Jazz fans know that New Orleans’ JazzFest begins in New Orleans today, and for two music and food-filled weekends, JazzFest fans get to hear the best in the business on 12 stages under the hot Louisiana sun.
But in the spring of 2006, many thought JazzFest wasn’t going to happen. It was so soon after Katrina, and the hotels and restaurants weren’t ready. But musicians like Jimmy Buffet and Dr. John had a different vision… they were ready.
So that first year after Katrina, the music played on. And did it ever! Musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Allen Toussaint, Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan, Keb Mo, Kermit Ruffins, Trombone Shorty, Koko Taylor, Irma Thomas, Fats Domino, Keith Urban, Theresa Anderson, Paul Simon, Buckwheat Zydecco, Marcia Ball and, of course, Jimmy Buffet and Dr John. Now I can’t guarantee who the driving force was for getting JazzFest on track and the city ready for a big party. No one can. Some credit Buffet, but we’ll never really know, I guess.
We’ll also never know for sure the answer to a far more sobering question: How many people lost their lives as a result of Katrina? Some records say 1723. Some say 1800. Some say 3500. Some reports as high as 4100 across the Gulf Coast.
And much like Katrina fatalities, the fatalities New York City on September 11, 2001, numbered in the thousands. Of the approximately 2600 people who died that day, 343 were New York firefighters and paramedics. Approximately 91 fire apparatus were destroyed.
As disaster sometimes drives inspiration, determination and support, something extraordinary happened after 911, and with it a bond was created between New Orleans and New York City that will be forever evident. As one man, Ron Goldman, a New Orleans resident watched President George Bush on TV, he said aloud to nobody in particular, “We need to do something to help them.” Ron’s wife, seated nearby, simply replied “So then get off your behind Ronnie and do something.” And that started the most incredible string of events that brought help to the FDNY and pride to New Orleans and Louisiana, via the Pride of Louisiana – a fire truck built in Louisiana, with funds raised by Louisianans for the people of New York.
One man had a simple vision. And what does Ronnie Goldman say to all this today, “I simply planted the seed and plenty came with watering cans.” And Ronnie’s daughter summed up the success of his heart warming idea, “It goes to prove one thing, if you get off your butt to do something, anything is possible.”
Come back next week to hear how two cities joined by disasters, came to help one another in the most amazing ways over the course of many years.
Director of Volunteerism and Vice President