown: I was in the tsunami region. And this response is incredibly more efficient, more effective, and under the most difficult circumstances.

President Bush: I meant what I said.

Governor Blanco: (enters) Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.

Wolf Blitzer: Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Anderson Cooper: These bodies in the street, don’t they pose a health hazard?

Michael Brown: That’s not been reported to me.

Governor Blanco: Now it’s time to play hardball.

President Bush: Part of our strategy was to tell the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans, you all develop a strategy.

Governor Blanco: I believe that's the only game Washington understands.

Anderson Cooper: We can see still people rowing in boats, rowing on planks of wood, still trying to get to safety.

Michael Brown: And the governor said that's going to satisfy the need that she has.

Wolf Blitzer: I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in the Situation Room, where news and information arrive in one place simultaneously.

Anderson Cooper: Wolf, I’m here at the Convention Center, and there are just bodies, laying everywhere.

Michael Brown: Until I actually get a report from my teams that say, "We have bodies located here or there," I'm just not going to speculate.

Governor Blanco: As you know, the White House tried to blow this solution out of the saddle.

President Bush: It's your state, it's your region, you know the people better than people in Washington — so you should develop the rebuilding strategy.

Mayor Nagin: (enters) Who's in charge?

Wolf Blitzer: The mayor says 50,000 people still need to be evacuated from the city after what he calls a night of hell.

Mayor Nagin: We just need to cut through this and do what it takes. If that means federalizing it, let's do it.

President Bush: This recovery is going to be led by the private sector, however; the federal government is going to help.

Governor Blanco: This is second-class treatment.

President Bush: I’ll take that into consideration.

Anderson Cooper: I’m Anderson Cooper, and you’re watching a special edition of 360.

Wolf Blitzer: We do know that 350,000 homes in the New Orleans area alone, 350,000 homes, have been damaged or completely destroyed.

Michael Brown: We do not—we do not have numbers.

Governor Blanco: Our people who lost everything are not second-class citizens.

Mayor Nagin: What are we doing?

President Bush: I have an obligation to make sure that the federal government responds and coordinates and stays in touch.

Governor Blanco: They deserve an equitable solution.

Anderson Cooper: Wolf, many of these people have been days without food.

President Bush: And I recognize there are some rough spots. I'm going to mention some of them here in a minute.

Mayor Nagin: Where’s the help?

Michael Brown: Yes, you know, there's some really bad people out there that are causing some problems, and it seems to me that every time a bad person wants to scream or cause a problem, there's somebody there with a camera to stick it in their face.

Wolf Blitzer: I’m Wolf Blitzer, and you’re in the Situation Room.

Mayor Nagin: Where’s FEMA?

Anderson Cooper: I mean, Wolf, when you've got people who can't even get formula for a baby or water for their children, and you've got elderly people lying in carts suffering from bone cancer, lying in an airport, somebody's got to speak up.

President Bush: You’re doing a heck of a job Brown!

Governor Blanco: We need all the help you’ve got.

Mayor Nagin: This is a desparate SOS.

Wolf Blitzer: This just in, Michael Brown, FEMA director, has just stepped down.

Michael Brown: The focus can’t be on me. (exits)

Anderson Cooper: And there you have it. I’m Anderson Cooper, and you’re watching a special edition of 360.

President Bush: (exits) Our jobs as people in positions of responsibility is not to be satisfied until the job is done as good as it can possibly be done. And that's what I was referring to. But the results can be better in New Orleans. And I intend to work to — with the folks to make it better. (exits)

Wolf Blitzer: I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in the Situation Room, where news and information arrive in one place simultaneously.

Governor Blanco: With reminders all around us of the tragic results of inadequate flood protection, our citizens are looking for the confidence that comes from a strong and safe levee system.

Anderson Cooper: Stay tuned to CNN as we continue our coverage of the reconstruction efforts in New Orleans.

Governor Blanco: Hurricane protection is not possible without coastal restoration. (exits)

Mayor Nagin: We're debating how should we rebuild one of the greatest cultural cities the world has ever seen. (exits)

Avione: Is anyone listening?

Anderson Cooper: Well Wolf, it’s been almost six months since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, and I’m standing on the corner of Bourbon and Canal, where it’s all been a story of heartbreak and hope.

Wolf Blitzer: I’m Wolf Blitzer, and you’re in the Situation Room. (exits)

Anderson Cooper: I’m Anderson Cooper, and you’re watching a special edition of 360.

Morgan: The entire country may have watched Hurricane Katrina—

Avione and Todd and Morgan: But we lived it.


Avione: And now we have to live past it.

Professor Houck: February, 2006. Dear Journal. We had driven out through Mississippi and it looked like it had been cut by a lawnmower with blades about forty miles wide. Driving back into New Orleans, it looks like Hiroshima. There are no street lights. We stop at a stop sign. The other guy is already stopped. I wave him forward. Then it’s my turn. Another guy waves me forward. It is the new drill. We are actually looking at each other, making eye contact, giving way. Maybe this is the end. Maybe this is the beginning.



  1. 1Ls. First Year law students.
  2. Civ pro. Civil procedure.


Mary Nagle, "Scriptofkatrina2007.doc." Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, Object #12165 (October 18 2006, 11:05 am) <http://www. hurricane archive. org/object/ 12165>

All rights reserved.

This play may not be reproduced without the expressed permission of the author.

Mary Kathryn Nagle

243 13th Street, Apt 21
Brooklyn, NY 11215
mary. kathryn. nagle@gmail. com

Home Page
Anthology of Louisiana Literature