This week nine years ago was the last week of New Orleans before Katrina. In many ways the city’s contemporary history would begin anew. Here is a miscellaneous list of what New Orleans was like in the last week of August 2005 before our lives would dramatically change.
• Ray Nagin was Mayor. He was still popular and seen as a reformer.
• Kathleen Blanco was Governor. She was respected.
• Donald Trump announced that the Trump Tower would be built in the city. (That failure would have more to do with the national economy than Katrina.)
• Approval of Federal City, a military complex on the West Bank, was announced.
• Huey Long’s birthday was celebrated at the Fairmont, which was the former Roosevelt.
(Now the Roosevelt is the former Fairmont.)
• Orleans parish’s public school system was a failure and overwhelmed with pockets of corruption.
• A large part of the population lived in run down public housing projects.
• Stacey Head was an unknown young uptown attorney and mother.
• Jim Haslett was the coach and Aaron Brooks was the Quarterback as the Saints limped through pre-season.
• Drew Brees was the Pro Bowl quarterback for the San Diego Chargers though he would become expendable at the end of the season because of a shoulder injury.
• Chris Paul was the first draft choice of the New Orleans Hornets.
• Local levee boards helped maintain lake levees.
• Hibernia bank had branches throughout the state.
• We could watch sunsets at West End and Bucktown while dining at Brunings and Sidmars.
• The Times-Picayune was the state’s most important, and one of the South’s most respected, daily newspapers.
• Few New Orleanians were familiar with Baton Rouge’s daily Advocate newspaper, though as they moved to higher ground they would be.
• In popular language, pre-K stood for “Before Kindergarten” rather than “Before Katrina.”
• We began the week thinking about the upcoming Labor Day holiday. That Friday night the Saints had a pre-season game in the dome. It would be the last time that the team would play in New Orleans that season. For most people, Labor Day would be forgotten.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7PM, REPEATED AT 11:30 PM.WYES-TV, CH. 12