Hurricane Gumbo | The Nation


Hurricane Gumbo

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Donations (make checks payable to Evangeline Parish Katrina Relief Fund)
and messages of solidarity (as well as requests for the recipe for
hurricane gumbo) may be sent to: Ville Platte Shelter, c/o Jennifer
Vidrine, PO Box 795, Ville Platte, LA 70586;

Madonna and Child

About the Author

Anthony Fontenot
Anthony Fontenot, a New Orleans native, is pursuing a PhD in architecture at Princeton. He has written on contemporary...
Mike Davis
Mike Davis, a Nation contributing editor, teaches in the creative writing program at the University of California,...

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I thought I might find a simple meme of the Wall Street protest. What I discovered was a desert flower brought to blossom by an activist tradition, coalition-building and old-fashioned grit.

I'm not capable of accurately describing the kindness, intensity and melancholy that were alloyed in Carl's character, or the profound role he played in deepening our commitment to the anti-war movement.

Danny Guidry, a paramedic married to a Fontenot cousin, has a story with a happier ending. Along with his partner and driver, he was sent with dozens of ambulances and rescue units from the Cajun parishes to the edge of New Orleans.

As victims were brought in by volunteers in boats or by the Coast Guard in their big Black Hawk helicopters, Danny classified them according to the severity of their condition and took the most critical cases to Baton Rouge, one and a half hours away through the pandemonium of emergency traffic.

Since southern Louisiana's only full-fledged trauma center was in a rapidly flooding hospital in New Orleans, most of the injured or sick evacuees were dropped at a triage center in a Baton Rouge sports stadium where a single nurse, just 24 years old, was in charge of sorting out cases and sending the most serious to already overwhelmed local hospitals.

"By my third trip," Danny explained, "I was working on automatic pilot. You just shut yourself off from the pain and turmoil around you and concentrate on doing your job as carefully and quickly as possible."

But, like Vincent, he found one case extraordinary. "She was a young lady, thirty-three weeks pregnant, in premature labor. She had been in a hospital ready for a caesarean section when the evacuation of the city was announced. Her physician stopped the labor and sent her home, presuming, I guess, that she had access to a car, which she didn't. Her husband went out to look for food, then the levee broke. When we picked her up, the husband had been missing for several days. To make matters more complicated, she was cradling a 9-month-old baby that she had rescued from a crack-addict neighbor. Both she and the infant were heat stressed, and my sixth sense told me she might not make it to Baton Rouge.

"It was the longest run of my career. Her IV was bad and I was running out of fluid. She was getting paler, and her blood pressure was falling dangerously. My orders were to take her to the central triage center, but I told my partner to punch it and head straight to the nearest hospital.

"Out of professional protocol I never divulge personal information to a victim. But this case really moved me, so I gave this young woman my phone number and urged her, Please call when you are out of labor. In fact, I kept phoning the hospital to monitor her progress. She had a healthy baby and eventually found her husband. Meanwhile, the infant she had saved was reunited with its mother. Having come this far with this girl, I just couldn't walk away, so my wife and I invited her and her husband to Ville Platte. We found them a little house and she's getting ready to go to college in Lafayette. I helped board up their windows this afternoon."

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