The Future of New Orleans Part II

To whom it may concern,

My name is David Brouillette and I am a musician and resident of New
Orleans. I have lived in the city for eight years and have lived in Louisiana all my life. I began playing bass guitar 17 years ago when my father bought one in a local pawn shop. I played in Top 40 bands in high school and college. I studied music at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches Louisiana and after graduating I moved to New Orleans. What attracted me to the city was its thriving music scene, which is very different from the regular American musical culture. After a few years of working in restaurants, I landed a gig with a successful local band called Vivaz. The band plays a mixture of Salsa and Latin Jazz and has produced two albums. We are regulars at the famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and play weddings, private parties, and local clubs. In addition to performing with Vivaz, I started a project studio called Universal Dream Recording as a side business to make ends meet four years ago. I build the studio in the spare bedroom of my apartment. The philosophy for the studio was to give local artist the chance to hone their craft in an environment free of the normal stresses encountered in high dollar studios. The studio had clients involved in a rich variety of musical styles. Artist were free to do what they wanted when they recorded with me, and to give you an idea of the diversity, I have recorded artist singing in five languages. The studio and band are my only sources of income, and even though it barely paid the bills, the work was rewarding, and was what I had dreamed of all my life.
This summer I went on a once in a lifetime trip to Ireland. In the final days of my vacation, a friend of mine in Ireland told me that a hurricane was headed toward my beloved New Orleans. The hurricane was Katrina. Every citizen of the city knew the dangers involved with a direct hit, but I was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and was completely helpless. I have a routine every time a hurricane threatens the city. I pack all my gear up carefully and move it to the upstairs part of the house where the landlord lives. I strap it all together, and then I leave.
This time I could not prepare. If I had been able to do this all my valuable equipment would have been spared, but instead it was left to sit in floodwater for over a week. Some friends brought my four cats to higher ground while we were away. Unfortunately they could not catch one of them. We returned to the city to try to rescue the cat even though the order to reenter the city had
not been given. The apartment took on over four feet of water during the flood. Everything was destroyed or spoiled in some way. The good news is that I did find the cat. She was a skinny and dehydrated, but alive and well. It was the only positive thing about the trip. The shock of
seeing everything that I had destroyed was more than I had imagined. Instruments, amps, books, family heirlooms, and just general things that you wouldn’t think about were all destroyed by the flood waters.
What really complicates things with this disaster is that I was uninsured. The belongings in my home were considered high risk, being that the is located below sea level. I never got one insurance agent to call me back in my quest for insurance. Seeing that it was going to be
impossible to be insured, I relied on myself to protect what I had built. This time I
was not around. This time it was what the city had feared for years-a hurricane that would destroy the entire city by breaking through the levee system.
In the days following the storm I arrived at a friends house in nearby Baton Rouge. There I tried for weeks to get aid from FEMA and the Red Cross. Now, almost three weeks after the storm, I have still not received anything from the federal government. The two-thousand dollars promised to every evacuee was delayed because my girlfriend and I, who both shared the apartment, gave FEMA the same home phone number. This little detail got both of our applications thrown out of the system. After days and days of calling FEMA we finally talked to someone who told us our applications must be reviewed, but still no money has arrived. The Red Cross phone number has had nothing but a constant busy signal.
The aid programs that are actually in Louisiana are overwhelmed. The only reason I came back to the state was to try to rescue my pets. This turned out to be a huge problem in terms of finding aid. At this point, I am going to stay in the area because the call to return to the city
should happen soon. I will have to throw everything in my apartment out, try to get my deposit back, and find a new place to live.
I love the city of New Orleans. I have never planned on leaving, but the future of the city depends on best people staying. If the culture of the city leaves, the city will die. People don’t live in New Orleans for the money. They live there for the culture. If I am to stay in the city and try to keep that culture alive, I am going to need help.

Thank you

David Brouillette

Interesting story thanks for sharing. In the “Ascent of Money” show on the Knowledge Network the other day they featured New Orleans as an example of where insurance fails in a major crisis. Although many claims were settled there, I understand large areas of New Orleans can no longer be insured.