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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, opinions and 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 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 Katrina.


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




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