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AOL NEWS Associated Press

French Quarter Holdouts Create 'Tribes' to Survive
NEW ORLEANS (Sept. 4) - In the absence of information and outside assistance, groups of rich and poor banded together in the French Quarter, forming "tribes'' and dividing up the labor.

As some went down to the river to do the wash, others remained behind to protect property. In a bar, a bartender put near-perfect stitches into the torn ear of a robbery victim.

While mold and contagion grew in the muck that engulfed most of the city, something else sprouted in this most decadent of American neighborhoods - humanity.

"Some people became animals,'' Vasilioas Tryphonas said Sunday morning as he sipped a hot beer in Johnny White's Sports Bar on Bourbon Street. "We became more civilized.''

While hundreds of thousands fled the below-sea-level city before the storm, many refused to leave the Vieux Carre, or old quarter. Built on some of the highest ground around and equipped with underground power lines, residents considered it about the safest place to be.

Katrina blew off roof slates and knocked down some already-unstable buildings but otherwise left the 18th and 19th century homes with their trademark iron balconies intact. Even without water and power, most preferred it to the squalor and death in the emergency shelters set up at the Superdome and Convention Center.

But what had at first been a refuge soon became an ornate prison.

Police came through commandeering drivable vehicles and siphoning gas. Officials took over a hotel and ejected the guests.

An officer pumped his shotgun at a group trying to return to their hotel on Chartres Street.

"This is our block,'' he said, pointing the gun down a side street. "Go that way.''

Jack Jones, a retired oil rig worker, bought a huge generator and stocked up on gasoline. But after hearing automatic gunfire on the next block one night, he became too afraid to use it - for fear of drawing attention.

Still, he continues to boil his clothes in vinegar and dip water out of neighbors' pools for toilet flushing and bathing.

"They may have to shoot me to get me out of here,'' he said. "I'm much better off here than anyplace they might take me.''

Many in outlying areas consider the Quarter a playground for the rich and complain that the place gets special attention.

Yes, wealthy people feasted on steak and drank warm champagne in the days after the storm. But many who stayed behind were the working poor - residents of the cramped spaces above the restaurants and shops.

Tired of waiting for trucks to come with food and water, residents turned to each other.

Johnny White's is famous for never closing, even during a hurricane. The doors don't even have locks.

Since the storm, it has become more than a bar. Along with the warm beer and shots, the bartenders passed out scrounged military Meals Ready to Eat and bottled water to the people who drive the mule carts, bus the tables and hawk the T-shirts that keep the Quarter's economy humming.

"It's our community center,'' said Marcie Ramsey, 33, whom Katrina promoted from graveyard shift bartender to acting manager.

For some, the bar has also become a hospital.

Tryphonas, who restores buildings in the Quarter, left the neighborhood briefly Saturday. Someone hit him in the head with a 2-by-4 and stole his last $5.

When Tryphonas showed up at Johnny White's with his left ear split in two, Joseph Bellomy - a customer pressed into service as a bartender - put a wooden spoon between Tryphonas' teeth and used a needle and thread to sew it up. Military medics who later looked at Bellomy's handiwork decided to simply bandage the ear.

"That's my savior,'' Tryphonas said, raising his beer in salute to the former Air Force medical assistant.

A few blocks away, a dozen people in three houses got together and divided the labor. One group went to the Mississippi River to haul water, one cooked, one washed the dishes.

"We're the tribe of 12,'' 76-year-old Carolyn Krack said as she sat on the sidewalk with a cup of coffee, a packet of cigarettes and a box of pralines.

The tribe, whose members included a doctor, a merchant and a store clerk, improvised survival tactics. Krack, for example, brushed her dentures with antibacterial dish soap.

It had been a tribe of 13, but a member died Wednesday of a drug overdose. After some negotiating, the police carried the body out on the trunk of a car.

The neighbors knew the man only as Jersey.

Tribe member Dave Rabalais, a clothing store owner, said he thinks the authorities could restore utilities to the Quarter. But he knows that would only bring "resentment and the riffraff.''

"The French Quarter is the blood line of New Orleans,'' he said. "They can't let anything happen to this.''

On Sunday, the tribe of 12 became a tribe of eight.

Four white tour buses rolled into the Quarter under Humvee escort. National Guardsmen told residents they had one hour to gather their belongings and get a ride out. Four of the tribe members decided to leave.

"Hallelujah!'' Teresa Lawson shouted as she dragged her suitcase down the road. "Thank you, Jesus!''

For Mark Rowland, the leaving was bittersweet.

"I'm heart-broken to leave the city that I love,'' Rowland said as he sat in the air-conditioned splendor of the bus. "It didn't have to be this way.''

· Registered
17,530 Posts
Hard to imagine what those people are going though Only way i think you would survive is to group up ith other people to make a tribe trying to go alone you would finlly wear yourself out and Die or be killed in you sleep..

· Premium Member
25,596 Posts
In any crisis situation it seems logical to band together - providing that is you have allegiance with like minded and sensible folks. Distribution of labor and possessions could mean that the group survives.

There is sometimes only so much we can do as singletons after a while. Strength in numbers is perhaps a viable option.

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Seems like things like this always bring out the best/worst, or both in humans. I just hope that if thetime ever comes I'll be in a position to link up with the good guys.

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Now people understand why we build quiet survival networks of like minded people. Good for them, but I hope they realize there is no million dollar prize at the end of this episode of "Survivor".

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Actually armoredman, there is a prze at the end. If they pull it off, they have done what thousands others have not. Survived, gracefully!

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8,778 Posts
I had this discussion with my Psychology class yesterday. When the controls are off, never underestimate the power of The id to bring out the darkest and most evil violent fantasies in man. I have students who likely would have been worse in similar circumstances. Probably who have done worse and nobody will ever know unless they've been caught.

Do you know one of the criteria for the label DEVIANT? Detection. A person can commit deviant behavior their entire lives but unless they are detected by society and that behavior is sanctioned and the individual is then given the label Deviant by society, he escapes clean. In New Orleans, there was virtually no risk of specific detection.

It's almost like road rage. Even the most demure granny can become a homicidal maniac in the relative annonymity behind the steering wheel. Happens all the time. OTOH, I have no doubt that there were hardened criminals present in the Death Dome. It's almost a given with the ultra poor demographic. They may have incited mob violence or acted as leaders, but trust me, the rest let loose the beast that lies dormant in all of us.

The extent to which the rest of allow the beast free reign must of necessity, mirror certain moral certitudes in our lives. For example, as I trust daily in Jesus Christ, I can be certain that I am not open to demonic possession which gives rise to that level of evil. Lacking Christ, people are more vulnerable to the evil of the world. Does this make any sense or am I just ranting? ;)

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Ex - it makes fine sense. You may trust Christ - I as a non-religious man trust my conscience and moral codes - which is saying much the same. However bad things might be I am constrained from allowing the evil within to have free reign.

Hopefully tho not so much that I finish up a victim when on the other end of someone practicing pure evil. I truly believe there are many who are imbued with evil to exclusion of anything much we might call good. Some might label them 'devil possessed'' - that is academic for me - I just see evil itself.

These days and after a fairly long life - I have long since lost the nieve notion that all folks can have some good in them - sorry - some are evil thru and rhru with little or no hope of salvation. It is they we must watch for most.

Armoredman might well agree - when he sees inmates as he does - and also the degree of recidivism.

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20 Posts
Goes to show you that

having a network of prepared, like minded individuals BEFORE an event can make life a great deal easier. How well do we know our neighbors today? Who will YOU hold up with once it hits? We have to have a plan now, not try to come up with one then...
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