The Storm

NEW ORLEANS — All morning, we visitors have been referring to Hurricane Katrina, occasionally to the other big one, Hurricane Rita, in the course of the all-day speeches and panel discussions. Instead of two days of workshops, this year’s National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference loaded up the teachin’ today so tomorrow we can move through the city and see what — The Storm — has left, nearly three years later.

A couple of Louisianans this morning referred to the The Storm, and all of us understood Katrina-Rita was (were) meant. Then Mayor Ray Nagin called it The Storm in his lunch address to us.

In the day’s last presentation, Americana musician Spencer Bohren defined it. (We’re listening to his songs — some original some folk or gospel classics — and stories all the while getting information not provided by the (other) experts.

“It’s like Voldemort, ‘He Who Must Not Be Named,’ where we’re not supposed to say Katrina,” Bohren said. Harry Potter fans in the audience understood.

I’m naming this series, or category, of Brick entries The Storm because the metaphorical sense works well. The NSNC is meeting here to see how the recovery is going, so long since Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. But as journalists as well, we want to use this knowledge to be better in our home communities. So other catastrophes have come up.

A panel I moderated, on coverage of mental illness, went from Katrina to the Virginia Tech shootings of April 16, 2007. Elsewhere we discussed this month’s flooding in the Midwest, worst in Iowa. Each of these is The Storm.

The Storm is inevitable. Maybe it’s global warming, or societal pressures, but every so often there’s an overwhelming natural or manmade disaster. The Storm.

Comments to Brick always are welcome, but they’re even moreso with this series. Columnists are invited to contrast how they view what we’ve seen and heard with my shaky notes and recollections.

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