“One thing you know about folks in Louisiana, they are resilient. People in Mississippi they are resilient. They know what tough times are like, but they know they can bounce back.” – President Barack Obama, September 3, 2012
Today marks the 127th day of production. Since leaving Seattle, we’ve visited over a dozen communities that have experienced the deadliest and most devastating disasters in American history. Along the way, we’ve heard some truly amazing survival stories and met some incredibly inspirational people.
Right now, we’re in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. It’s a small fishing village (pop. 1,904) located at the southern end of Louisiana Highway 45 along Bayou Barataria. As the crow flies, it’s just 15 miles from New Orleans. But culturally, it’s a world apart. Primarily inhabited by a proud, tight knit group of Cajun, Creole, and Spaniards with ancestral roots dating back to the early 19th century, the oral history of Jean Lafitte is so rich and colorful that one might think the War of 1812 was fought last week.
We’re here because it’s one of the coastal communities most severely damaged by wind, rain and tidal surge during Hurricane Isaac. According to Mayor Tim Kerner, “It’s the 8th major natural disaster to hit my town in the last 7 years.” The town also suffers from the long acknowledged lack of flood protection, the loss of wetland and wildlife habitat, polluted air, and the ongoing scourge from the BP oil spill and use of the oil dispersant, Corexit.
“My life has been turned upside down,” says Christopher Areas, a former shrimp fisherman. “The commercial fishing industry that was central to the economic health of the community, notice I said past tense, has been utterly devastated. My wife who owns a seafood restaurant has been damaged again, the BP oil spill hurt her business and now I’m not sure how we’ll come back after Isaac, but we will,” confides Areas, whom we met while he was attempting to salvage his home after it stood flooded for two days with over a foot of water after Isaac.
Meanwhile, our plan is to embed ourselves here for the next six weeks alongside Cherri Foytlin and our partners at 28 Stones, a Gulf Coast based media organization developed to highlight individuals, groups and communities who are working to combat social and environmental injustices, and to connect them with national and global concerns through the use of art, music, video and written word outreach.
Collectively, our goal is to conduct an in-depth character study documenting the reasons why the residents of the Gulf Coast are considered the most resilient of all Americans. We also want to learn why the national media refuses to cover the plight of the people here, given the wrath of natural and human-caused disasters they’ve suffered through in recent years.
The content produced in Jean Lafitte will serve as the main storyline for Storm Surge. It’s the thread that ties three years of production, 35,000 miles of travel, and 200+ hours of interviews and background footage into three centralized themes – Survival, Resiliency and Recovery.