The Heat of New Orleans

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks on the road – London (InfoSec Europe 2007), Salt Lake City (new hire training), and New Orleans (Gartner Compliance and Risk Summit). Luckily, I had evenings and weekends to take a little time to visit friends in London, and explore New Orleans.

New Orleans is a story unto itself. How appropriate that a summit on risk management would be held at the site of the US government’s tragic disaster mismanagement. The conference opened with Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge, who recounted the horrors of the Katrina disaster. While his account started dispassionately, academically, it slowly grew more passionate and angry as it proceeded (not surprising – he is a New Orleans native). I personally found some of his account shocking – in particular, the account of how a forward-thinking SPCA administrator had all of the animals tagged and removed from New Orleans in air-conditioned vans the week prior to Katrina. This was a situation that was not only predicted, but also could have been mitigated.

The people of Katrina are mad as hell, and they have every right to be.

Caramel in New OrleansThe sense of anger in the place is palpable. I would have thought that any survivor of Katrina would have only wanted to forget the tragedy and move on. Such is not the case, with everyone I talked to only too ready to recount their own TV mini-series worthy personal horror story. I spent an hour in Cafe du Monde speaking with Caramel, a chipper Katrina survivor poignantly wondered aloud how the public could let the Bush administration off the hook for a failure of such epic proportions, but less than a decade ago had been calling for the impeachment of a President’s who main failure involved a cigar and a lapse of judgment (or as Caramel put it “It’s just sex, he was just a man – nobody died.”). She had stayed at her home, refusing to go to the SuperDome, only later to be rescued from the roof of her home.

But despite all the justifiable frustration, Caramel is remarkably upbeat. While she cried during the conversation recounting the story of the rescue, she explained that these were tears of joy. Joy, not only at surviving to live another day, but to also know that if she could make it through that ordeal, she could make it through anything.

One can’t help but have respect for that attitude.