Dunreith and Aidan visit Tulane, Katrina resources

Dunreith and Aidan returned tonight from New Orleans, where Aidan has gained admission to Tulane University.

The food, weather, culture and academic environment all impressed Aidan-a sense that was only strengthened by returning to the raw weather we are calling “spring” here in the Chicago area.

The two of them spent most of their time in the Garden District, at Tulane’s attractive campus and in the French Quarter.  Dunreith took a picture of Aidan chowing down on a beignet, just one of the city’s culinary treats.

Unfortunately, they did not connect this time with friend, Dart Society member and New Orleans native John McCusker, who, among many other projects, gives people tours of his beloved city.

McCusker was part of the Times-Picayune photographic staff that won a Pulitzer Prize for their heroic efforts to document the devastation visited upon the city in late August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina broke the levees and lashed the entire Gulf region with a merciless fury.

Dunreith said the parts of the city they visited do not bear visible scars from Katrina.

From what I have heard, the same is not true throughout the city.

Those looking to learn more about the moment of the hurricane and its aftermath have plenty of choices to choose from.

Times-Picayune editor Jed Horne’s Breach of Faith gives a panoptic view of those who left, those who tried to leave and those who decided to stay during the hurricane.  His ever shifting point of view allows the reader to feel both the helplessness many New Orleanians went through as well as their bone-deep love for their home.

Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun tells the story of a Lebanese immigrant and businessman who decided to stay in New Orleans while his wife left to go to comparative safety in Houston.  While riding around helping people in a canoe, Zeitoun, despite being a citizen, got caught up in the post-September 11 aggressive and indiscriminate enforcement of immigration policy.

The results are unsurprisingly disastrous.  A painful book to read, Zeitoun illuminates a lesser-known dimension of the hurricane’s fallout.

Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke gives a more straightforward recap of the callous indifference demonstrated by the second George W. Bush Administration after the hurricane hit shore.

Finally, Harold Platt’s Shock Cities, while not about New Orleans, tells a similarly dark tale of wealthy policy makers in London living in safety, commissioning studies about their poorer neighbors who live in harm’s way, finding that the disasters can be avoided, ignoring the conclusions and then attributing the ensuing wreckage to divine will.

These dark thoughts aside, Aidan may very find himself attending school in The Big Easy.

Wearing a t-shirt as he got off the plane, his reintroduction to Chicago weather reminded him that Michigan and Wesleyan, two of his other possibilities after hearing from the Connecticut school, have climates far more similar to here than there.

His final decision must be made by May.

To be continued.

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