Monthly Archives: August 2010

Back to normal in New Orleans?

New Orleans puts on a show

 

Almost two years ago, we posted an article about the state of repairs to NOLA cemeteries post-Katrina. Some cemeteries, like Metairie, seemed to weather the storm just fine while other cemeteries in the outlying poorer areas weren’t so lucky.     

Five years after Katrina, news crews have returned to document the city’s slow but inevitable rise back to its feet. While the focus is rightfully on human survival and individual initiative over government red tape (also known as SBA disaster recovery loans) there are also cemetery volunteer efforts that shouldn’t be forgotten—specifically from Save Our Cemeteries.     

Save Our Cemeteries (SOC) is a New Orleans based organization dedicated to preserving and restoring these Louisiana historic sites. After Katrina hit, they posted a website updating the public on which cemeteries were being cleared and which sites still needed help. At this time, they continue to offer tours, lectures, and volunteer cleanup programs. Some of their previous efforts included cleaning up this long-neglected potters field.     

SOC’s fundraisers are also popular. How about the annual 5K Run Through History? There are few chances to race through a cemetery for a good cause and this is one of them. Those seeking something less sweaty can indulge in the All Saints Soiree—A Masked Ball and Silent Auction. All proceeds will go toward historic cemetery restoration efforts.     

So, does this mean that in the past five years things are finally returning to normal in this city? Well, maybe not completely, but each passing day seems to bring yet one more positive confirmation that NOLA is alive and well.     

Just as it was before Katrina, certain cemeteries were deemed off-limits because of crime. This has not changed. Recently, one bemused graveyard rabbit posted a reminder on his blog that tourists should not randomly wander in St. Louis 2 unless they want to part with their wallets and cameras.     

Corruption, beginning at $350 a pop, also seems to be roaring back in true Mardi Gras style. Last weekend The Times-Picayune reported that city employee Alma Gardner is accused of:     

Mishandling payments and improperly hiring at least one man, purporting to be her grandson, to dig graves in three publicly owned burial grounds. According to a the city’s municipal code, city employees cannot be involved in contracting or brokering gravedigging services, as [she] is accused of doing. The new testimonies suggest that Gardner, who has served as Interim superintendent of cemeteries since shortly after Hurricane Katrina, may have been a habitual offender.”     

Laissez les bon temps roulez  (again).

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Snapshots: William and Catherine Booth

William and Catherine Booth: Salvation Army Founders

 

Known for its thrift stores and Christmas time bell ringers, The Salvation Army is now located in over 120 countries and remains a symbol of help to those in need—specifically, displaced Pakistani families and closer to home, those still suffering from the after-effects of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina

Established almost 150 years ago by William and Catherine Booth, the organization originally focused on three “S” words; soup, soap, and salvation—things very much needed in London’s East End where it was based. Mid-to late 19th century London was the time for industrial expansion, growth, and development. To say that life was brutal would be an understatement for those unfortunate enough to fall between the economic cracks while living in the time of Jack the Ripper

The Booth’s emphasis on social help in one of the poorest areas of London eventually turned into the foundation of In Darkest England and The Way Out, a book comparing London unfavorably to other developing nations at the time. 

It’s doubtful the founders could have ever imagined just how far their small ministry would eventually reach. Service statistics for fiscal years 2007/2008, the years prior to the current Great Recession, show the Salvation Army helping over 29 million people, serving over 69 million hot meals, distributing over 21 million items of clothing, furniture, and gifts, and offering lodgings to over 10 million people. 

It will be interesting to see the numbers for fiscal years 2009/2010. 

William and Catherine Booth are buried in one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries, Abney Park, located at Stoke Newington High Street.

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Anne Frank’s marker at Bergen Belsen

Camp marker. Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig

 

A little while back, I received some interesting photos from a world-traveling photographer friend of mine, Sabine Ludwig, who decided to stay local for one of her more recent trips. I’m glad she did.  

The Bergen Belsen death camp is located in northwestern Germany and between 1943 and 1945, countless numbers of people died there from shooting, hunger, and disease. Bergen Belsen also holds the distinction of being the first camp entered, liberated, and documented by the Western allied forces.  

Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig

 

Probably the most famous inmate (although she certainly never anticipated this celebrity) was Anne Frank who hid with her family in a secret annex of rooms in her father’s office building in Amsterdam. The entrance to their living quarters was guarded by a bookcase.  

Betrayed by an unidentified informer to the local police, Anne and her family were arrested, split into male/female contingents and sent to separate concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were first at Auschwitz and eventually, transferred to Bergen Belsen.  

A few weeks before the camp was liberated in 1945, a typhus epidemic swept the camp.  

Anne did not survive.  

Her father, Otto Frank, did survive and attempted with mixed success, to publish Anne’s diary. It was only in the mid to late 1950s, after a Broadway play and a movie, did the book finally take off.  

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