Tag Archives: New Orleans

Happy Trails, Part 153: Weekends galore!

Those who have been retired far longer than my wife and I have been will understand what I am about to say next.

I am having a bit of difficulty understanding that the term “weekend” no longer is relevant to either of us.

We have embarked on a two-week sojourn that will begin in Amarillo. We’ll pull our fifth wheel south to San Angelo, then to the Hill Country, down to the Golden Triangle, then to New Orleans, to Shreveport and then home.

What’s different about this particular journey is that we’ll be parking our RV in a new storage place just around the corner and down the street from our new home in Princeton, Texas.

Which brings me to the “weekend” point.

My wife has reminded me that we’ll be able to grab our fifth wheel and take it on short trips to any of the numerous state parks surrounding us in Collin County.

“Sure thing,” I have said. “We can plan a weekend trip.” She laughs out loud at me. “No-o-o-o! Don’t you get it? We don’t have to wait for the weekend,” she responds. “We can go in the middle of the week. No crowds. Others will be working.”

Well, duhhh.

I just will need to keep all of that in mind once we get a wild hair and want to haul our fifth wheel out of storage and head out for some quiet time in the woods, or next to a lake.

I’m getting the hang of this retirement thing. Every now and then, though, I need a knock on the noggin to be reminded that weekends are for working folks.

Emergencies often build lifetime friendships


This picture speaks volumes to me, and I’m sure it does to others.

The young man is Michael Maroney, who in 2005 was serving as an Air Force pararescue jumper.

The little girl is LaShay Brown. She’s hugging Maroney’s neck because the jumper had just saved LaShay and her family from Hurricane Katrina’s savage onslaught in New Orleans.

A decade later, Maroney and LaShay have hooked up again. He found the girl who’s now a teenager living in Mississippi.

“I was a single father trying to raise two boys. I had just gotten back from Afghanistan, and New Orleans was under water,” Maroney, now 40, told The Washington Post. “When she hugged me, everything went away. There were no problems in that moment. That meant everything to me.”

Little girl hugs with joy

As it should.

These are the kinds of stories that have been told and retold in the decade since the Katrina disaster. President Obama went to New Orleans this past week to salute the city’s return. Former President Bush went there as well to pay his tribute to the strength of the residents who endured nature’s wrath.

Yes, we have talked in recent days about some of the failures of government at all levels to do right by those who suffered.

But an Air Force serviceman, Michael Maroney, did his part to deliver a little girl and her family from the storm. “I can’t wait to meet her to tell her how important she is,” Maroney told People magazine. “In my line of work, it doesn’t usually turn out happily. This hug, this moment, was like — everybody I’ve ever saved, that was the thank you.”

They have become friends for life.

It doesn’t get any better than that.


Hunt for Katrina survivor comes up empty

hurricane katrina

Emma appears to have moved on.

I hope she’s happy and healthy.

Word came from City Hall earlier this week that my search for a woman I met 10 years ago here in Amarillo after Hurricane Katrina devastated her home town of New Orleans has come up empty.

She and more than 100 other refugees from the devastation of the storm fled to the High Plains. Several communities welcomed them. They lived for a time in makeshift quarters assembled at the Amarillo Civic Center, which had been turned into a refugee center.

The Amarillo Public Health Department and the city’s Emergency Services Department had mobilized quite efficiently to accept the individuals — and the families — that sought to escape the devastation brought to the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

They set up health clinics, providing medicine and immunization. Counselors were available to talk to the refugees who were coping with the enormous emotional shock of what they were enduring.

From my recollection of the events as they were unfolding, the city response represented one of its finer moments.

None of those storm refugees remained.

The city reportedly had 48 clients registered through it Community Development office, but all of them, according to the city, appear to be “inactive.”

Perhaps it was her heart that was talking when Emma agreed to meet with me shortly upon arriving in Amarillo. She said she had intended to stay here. She was going to give up her life in the Big Easy and settle, perhaps, for a quieter existence way up yonder here on the Caprock.

She had plenty to say a decade ago about the incompetence of the emergency response in New Orleans. She blamed everyone — local, state and federal authorities — for the confusion and mayhem that ensued as residents struggled to cope with the loss of homes, not to mention the loss of loved ones.

Emma was fortunate in one important aspect: No one in her family died from the storm.

My hope was to find her and to visit with her yet again, to assess how she’s coped.

I’ll put my faith in the belief that she’s doing fine and that the city she called home, if only for a brief time — Amarillo — helped Emma find her way to a new life.

On the hunt for a Katrina survivor


A decade ago, Amarillo opened its doors — and its arms and heart — to about 100 or so refugees from down yonder, on the Gulf Coast.

They fled New Orleans after their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Many thousands of residents were left homeless, hopeless and penniless.

Some came here, far away from the danger of storm surge, horrifying wind and torrential rain.

Amarillo showed what it was made of at that time, just as communities all across Texas and the nation did in lending a hand to those who were in desperate straits.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of them, thanks to some help I got from the city’s public health department, which then was led by Matt Richardson, who’s since moved on.

Her name is Emma.

Ten years ago, this courageous mother and grandmother told me she had every intention of staying in Amarillo. She wanted to find the kind of work she was doing in The Big Easy. Emma said her then-boyfriend was qualified to do a lot of odd jobs and he, too, hoped to make Amarillo his home for life.

My curiosity over her whereabouts and her well-being has been rekindled as the nation looks back at that dark time.

A great American city was inundated and nearly destroyed. It has come back — more or less. New Orleans isn’t quite as heavily populated as it was pre-Katrina. But much of it has been rebuilt. Many folks have returned to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

I’m wondering, though, about Emma.

I hope to find her soon and get caught up on how she’s fared in the past decade on the High Plains.

Did the work horse become a show horse?

I can’t help myself.

Whenever I see pictures of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams covering the Big Story — in the flak jacket, or the hip waders — I keep thinking of terms other than “journalist.”

I keep thinking of terms like “show horse,” “entertainer,” “grandstander,” “show off.”

OK, I know it’s likely unfair at this point of the Williams “Chopper-gate” controversy to pass final judgment, but it’s beginning to look strange and weird as I gander at these pictures of Williams on the job, reporting the news to his faithful viewers. (See the link attached.)


The link here, from the Washington Post, talks about another story emanating from Hurricane Katrina. It’s about gangs that reportedly terrorized the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where Williams was billeted during his coverage of the tragic storm.

This all began, of course, with the helicopter story that Williams now admits to “misremembering.” Others are saying he fabricated the story of being shot down in Iraq in 2003. The shoot-down didn’t happen. Williams wrapped his on-air apology in the flag, saying how he “bungled” an effort to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the reports of other questionable stories keep coming forward, casting even more doubt on the credibility of a man whose employer, NBC News, had been promoting on air as a man who had earned viewers’ “trust.”

Surely I’m not the only viewer whose faith in a veteran broadcast journalist has been shaken.

Oh, how I want to be wrong, but I cannot help thinking this isn’t going to end well for Brian Williams’ career.


Williams story taking on life of its own

A wise person once said that you know you’re toast when the late-night comics start making fun of you.

Welcome to the world of wee-hour funny stuff, Brian Williams.

His story about “misremembering” a shoot-down in Iraq and now his reporting from Hurricane Katrina is taking on a life of its own. It’s turning into a monster that, if it’s left still kicking, is going to knock down the walls of credibility that formerly surrounded the NBC Nightly News anchorman.


This is not a pretty sight to watch.

It well might be that the Katrina story inflicts an even deeper wound in Williams’s reputation.

He reported during the storm in 2005 about seeing “dead bodies” floating in the French Quarter — despite the reported fact at the time that the Quarter suffered hardly any flooding. He told viewers about ingesting floodwater, causing dysentery. Others on the scene have doubted that as well.

What in the world is happening to this individual’s once-stellar journalism career? He’s always been thought of as one of the more thoughtful, everyman, honest newsmen in the business. Williams has exhibited none of the erratic behavior that Dan Rather did when he took over from Walter Cronkite at CBS. He’s been rock solid, steady — and at times self-effacing, such as when he makes appearances on late-night shows to talk about stories he’s covered and the foibles he’s endured.

The so-called misremembering being shot down in Iraq by itself stretches credulity.

Add to that now the reporting of deep flaws in his Hurricane Katrina coverage and you start drawing the picture of a broadcst journalist who’s found himself in some deep doo-doo.

This is not fun to watch.