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The Continental Divide: My (DEN) Day In America

October 16th, 2018 Comments off


THOUGHTS FROM AN AMERICAN’S 10.09.18 ROCKY MOUNTAIN LAYOVER. The term “Divided Nation” is kicked, thrown and tossed around a lot these days. If the definition of being divided means I don’t share the same views as my fellow Americans, then I never want to live in an “Undivided” Nation. Forcing me to think as a whole sounds like North Korea and Saudi Arabia to me, in my opinion. The beauty of America is that I (we) can have our own opinions. If it were not for the First Amendment, I know with my big mouth free-thinking mind, I would have long been hauled off to a stadium and disappeared. Instead, I was allowed to use my independent critical thinking noggin to get to the bottom of arguably the biggest untold story (that can be told) of the 21st Century. The story of what really happened in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina Response. The following is my account of October 9, 2018; a respectively awesome and ominous day in America for a man and hurricane named Michael.


DEN

Denver International (DEN) Airport’s Jeppesen Terminal


Exactly twenty years ago this month, I relocated from Greater Atlanta, Georgia to Henderson, Nevada. Last Tuesday morning, as I headed to Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS) Airport to catch flight to my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, I began to hear about a Category 2 storm in the Gulf of Mexico named Hurricane Michael. Didn’t think too much of it as I had been up all night in preparation and just wanted to get a window seat and sleep.

Praying for all those affected by the natural disaster on the Florida Panhandle.

Michael


The one thing that drew me to Southern Nevada, aside from the warm weather, proximity to Cali-fornia without the Cali density and quakes, business climate, 24/7 lifestyle, allergy-free envi-ronment (at the time), popular travel destination of friends and family members, etc., was the access to around the clock non-stop flights from LAS Airport throughout the nation. I cannot recall why I chose a connecting route through Denver. I’m sure it must have been a great fare.


Nevertheless, as we’re cruising easterly on Southwest Airlines Flight 2193 at a smooth thirty-seven thousand feet, I opened one eye to see the beautiful majestic snow-covered peaks of the Continental Divide; the Rocky Mountains. Everything looked as it should so I went back to sleep. About twenty minutes later I heard a cockpit flight crew member’s voice come over the intercom and say something about the Boeing 737’s anti-icing system not working and DEN showing freezing temperatures. His next words were, “Ahh, we’re diverting to Phoenix.” I estimated that we were over Breckenridge, Colorado. Phoenix was five hundred-some miles back in the direction we had just left. I remember thinking…more time to sleep.


Okay. We sat at a gate, with passenger off-on privileges, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) Airport for about an hour when the word came down that we were going back to the Centennial State. Alright. I pride myself on being aero-knowledgeable, especially when it comes to airport layouts. This goes back to my grade school days when I use to hand write airport managers and requesting diagrams and whatnots of their facilities. So. I see that we were cleared for a PHX easterly-flow takeoff on Runway 7L. As our 737 reached rotation speed and began to lift off, I had a clear view of the Arizona Air National Guard complex; the last Arizona stop for the remains of Senator John McCain before heading to Maryland. As for SWA Fl. 2193, we were once again Colorado-bound. I figured the ground temperature there had warmed up to the low 40’s or something making our icing issues a mute point, and resumed my high altitude nap time position.


DEN! Finally, I’m halfway to my intended destination. With about nine hours to go before I could continue on to Omaha Eppley (OMA) Airfield, what to do? The Boulder Beer Tap House in the DEN Main Jeppesen Terminal looked like just as good of as any to set up a Tom Hanks ’04 The Terminal-like camp…

 

MICHAEL

M. Woods

KATRINA

Nola.com

HARVEY

Harvey


Let me just say that IF I must connect, then DEN is my favorite airport to do so; a mega space where I always seemed to meet the most interesting of people, and have the most fascinating of conversations. And I was not disappointed on October 9, 2018. While chilling on a tap house bar stool, one after another sat down to my left and to my right. Some were arriving, some were picking up, and some were connecting like me. All were nonstop dialogues, and I was like Sponge [Mike] Square Pants soaking it all in as I was born to do.


Now, when it came time for me to share, the conversation all seemed to begin with New Orleans; probably because I was sporting a “Who Dat!” Saints’ cap the day after Drew Brees broke the all-time NFL passing record on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins. The first questions were, “Are you a Saints fan?” My canned response was that the cap was giving to me by a Hurricane Katrina survivor as a gift for volunteering my time down there during those post-apocalyptic days; a historical bayou city that grew to love me and visa versa, spending seven-plus years before finally returning to my Vegas Valley on a full-time basis.


In December ’06, I took a trip to San Diego and Menlo Park, California to meet with (then FEMA’s) Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) CA-4 and CA-6, respectively. They were outer-suburban upper-middleclass professionals, whose tasks were to drop everything when called up and deploy to disaster zones to provide medical & moral support. I was moved after hearing their accounts and experiences. It would lead me to spend the next seven years documenting the real Katrina Response, tracking down Katrina Responders (Army, USAF, Navy, FAA, USFWS, FEMA, USCG, state, local, and more) from coast to coast under the auspices of The Contraflow Project.


I made the following bold statement to everyone I spoke with, “What in 2005 was called America’s darkest moment was really American’s brightest moment.” It’s like the old saying, If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?


Why do Sandy, Harvey, Irma, Florence and even the current Michael hurricane responses receive high praises, but every time one mentions Katrina? The responders were there in New Orleans. Why has the public not been told about this? It’s no conspiracy or anything like that. There is definitely no one, or entity, pressuring me to shut up. Race did became the dominate factor. But not in the way you think. It was intra-racial. The City of New Orleans is over three hundred years old and has a unique present-past, meaning very little has changed cultural demographically. Basically, during the Hurricane Katrina Aftermath, the hyper light-skinned Negro city leaders were scared to death of the darker-hued Negro constituents; both trapped in flooded The Proverbial “Bowl” of Gumbo. Very few folks outside of the (504) RTA Street Cararea code understood this class hier-archical dynamic, including Kanye West who made the following 9.2.05 remark on live TV, “George [W.] Bush does not like Black people.” And that’s where the gvt, media, scholars, etc., left the story; everyone but me.


All that I have learned during my New Orleans odyssey / American journey, that began on 9.7.05, is dedicated via my research findings to ALL First Responders, especially those who served in New Orleans and never received the thanks of a grateful Louisiana people or a grateful nation. What started off for me in September ’05 as a humanitarian TCPrelief mission to help my fellow Black Americans turned into a passionate research project to honor my fellow White Americans; a group that in my opinion needs closure as well. They went deep down into harm’s way only to return home and find out they too were “The Blame.”


I cover BOTH sides of the so-called divide. A polarized (towards me) America was difficult for me to recognize at DEN. I conversed from the Jeppesen Terminal to the Coors Silver Bullet Sports Bar on Concourse C, where I met more beautiful Americans. Conversations that continued on to Gate C 28, and aboard SWA Fl. 3307 to OMA.


All were excited to hear about my forthcoming work. And SWA, blessed their corporate heart. I received an email the following day apologizing for the PHX diversion, and a Southwest LUV Voucher that I can use for future travel. This is why I LUV flying SWA; domestically.


Oral History Contributors

TCP Oral History Contributors: Hurricane Katrina Responders


THE CONTRAFLOW PROJECT…dedicated to ALL First Responders

To sum it up, my name is Michael and I want to make a sound. I, and my non-profit 501c3 organization Contraflow Inc., d.b.a. The Contraflow Project seeks your support for our mission to finally set the record straight. Or, as Paul Harvey use to sign off with, I want to tell, “The Rest of the Story. Good day.”


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project

@mdarrylwoods

 
 

4,000 Days to New Orleans

July 11th, 2016 Comments off

On Thanksgiving Day ’08, while visiting my little sister in Southwest Charlotte, I sat down to a fine meal with love ones. It was November 27, 2008, 1,177 days after I first joined the Katrina Relief Efforts. At the request of a Katrina Survivor named Rick Mathieu from the Treme Neighborhood of New Orleans in November ’05, I purchased a camera for what I thought was to be use to document storm and flood damages at his Treme and Seventh Ward homes. Instead, it was used to document the repopulation of the Big Easy. For three straight years, I carried around that camera (from Uptown to Downtown, from Lakefront to Riverfront, from Eastbank to Westbank) like people today carry around their smart phones. It was always in my hand. As you will see, my brother-in-law Pastor Sean Weaver turned my camera back on me. I was like “Soul Food” movie meets 60 Minutes

I sounded so engaging, and I remember feeling relieved that my Hurricane Katrina research was over. Not! Today, I know that I wasn’t even 1/3rd of the way to fruition when this rare interview of myself was captured. Yesterday, I asked a lifelong friend named Kathy to describe me with one word. Her response was, “Engaging.” This upcoming August 20, 2016, will mark my 4,000th day since joining the Katrina Efforts on September 7, 2005. It is good to know that after all these years, I’m still engaging. 4,000 I’ll need that character trait even more so to finally tell this mega story of what really happened in and around New Orleans during the Katrina Response.

Why is this all still relevant? Because it socially and politically changed the world; lame ducking arguably the most powerful man in the history of the world, Pres. George W. Bush, only seven months into his second term; sending the nation on a path toward CHANGE. Am I talking conspiracy theories? Not at all. I exhaustively researched and meticulously positioned literally thousands of events during those surreal days of the Katrina Resposnse into their proper sequence. I thank God for Microsoft Excel. Anyways, it is there where the true story jumps right out and slaps you. Basically, the light skinned city leaders of New Orleans (Katrina Responders) were scared to death of the darker skinned constituents (Katrina Survivors). A New Orleans pigmentocracy. Three Shades of Blackness

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project




A Katrina Heptalogy

August 7th, 2015 Comments off


10 YearsAs the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina nears on August 29, 2015, I’d like to take this time to update the responders on where my research stands today. It’s been a honor to have worked ten non-stop years on this project. However, if someone would have told me on September 7, 2005, the day I joined the Katrina Relief Efforts that I’d be still at this in 2015, I would have never departed my home airport of LV McCarran Int’l (LAS) for Houston George Bush (IAH) Airport on a mission to volunteer at the Astrodome. But no one did. And, I did depart.


The funny thing is that I never made it to the Astrodome. I called an audible at IAH and flew to my home town of Omaha, Nebraska. Low and behold, three days later on September 10, 2005, the last two post-Katrina Operation Air Care evacuation flights to leave New Orleans landed at Eppley Airfield (OMA). Two days after that I met the Soul Patrol. Two months after that I made on down to the Disaster Zone called New Orleans.


I went on to become arguably one of most knowledgeable persons yet to be heard from on the subject of what happened during the Katrina Response. When I make bold claims like the aforementioned to folks whose only knowledge of the Katrina Response came from the media, the next thing that pops into many of their minds is the phrase “conspiracy theorist.” The only conspiring I did was to track down as many responders as possible with firsthand accounts of Southeast Louisiana and asked them to, “Please tell me what you recall from your Hurricane Katrina deployment.” With all this oral history I collected, there was no need to theorize. The responders shared it all. All I had to do post-interviews was analyze and arrange the data. A God-sized task, yes indeed. Nevertheless, a task that came easy for me.


I can see why many Katrina spectators are amazed by that fact that an independent researcher received so much cooperation from the highest levels, branches and agencies of federal, state and municipal governments; all the way down to the neighborhood responders from the many New Orleans neighborhood wards. It is my belief that everyone sensed my sincere drive for telling the story how it actually happened in Greater New Orleans.


Also amazing, this comprehensive and riveting seven-book (heptalogy) story of tragedy, survival, heroism, compassion, resilience and patriotism I now have; a story for the ages in the form of a literary mini series. What started off as a single book project about four men from the New Orleans 7th Ward who called themselves the Soul Patrol, staying for the storm rescuing hundreds of their neighbors, grew exponentially after I sat down on December 11, 2006, in San Diego with members of the then FEMA’s California Four Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Two days later I sat down with members California Six up in Menlo Park. I was so moved by their experiences; CA-4 at New Orleans Louis Armstrong Int’l (MSY) Airport and CA-6 at the Superdome-New Orleans Arena Complex. Wow! Man. I could not walk away.


Anyways, that December ‘06 west coast trip led me to boldly venture beyond the neighborhood response; and did I ever go above and beyond. Our story of Hurricane Katrina is now a seven part book series that will tell the story of the largest rescue mission in American History from the responders POV; Army, Navy, USAF, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA, FAA, USFWS, NOPD, JPSO, Soul Patrol, etc.

  • Book 1 – Cataclysmic Epiphany“; {Aug 26-Aug 30, 2005}

  • Book 2 – Collection Points“; {Aug 30, 2005}

  • Book 3 – Command & Control“; {Aug 30-Aug 31, 2005}

  • Book 4 – Convention Center“; {Aug 31-Sep 1, 2005}

  • Book 5 – Cause & Effect“; {Sep 1-Sep 2, 2005}

  • Book 6 – Comforter in Chief“; {Sep 2-Sep 3, 2005}

  • Book 7 – Collateral Damage“; {Sep 3-Sep 15, 2005}


Katrina RespondersThe projected publishing date for ALL seven books is June 1, 2016. It maybe ten (10 3/4 projected) years later, but I am still on point. Since ’07, I have been dedicating this epic story to ALL Katrina Responders. Also since ’07, I have been pledging to exclude ALL blame, political agendas, media sensation-alism, race-carding, demographic stereotyping and my own opinions. This is the only way I can or will tell this story, dignified and thorough. The working book series title is “CONTRAFLOW: A Katrina Heptalogy.”


What do I want to get out of publishing the Contraflow Series? I hope to help bring closure to all who are still affected by Katrina. The true story shall set us free! I cannot wait to get this story out. But, I guess I have waited; the responders have waited. I thank them all for their patience and support. I thank God for my curiosity, drive, endurance and strength. This project will be finished. The world will learn the rest of the story. You can follow TCP on Twitter and Facebook.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project

 
 

Zero Notice

August 5th, 2015 Comments off

Hands Up

Over the past ten years, I have had the privilege of interviewing some amazing and awesome Hurricane Katrina heroes; from the highest levels of the military to lowest below sea level New Orleans neighborhood responders. Every interaction has been special to me.

However, if I had to select a hand full of the ones that stood out, my May ’09 telephone interview with the 82nd Airborne Division Commanding Officer Major General William Caldwell, now Lieutenant General (Retired) and current president of Georgia Military College, would definitely be one of them.

I learned back in 2005 to maintain silence, to not interrupt the interviewees once they get going. I realized that they all were reliving the drama and/or the trauma of Katrina. When I use to jump in with questions, it would throw them off track. Hence, my methodology quickly evolved to just listening, electronically recording with permission and note taking. Any questions that I might have would be emailed to the interviewee a few days later. 

So, MG Caldwell begins reliving his Katrina experience. I’m on the other end of the line saying to myself, “This is deep.”  Most of what he shared centered around the events of September 3, 2005, the day Pres. Bush called in the 82nd Airborne via his weekly radio address giving in the White House Rose Garden; making it the first time ever in its sixty-three year history that the 82nd Airborne was deployed with “zero” notice. Even so, the 82nd Airborne prides themselves on deploying anywhere around the world within eighteen hours. Their nickname is “All American.” Their motto is “All the Way!”  

Throughout the previous night, the USAF began diverting C-17 Globemasters from Afghanistan and Iraq to Pope AFB, North Carolina, adjacent to Fort Bragg. MG Caldwell went on to tell me that because of the humanitarian crisis on the Gulf Coast the 82nd Airborne command staff did something they would never ever do in the Middle East, South Asia or any other war theater; they all boarded the same aircraft. By early afternoon on 9/3/05, the first wave of Globemasters were in the air heading westerly. But there was one major logistical problem. They had no confirmed destination. MG Caldwell kept heading up to the C-17 flight deck asking if there was any word yet on their humanitarian mission. Time after time he was told, “None yet General.”

MSY

New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport on 9/3/05

Finally, after flying hundreds of nautical miles, word came up from FORSCOM HQ in suburban Atlanta some 30,000 feet below. The first wave was to proceed to New Orleans Louis Armstrong Int’l (MSY) Airport. Once there, MG Caldwell was to report to Lt. General Russel Honore and receive orders.

On a normal day anywhere in the world when a huge C-17 Globemaster lands and taxis, other aircraft get out of the way. Not this day at NO Armstrong Airport, where they immediately found themselves in gridlock. This piece of federally controlled and City of New Orleans-owned property had arguably become the busiest airspace in the world. I was told by air traffic controllers that every fifteen seconds, helicopters landed, taxied, offloaded passengers and patients, and lifted off to go back and get more. The C-17 pilot was finally able to taxi to the cargo terminal area and park. The fact that there were no runway, taxiway or tarmac aircraft incursions that fateful week is still an amazing feat to this date.

The photo below and to the right features (l to r): LG Russel Honore, First Army Commanding Officer; MG William Caldwell IV, 82nd AB CO; MG Dwight Landreneau, Louisiana Adjutant General; and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It was taking on 9/4/05 at MSY Airport. I call it “The Katrina Generals” photo. The photo below and to the left, MG Caldwell. The three C-17 Globemasters in the middle photo, represent the 9/3/05 82nd AB humanitarian first wave out Pope AFB.

Charleston Nine C-17 Hands Up

Basically, LG Honore told MG Caldwell. “Whatever you see broke, fix it!” During those Katrina Aftermath days, many asked why it took five days for the President to call in the 82nd Airborne. Two words, the “Convention Center.” Hmm, maybe two more words, “Posse Comitatus.”

The world still doesn’t know what really happened in New Orleans because the world has never really come to grips with what it saw on those September 1, 2005, live feeds; thousands Americans begging for help in the richest country on Earth. For lack of any reasonable explanation the world went with the Kanye West Theory, “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People”; which in my opinion came out of the Mayor Ray Nagin WWL radio interview the evening of 9/1, when he told Pres. Bush to get his ass moving on New Orleans. Again, two words, “Convention Center.”

LASP

Louisiana State Police on patrolling Convention Center Blvd on 9/1/05

In July 2012, I wrote “The Events of 9/1: A Katrina Essay.” I thoroughly broke down the series of events that led to those sad images we all saw coming out of the New Orleans Ernest Morial Convention Center. What started it all? The shooting death of a Lower 9th Ward resident Danny Brumfeld by a NOPD officer on Convention Center Boulevard in the early morning hours of 9/1/05. Unbeknownst to the public, that early morning tragedy became the nexus for fear in the Greater New Orleans Area. Why? Because by the time the story of the shooting reached Mayor Ray Nagin a mile away at the Hyatt Regency, the facts had been flipped. Mayor Nagin was told that the citizens, the “thugs,” had been shooting at the NOPD. How do I know all of this? I interviewed Manatee County, Florida Homicide Detective Bill Waldron. While in town as a witness for a murder trial, he became stranded and ended up at the Convention Center. He saw it all.  

The above event, along with a non lethal friendly-fire shooting of a Louisiana National Guardsman about two hours earlier at the Superdome, led to a total breakdown in confidence, which quickly spreaded amongst the many Katrina Responder agencies. How do I put this? The light-skinned (Creole) African American New Orleans leadership became scared to death of their brown-skinned (and darker) African American constituents. It’s a New Orleans history thing. The problem is the Katrina Responders received the blame. My book series project is dedicated to ALL Katrina responders.

What does all this have to do with MG Caldwell and the 82nd Airborne? Well, the first thing that needed “fixing” was the confidence factor. Well, now you know MG Caldwell ordered his top staff to get NO Armstrong Airport straight first-first. Anyways, they jumped right on it, with a show of command and control, compassion, inter-agency communication, professionalism and protection.

Under MG Caldwell’s direction and “humanitarian” rules of engagement, the paratroopers got out and WALKED among the citizens. When the survivors and non-military responders saw those maroon berets, it was a good thing. There was very little more to fear. Based on my ten years of research into the Katrina Response, the 82nd Airborne literally saved the day!

Paratrooper Woods

Paratrooper V.J. Woods

As our interview concluded, I told MG Caldwell about my father, Louisiana-native Mr. V. J. Woods, an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper from back in the 1950’s. And you know I had a bunch of followup questions for the general. He thanked me for what I was doing, working on getting the real story of Katrina out to the world. I thanked him for his service and taking time to chat with me. A few days later he mailed a letter, along with his commander’s coin to my father thanking him for his service some sixty years earlier. He then overnighted me his entire declassified after action report from their Katrina deployment; a wealth of information for a New Orleans researcher like myself. ALL THE WAY!

MG Caldwell’s contribution, along with the scores of other Katrina Responders, has helped to guarantee that CONTRAFLOW: A Katrina Heptalogy will be one amazing book series.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project




Rush to Judgement on Katrina

July 12th, 2014 Comments off


Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I had never heard of C. Ray Nagan or Nola.com. This from a man who prided himself on being up to date on current affairs and almanac-like data. However, the Times-Picayune was previously familiar to me, and since Katrina I have been a very frequent visitor to its online destination Nola.com. While surfing Nola.com yesterday, Rush Limbaugha Bruce Alpert ‘On the Hill’ story headline caught my eyes; “Rush Limbaugh calls Katrina response very effective…” The following is an excerpt from Mr. Alpert’s article, which I believe came from a recent Rush Limbaugh Show transcript:


“The FEMA U.S. government response, to Katrina, was one of the most massive, one of the fastest, and one of the most effective emergency responses in our history.


Go, independently verify that, if you doubt me. I imagine even some of you in the audience who would call yourselves conservative Republicans are saying, ‘Rush, be careful now, you know that’s not true.’


You probably think it’s not true because you believe, it’s been stated for so long, it’s been the conventional wisdom for so long, that the post-Katrina response was a disaster, and it wasn’t.”


The substance of the entire article had less to do with New Orleans, and more to do with the GOP’s talking points strategy on how Pres. Obama is handling the current Mexican-US Border humanitarian-political crisis. I don’t follow Rush Limbaugh or his show like I do Nola.com. Even so, unlike most of the people I know, I will fight for his right to speak his mind. The day Mr. Limbaugh is silenced is the day “they” silence me. Lord knows I have a documentation, an opinion or two, and many views of my own; albeit a very small audience to date.


Nevertheless, anyone who knows me could understand why my jaw dropped after reading the aforementioned Bruce Albert article. Based on my nine years of intense research, I concur wholeheartedly with Mr. Limbaugh’s Katrina Response theory. He and I actually agree on the same thing; the real story of the response to the second biggest domestic crisis of the 21st Century has never been told.


One may say the story was told eight years ago in HBO’s award-winning documentary, When The Levees Broke (2006). I am a longtime fan of its director, and I enjoyed watching his four-part requiem. The nation and the world needed something of substance to help them understand what had happened in New Orleans. It focused mostly on Louisiana Democratic political leaders and the Greater New Orleans Katrina survivors; the people. It was real.


My research delves into two major components of Katrina that has yet to be broadcasted or published; the significant inclusion of the responders experiences and the placing of the first week of Katrina events in their proper sequence.


Over the past nine years I have granted only one interview, which was exactly five years ago to date. The Omaha World-Herald Columnist Mike Kelly wrote a piece titled, “Take another look at hurricane’s aftermath.” Here is an excerpt from Kelly’s July 12, 2009, Mike Kellycol-umn about me:


“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” President George W. Bush told FEMA director Michael Brown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Brown, under mounting criticism, soon resigned as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The federal response to Katrina was widely panned and the president’s praise of Brownie was often ridiculed.


Omaha native who has spent most of the past four years in New Orleans is asking that people take another look.


“George Bush got blamed for something that wasn’t his fault,” said Michael Woods. “I’ve interviewed thousands of people and pieced together this big puzzle.”


Five years ago, hmm. Well Mr. Kelly, all I can say is that ‘puzzle’ got bigger and bigger. My recent blog ‘Groundhog Day ja Voo‘ should bring everyone up to speed; a posting summarizing the past five years of my nonprofit independent research project. Have no fear, I kept on piecing things together.


Getting back to Mr. Limbaugh’s bold statement on Katrina for even conservative GOP standards. If you really pay attention to what he stated in the above (transcript) excerpt, a reasonable person may think that he has no proof; that he is wishing it to be so. He offers no documentation, no sources; how did he put it, “Go, independently verify that, if you doubt me.” Go where and independently verify that Mr. Limbaugh?


Here at TheContraflow.org, that’s where! This is exactly what I have been working on for nine years, independent verification; independent of any government, corporate, collegiate or media interests. I am Mr. Limbaugh’s source of proof that the federal government dropping the ball during Katrina is not what happened. He just doesn’t know it yet. I’m the nation’s source of proof. The country just doesn’t know it yet. The New Orleans Katrina survivors? They’ve always known who really dropped the ball. They just haven’t had anyone to articulate it yet.


It was those heart-breaking images from the New Orleans Morial Convention Center on September 1, 2005, that changed everything; that literally changed the world. The media, government officials, scholars and scientists have never been able to fully explain what we were looking at that day; how those sad, shocking and surreal images really came to be. I provide credible information in my essay from two years ago, ‘The Events of 9/1‘. A good place to start on the road to really understanding the Hurricane Katrina Response.


Since arriving in the mega disaster zone called New Orleans nine years ago, there are so many things I thought I would never be doing. Indirectly helping to prove a Rush Limbaugh theory about the ridiculing of Pres. Bush during Katrina, that he is using to help ridicule Pres. Obama about a current immigration issue, ranks in the Top 5. But it is what it is. I did this research for everyone, whatever their politics or views. The truth is in the light.


I spoke earlier about my audience size. I likened this to the saying, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to here it, does it make a sound?” What I am saying is that I, Mr. Woods, have been inspired by the most unlikely source to finally start speaking publicly about all I have learned on the subject of the Katrina Response. about us2Thank you Mr. Limbaugh. I never had a policy of not speaking publicly. It’s just that the research kept going and going (2005-2014), like that old Energizer Bunny Rabbit commercial. Maybe I could return the favor by enlightening your listeners. It’s hard to imagine a bigger audience than yours. I would start off by saying the following:


“A command decision based off a rumor that was relayed to New Orleans Mayor Nagin on Wednesday evening, Day 3, August 31, 2005, set in motion a sequence of events that transformed Katrina from a mega natural disaster to a mega man-made disaster.”


The reason I have been successful in getting people from all walks of life, from all corners of America, to share their Katrina experiences with me is because they felt my genuine drive to tell the real story of Katrina. And that no matter how long it would take, I was going to get their stories out intact; that I was going to keep my promise to publish CONTRAFLOW Book Series void of blame, race-carding, political agendas, demographic stereotyping, media sensation-alism and my own opinions. CONTRAFLOW is dedicated to ALL Katrina Responders.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project

 
 

Groundhog Day ja Voo

April 17th, 2014 Comments off

Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day'


As I think back on the past five years, I am reminded of the movie Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray; a philosophical comedy film about a weatherman who finds himself reliving the same day over and over. A fictional misanthropic TV meteorologist Phil Connors gets wiser and wiser about the Events of 2/2; and gets the girl at the end. Now replace ‘meteorologist’ with Katrina Response researcher, ‘2/2’ with 9/1, ‘Phil’ with Darryl and you have the plot summary for my real life New Orleans odyssey.


Around the time of the four year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2009, all signs were pointing to completion and fruition. I appeared that my independent research project had finally ran its course. On September 29, 2009, an invaluable and trusted research colleague, since the Repopulation Days at Camp Mama D in the New Orleans 7th Ward, and I went our separate ways. It was now time to publish and move on myself. But a funny thing, or two, happened on the way to the editor and printer. Two huge events at the start of this brand new decade, twenty-six days apart, occurred and sent me and The Contraflow Project (TCP) into a different orbit.


The first was the 7.0 Earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010. After being in New Orleans for over four years documenting the Katrina Response while living in the devastation, then to see a mega-mega disaster in a predominately African-descendant Western Hemisphere country; well it definitely placed a lot of things into its proper perspective. One day I was collaborating with Haiti-native Maryse Dejean and WWOZ, who were being very supportive of TCP. The next day I’m at her side providing moral support and helping her electronically locate her family in the rubble of a Port-au-Prince suburb. It was so sad and so surreal, yet so familiar.

Saints #22 Tracy Porter returning the Super Bowl winning touchdown


The second event occurred on February 7, 2010, down in South Florida; New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17. Two years earlier I was on Bourbon Street celebrating LSU’s victory over the Ohio State University Buckeyes in the BCS Championship Game at the Superdome. I came across a lot of happy Cajun and Creole folks in purple and gold, and a lot of nervous looking Midwesterners in scarlet and grey. But there is nothing to compare with what the Saints victory in Super Bowl XLIV did for the people of Greater New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana. Along with it being the most watched television event to date in American broadcast history, it also led directly to the largest spontaneous party in the history of the Big Easy. Oh yes, and it was Mardi Gras Season too. Now, I’m a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan; “Just win baby!” However, during Mardi Gras (Lombardi Gras) ’10, I was a fan of the people of New Orleans.


The two aforementioned events made Hurricane Katrina seem like another lifetime ago. With all due respect, sympathy and love to the people of Haiti, the two events were what New Orleans and I needed to move forward. We needed to be needed by non-Louisianans, to feel someone else pain in a big way, to feel L’Union Fait La Force (“Unity Makes Strength”).


We also needed to feel like winners. “Who dat!” a battle cry that takes me back to the 1987 season. It was the year I first saw Saints owner Tom Benson on national TV second-lining with an umbrella through the Superdome while the crowd chanted, “Who dat, who dat, who dat say day gonna beat dem Saints.” They were heading to the playoffs for the first time ever that in ’87; this after being known for years as the team whose faithful and embarrassed fans wore “Unknown Comic” paper bags on their heads to the dome. Today, I realize what made that chant so unusual. Many people in New Orleans do not pronounce their “T’s”.


Anyways, for the next year I would find myself in noLA-noLA Land; finally getting a chance to enjoy New Orleans, to enjoy the people, to enjoy myself. HBO was filming the first season of Treme all around us, the South’s largest free music event The French Quarter Festival was only six blocks away and the NO Jazz & Heritage Festival was bigger and better than ever. Life was ‘easy’. Later on that summer, I was able to make something big happen for the Soul Patrol, the group of men from the Seventh Ward who I met and sponsored two weeks after Katrina. You see there was never supposed to be a “TCP”, or was there


My time in New Orleans was originally planned to conclude immediately after the one year anniversary of Katrina. It was at that time that I was supposed to head east to a donated home on Plum Island, Massachusetts and write Camp Epiphany; my original Katrina story of the Soul Patrol and the New Orleans Seventh Ward. But before I could board my LAS-BOS JetBlue flight, I received a call from New Orleans urging me to come back and be with the people during the recovery era. Yep, that phone call came from the aforemen-tioned invaluable research colleague; New England, or New Orleans?


I guess it’s obvious what my decision was, “I’m coming back baby”; ‘baby’ being a favorite unisex pronoun of New Orleans folk. The rest is Katrina history.

"Heroes of the Storm" benefit - Soul Patrol members Manny Mathieu, Rick Mathieu and American Red Cross New Orleans CEO Kay Wilkins


Getting back to the five year anniversary of Katrina; there I was on a so-called research sabbatical, no Camp Epiphany, no Katrina publi-cation period. I was able to successfully reach out to the organizers of the American Red Cross of New Orleans’ “Heroes of the Storm” Gala and inform them of the real-life urban legendary men of the Soul Patrol. The ARCNO staff immediately contacted Rick Mathieu, Manny Mathieu, Earl Barthe and Jadell Beard and extended them all an invitation to the Roosevelt Hotel Ballroom for that coming Saturday, August 28, 2010. With all the big names at this fundraising event, like Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore, it was the Soul Patrol that everyone wanted to talk to and be seen with. I was so happy for them. They were finally recognized by their city for their heroic deeds five years earlier. This would buy me some time…

Fast-forward to the spring of 2011. After spending six months cataloging research, improving my website developing skills and formulating a social media campaign, it was now time to get back into TCP final research phase mode. I made a list of those who I had not yet interviewed. On that list was Russel Honore, Sheriff Harry Lee (current JPSO Command), Lt. Russell Vappie, Dr. Greg Henderson, Mr. James Hendrickson, Det. Bill Waldron, to name a few.


Veteran Homicide Detective Waldron, who had recently retired from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Bradenton, Florida, was the only person over the course of the first five-plus years to respond to my request for an interview with a definitive ‘No’. In May 2011, he could not wait to talk to me. He, like many other Katrina Responders, was no longer constrained by their responder agency employers. Waldron and I would go back and forth electronically for one year. On May 9th at 9:18 a.m. EDT, I received an email Waldron that made me sit straight up. The following is an excerpt:


“… I had a conversation with Major Shoop {Texas Dept of Wildlife & Parks} on the drive to the collection point transporting the medical patients. I told Major Shoop that I had not seen any violence except by the Police earlier that morning during the hours of darkness when NOPD Units fired a shotgun in the air over the people gathered out front of the Convention Center when one man tried stopping an NOPD car to inquire about getting assistance and food and water.”

Contraflow Research Project


It was at this moment that I realized that Waldron was referring to the NOPD killing of Danny Brumfield on Convention Center Blvd. The significance of this critical realization will be made very clear in the forthcoming book series CONTRAFLOW. To commemorate this major milestone in TCP investigative-research efforts, I wrote a Katrina essay titled “The Events of 9/1.” I likened it to a literal literary victory dance of sorts. But then came Hurricane Isaac on the seven year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully, those living inside the levee protection systems in SELA made out pretty good. However, about six weeks later, I would learn about an event that happened at the Superdome on 9/1/05, that would blow my mind; and this coming from a man that had heard it all over the years. The research continued…


For another year and a half, it seemed like I was waking up to the same day; 9/1/05. And like ‘Weatherman Phil’, I was getting wiser and wiser day by day. As I reviewed interview transcripts from last decade, I found myself deciphering data that had been just words to me the first time around. With the new-found clarity comes the proper follow-up questions. Fast forward to March 23, 2014; the day that the final “previously unidentified” last proverbial piece of the Katrina Response jigsaw puzzle fell into my proverbial hands. The final investigative-research major milestone. The event that started the man-made madness on 8/31/05; ‘Government Official Zero’; the defining moment of Hurricane Katrina; the conflict starter.

groundhog day5


Well, tomorrow Lord’s will at 5:59am, I know it’ll be 4/18/14 and not 9/1/05. I can finally stop waking up and reliving that pivotal day. Yesterday, April 16, 2014, marked exactly 1,700 days (9/29/09) since I went solo with The Contraflow Project; a productive, solitary, personal journey indeed with no Hollywood (South) ending, yet. But, a necessary odyssey. Somebody had to do it. Somebody has to tell the true story of Hurricane Katrina. Somebody will, soon.


I want to give a shout out to my main man Budd; my air traffic controller whose helps me keep the “flow” going in Contraflow. I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know, as I appreciate all of you who have encouraged me throughout the past eight years. What a milestone moment these past four weeks have been. Thank you. Blessings & Peace.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project




The Second Half Flashback in New Orleans

February 7th, 2013 Comments off

Super Bowl XLVIIAs I sat there last Sunday evening Feb. 3, 2013, watching Super Bowl XLVII along with family members and some 108 million other viewers, I could not help but think about the events that transpired in the Superdome seven years ago. It probably had a lot to do with a series of interviews for The Contraflow Project that I had just concluded with Rev. Walter Austin, who was a state chaplain for the Louisiana State Chaplain back during those surreal days of Katrina. Then came the Pepsi Halftime Show’s Beyonce, and I quickly forgot all about my 7 1/2 independent research journey into what really happened in New Orleans. It was HalfShowTime!

Then came the opening 2nd half 108 yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones; a feat that we now know cost Gardiners Furniture Store in Baltimore $600,000 in furnishings. Now, take the Ray Lewis sentimental factor out and I knew more 49ers fans than Ravens by ten fold. Me, myself, I’m a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan who also enjoys watching the Saints and the Seahawks do their thing. I digress. Anyways, after that record tying touchdown return which was topped off with a Ray Lewis dance-tribute end-zone celebration, I felt it was over in an embarrassing way for all my California Niner-fans. It took me back in the day to how my father scheduled me and my big brother’s whoopings on Sunday afternoons to coincide with the conclusion of the last NFL football game of the afternoon. We would be down in the laundry room waiting on the inevitable. I would always wish that something crazy would happen, like a plane falling out of the sky onto our front yard or a blackout, to cause my father to forget about us. A diversion, if you will, to stop the (in this case the 28-6) whooping…

Rev. Walter AustinThen went the lights! Man, I had spent all of the first half trying not to think about Katrina, and then this. Because Rev. Austin was my most recent Katrina Oral History Contributor, and 90% of his experiences took place at the Super-dome, he was heavy on my mind. I first learned about him after reading Jeff Duncan reporting in the Times-Picayune’sRefuge of Last Resort” series, which was republished in ’10 in commemoration of the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. To be honest, I reached out to Rev. Austin two months ago to help me verify one thing. When I caught up with him in his office at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in LaPlace, Louisiana, I explained the mission and vision of my nonprofit research organization The Contraflow Project. His first words to me were, I believe, “What do you want to know?” It was like he was waiting for my call for seven years.

I realize today how huge Katrina was. Meaning that it touched so many lives and each one of those lives has/had a story. I do believe though that my steps have been preplanned by a higher power, and that I have crossed paths with those responders and survivors that I needed to to tell a Katrina story to end all Katrina stories. Last July, I wrote a Katrina essay titled “The Events of 9/1“. In the second to last sentence I boldly write, “Yeah, guess I have done ENOUGH!” As in, my research was over. But, in the last sentence I added three words, “…or am I?” No. I hadn’t spoken with Rev. Walter Austin yet. Back to the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the “second halftime” is in effect. What I was watching on a massive, secured, coordinated scale, was people in the know sharing information with those who needed to know.  It reminded me of something Rev. Austin shared just a few weeks ago.

Because of a sequence of events on September 1, 2005, the National Guard had pretty much stopped communicating with the Katrina survivors-evacuee-refugees at the Superdome. Pretty much all, except Rev. Austin, who held the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel I believe. It may have been Colonel. I need to check my notes. So, he made his way through the crowds gathering folks around him and passed on the latest news without a megaphone. He got up close and personal. We are talking about a time where 99% of the folks just wanted some good information. Yes, Rev. Austin was heavy on my mind as I watched the “second halftime”, but there are so many many many positive stories from Katrina that have never been told in their proper context, or at all. As I told Rev. Austin, this is my mission, my vision.

Super Bowl BlackoutUp, the lights came back on! We all joked that Beyonce “boodylicious” performance did it. But, it’s New Orleans. A city where anything can, will and has happened. Some of the senior members of my family, moma and dem, were bored now, so we left my sister and brother-in-law’s home. I couldn’t figure out where the CBS Sports Radio Network affiliate was on the radio dial. I did get a text talking about a Comeback!

I finally got to a TV and saw that the 49ers had score 17 unanswered points. Here they come! I started feeling better for my Northern California friends and family; one particular die-heart Niners fan, DJ SupaK in suburban Oakland, California. I had a victory text all prepared to send him, but the game wasn’t over yet. Kaepernick was driving. Then there it was, 4th down, pass incomplete! Next, safety. Next, free kick. Next, game over! So, I had to come up with a consolation text for my homeboy SupaK. Thinking on how the older Harbaugh has won both games they’ve played against each other I texted, “BIG Brothers always rule, it seems… Damn K”, along with an attached photo of him and I taking a back in our adolescent days. He responded back with “LOL…MY (BROTHA)!!”

So you see a plane never fell out of the sky causing me to miss a whooping. Although, last Sunday in New Orleans a blackout did occur, but it did not change the outcome for the Niner Nation. Sometimes you just gotta take your whoopings, learn from your mistakes and comeback correct! All in all, the halftime show, the blackout and the almost comeback; made for one of the most exciting Super Bowls I’ve seen in a while. Only in New Orleans…

A few days later I sent the following email messages to Rev. Austin:

I can finally say I have no more questions. I thought about you during the Super Bowl blackout, and pictured you in the stands telling everyone to gather around, “Here’s what I know…” 
 
I’m very thankful to have been allowed access into your Katrina experience memory bank, and I cannot wait for the public to learn (in more detail) your heavenly contributions the Katrina Response. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. Thank you!  

 

He replied back with:

As for Sunday night, I am sick over the bad publicity the city got for that snafu. It was magnificent the whole week having people come down and see how much we have overcome since K.  Now when they think of this SB it is when the lights went out.

I replied:

As for the Super Bowl, it was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen. Because the lights came back on, most of the people I’ve spoken with are looking at it as a “second” half time. And for all my friends from California, their “prayers” were almost answered.  I can only think of one Super Bowl game that had a more climatic finish, and it was the St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans in the Georgia Dome where the game ended with a Titan player being stopped on the 1-yard line. Coincidentally  this was also the game where Ray Lewis was arrested after an after party double murder in Atlanta. 
 
Back to the Superdome, the first words out of the Ravens owner’s mouth as he held the Lombardi trophy were accolades about the New Orleans Super Bowl experience. And everybody was safe, and I’m sure the Superdome double its concession sales; win, win, win…

 

Rev. Austin replied:

 

People in NO love the city. It has its own way of life and its own rhythm.  Now we get ready for the Mardi Gras weekend.

 

Mardi Gras, yes.  Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! (Let the Good Times Roll). Amen Rev. Austin. Amen!

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project