September 29, 2005

Legacy Blogging

"I will not forget. I promise to remember forever. I will live my life better and for all of us because I am alive and you are no longer. I won't let this happen again. I will remind the world for you, the students of Tiananmen Square. My Heroes. My Big Brothers and Sisters.

From the BBC's So what's the point of blogging

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:26 PM | Permalink

No Freedom Museum at WTC site

Good news. From the AP

Bowing to pressure from furious Sept. 11 families, Gov. George Pataki on Wednesday removed a proposed freedom museum from the space reserved for it at ground zero, saying the project had aroused ''too much opposition, too much controversy.

There may be a place for a Freedom museum, but not at Ground Zero where people were not killed struggling for freedom, but senselessly by Islamic fascist terrorists. The best use of the speech is a solemn memorial period.

To all those at Take Back the Memorial, thank you. To Debra Burlingame, you have our gratitude, again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:44 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2005

RFID tags track dead victims

For the first time, RFID tags are being used to manage morgue cases. Radio chips are helping morgue keep track of hurricane victims.

Radio frequency identification chips — slender red cylinders about half an inch long — were implanted under the corpses' skin or placed inside body bags at two Mississippi counties.

Each VeriChip, donated by a subsidiary of Applied Digital Solutions Inc., emits a specific radio signal, enabling morgue workers to quickly locate and catalog the remains, speed the morgue-management process and reduce errors.

With 48 of the 133 bodies recovered in Harrison and Hancock counties still unidentified as of Sunday, Harrison County Coroner Gary T. Hargrove said the chips have been a boon to the Disaster Mortuary Operational Recovery Team he oversees. "It's better enabled me to do my job as the coroner — tracking and getting people's loved ones back to them quickly," he said.

Beside tagging the storm victims, which are kept in refrigerated trucks at Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport, the chips are helping Hargrove catalog other human remains that the flood waters dislodged from caskets and burial vaults.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2005

Birth dearth

Edmund Burke wrote in 1790 that the very nature of the state is a contract between generations, "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born."

James Pinkerton in a masterful review of the Corpse Bride asks why the movie isn't truer to its Russian folk tale roots. The original tale has roots in the Ukranian-shetl 'cholera wedding' held in a cemetery that concludes when the living bride cradles the corpse bride in her arms and says,

Don't worry, I'll live your dreams for you, I'll live your hopes for you, I'll have your children for you, I'll have enough children for the two of us and you can rest in peace knowing that our children and our children's children will be well cared for and will not forget us.

Pinkerton ponders the duty the dead impose upon the living
a duty that's both awe-inspiring and empowering. One can feel crushed by that burden, but one can also feel inspired to great feats -- the point of the [movie Chariots of Fire.]

He says
Death at a young age doesn't loom over us today, as it did in centuries past. What we must live with instead is in a way even more mysterious and ominous -- the lack of young life.

The birth-dearth, the too-little examined consequence of an aging society, is having profound consequences in Europe. It will roil our societies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2005

Legacy from Leonardo?

   Magdelene

Was this painting Mary Magdalene by Leonardo da Vinci ?

Carlo Pedretti , director of the Center for Leonardo Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, says yes.

He may have collaborated with a student. Laboratory tests are underway for this painting which has been in private hands for the last 100 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:43 PM | Permalink

Third Age Blog

I'm one voice in a group of talented people each with a distinctive voice, experience and expertise: Connie Goldman, Jacqueline Marcell, Jed Diamond, Lisa Haneberg, Rinatte Paries, Ronni Bennett, Sharon Whiteley, Susan Anderson, Susan Mitchell, Tom Blake and Yvonne Divita.

I write about many of the same things I do on Business of Life and Legacy Matters but often in a more personal way.

Until I can get me on of those doohickies that signifies a new post on another blog, I'm just going to periodically round-up a group of posts and link them here in reverse chronological order.

Rules of Life
Responding to Suffering
Make Haste for a Neighborhood Barbecue
Lessons of Katrina
Afraid to Get Prepared?
Intensely Alive While Dying
Why Can't We Talk About the Important Things?
A Gift of Stories
Good enough is good enough
Learning from Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2005

How Will We Remember 9/11 at Ground Zero?

I totally agree with Jeff Jarvis in what I hope is the last gasp of the International Freedom Center's plan to build a multicultural museum about freedom at the site of 9/11, the World Trade Towers, on Ground Zerp. Do not build it. Not here.


The IFC assumes a link between the struggle for freedom and the deaths that day. Says the IFC:
It will tangibly link September 11 and the lives of its victims
to humanity’s greatest idea: freedom.

But what is that link? Nothing about September 11th was about liberating people. The people who were killed that day were free. They were not struggling to be free. The murderers, too, were free and exploited that freedom to commit this act.
--The struggle here is for civilization against extremism, fanaticism, and criminality. So make your center, elsewhere, about terrorism, then. Have your seminars and events and debates about extremism. Study religious fanaticism. This actually is not about freedom.
I too want a memorial that celebrates the great heroes of that day, especially the New York Fire Department.
The film will show how the World Trade Center attracted people from all over the globe to a place in which national and cultural differences were subsumed in trade and commerce—how Lower Manhattan has, in essence, always been an international freedom center, drawing people to a dream of free and better lives.
The memorial should be about the senselessness of the tragedy on a perfect morning in September, the people who died, the lives affected and how ordinary people did extraordinary things.

The Christian scholar and author Os Guiness said shortly after 9/11 that horror and tragedy crack open the human heart and force the beauty out. It is in terrible times that people with great goodness inside become most themselves. He said, "The real mystery is not the mystery of evil but the mystery of goodness."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 PM | Permalink

A BBC Blooper

Disk jockey:

"This one is from Glen Miller, who became a living legend as a result of his untimely death..."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:11 AM | Permalink

September 20, 2005

Simon Wiesenthal, Nazi Hunter

Simon Wiesenthal died in his sleep at 96. He helped track down Nazi war criminals following World War II and spent decades fighting anti-Semitism. His greatest success was the discovery in Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, the man Adolf Hitler entrusted with carrying out his genocidal campaign against the Jews.

From the Associated Press.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, “I think he’ll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice,”
----
“When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren’t able to kill millions of people and get away with it,” he once said. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Wiesenthal “brought justice to those who had escaped justice.” “He acted on behalf of 6 million people who could no longer defend themselves,” ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. “The state of Israel, the Jewish people and all those who oppose racism recognized Simon Wiesenthal’s unique contribution to making our planet a better place.”

UPDATE: I like this Wiesenthal quote, found at It Comes in Pints

"Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived. The answer I have found for myself (and which need not necessarily be the answer for every survivor) is: I want to be their mouthpiece, I want to keep their memory alive, to make sure the dead live on in that memory."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:54 PM | Permalink

Katrina death toll

The death toll from Katrina has climbed to 973, every one a tragedy.

We can only be thankful that the initial estimates of 10,000 were far too high.

Many were elderly and died in the withering heat the New York Times reported yesterday in a front page article that no longer appears on the Times website.

We can be thankful too, that the death toll is nothing like the 35,000 - 40,000 dead in the 2003 heatwave in Europe.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:33 PM | Permalink

Bob Dylan's Legacy

Bob Dylan is looking to control his own legacy reports the Wall St. Journal. If Dylan's taking care to choose how he wants to be remembered, shouldn't you be thinking about the same thing?

With a torrent of new projects focusing on his most-revered period, from 1961 to 1966, the singer is pre-empting the posthumous image-massaging that has confronted many rock estates by dealing with his own legacy now, while the 64-year-old is still very much alive.

The DVD release today of the 3½-hour, Martin Scorsese-directed documentary "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" is part of a multipronged project in which Mr. Dylan has aggressively focused attention on his transformation from baby-faced folk singer to rock 'n' roll icon.
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In that way, Mr. Dylan is staking out unusual ground for a rock star. The process of picking through an artist's archives for clues about his or her creative evolution is often left to heirs and others after the musician's death. The estates of Jimi Hendrix, Mr. Cobain and Tupac Shakur all have made cottage industries of issuing rarities, album outtakes, obscure live recordings, and the like. But that process is often contentious, like the long legal battle among Mr. Hendrix's heirs, record labels and producers. The fights frequently lead to cheap repackagings of old material, designed more to make heirs a quick buck than to craft a lasting legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:21 PM | Permalink

September 16, 2005

Photos of the Dead

In Tennessee a 12 year old girl was watching a police presentation about drinking and driving when one of the gruesome photos they showed was of the remains of her father. Needless to say, she was traumatized.

Among the reasons we don't usually show photos of the dead is that such a gruesome photo can drive all other pleasant, happy, loving mental images of the deceased out of one's mind.

Showing respect for the dead is one of the hallmarks of every culture on earth.

  Time Christopher Morris

  Army Collecting Bodies-1

  Time Katrina Dead Chris Usher

Only if a photograph showing a dead body can be in no way identified by a grieving family member should it ever be published. The images are shocking enough as the Time magazine photo essay shows.

 Time Mag Photo Essay-1

What to me was far more shocking was the time it took to remove dead bodies from the streets.

Rest in peace all those who suffered such an undignified death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:12 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2005

Skin of executed Chinese prisoners

This is where some collagen comes from and it beggars comment. Nothing I could say could convey the breadth and depth of my disgust.
A special report from the Guardian The beauty products from skin of executed Chinese prisoners.

A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.


Agents for the firm have told would-be customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot. The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is "traditional" and nothing to "make such a big fuss about".
--


The agent told the researcher: "A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoner and aborted foetus." This material, he said, was being bought from "bio tech" companies based in the northern province of Heilongjiang, and was being developed elsewhere in China.
---
The agent said his company exported to the west via Hong Kong."We are still in the early days of selling these products, and clients from abroad are quite surprised that China can manufacture the same human collagen for less than 5% of what it costs in the west." Skin from prisoners used to be even less expensive, he said. "Nowadays there is a certain fee that has to be paid to the court."

Because collagen is injected under the skin, it's not a cosmetic. Yet, it's not a medical product or medicine. Until new regulations are drawn, such collagen remains perfectly legal in the U.K. and the E.U.

Apart from the enormous ethical concerns, there are health worries. Injected collagen could possibly spread hepatitis and variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.

It makes you wonder doesn't it, which celebrities have already been plumped up and with what.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:52 AM | Permalink

September 12, 2005

A River of Gold

From the American Digest, reposted, a personal memory of September 11 from Brooklyn Heights, seeing it all in real time and real space. Gerard Van Der Leun, The Wind in the Heights

In time, everyone had passed by as well and the street was empty except for the settling smoke. I looked outside the window where a small maple grew and noticed that its leaves were covered with small yellow flecks. I looked down at the sill outside the windows and saw the yellow flecks there as well.


At some point in the next few minutes it dawned on me that there would be no bodies to speak of found in the incinerating rubble across the river. I knew then -- as certainly as I have even known anything -- that all those who had still been in the towers had gone into the smoke and that, in some way, the gleaming bits of yellow ash were their tokens, were what they had become.

And I knew that all they had become had fallen upon us as we ran in the smoke; that we had breathed them in when the wind reached us; that they were covering the houses and the sills and the cars and the sidewalks and the benches and the shrubs and the trees all about us.

What they had become was what the wind without a storm had left behind. Now that it had passed everything was, again, silent and calm with the blue sky above the houses on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights beginning to emerge from the fading smoke as the breeze of the harbor shifted the plume away from us and moved it uptown, into Manhattan, leaving the Heights again as an elite enclave, above and to the side of New York City.

The yellow flecks stayed like small stars on the surface of everything in the Heights for three days until the first rains came on a late afternoon to wash them away. I walked out into that rain and back down Pierrepont to the Promenade where for months the fires would burn across the river. The rain came straight down and there was no wind. As I walked down the sidewalk I noticed the rainwater running off the trees and the buildings and moving down the gutter to the drains that would take it to the harbor and the sea. And that water was, for only a minute or so before it ran clear, the color of gold.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:15 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2005

Documenting Historical Places

Via Instapundit, reader Jim Martin urges people to detail the historic structures in which they live.

As inexpensive as digital images are and having the ability to archive them on DVD discs everyone should take the time to photograph, in detail, the histOric structures where they live. The huge damage Katrina wrought to the Gulf Coast is a hard lesson for the rest of the coutry. Most of the old antebellum mansions are totally erased and will never be recontsucted. It would have been nice to have had detailed photos of them for posterity in a safe place far from hurricanes.

There are hundreds of old buildings, some on the National Registry of Historic Sites, which need to be photographed from all angles: up close, inside and outside to show minute detail of construction methods. Molded ceiling plaster motifs come to mind. If any of these structures are damaged by fire or storms and enough remains for restoration, architects and builders will find photos taken as special projects by archivists a great advantage.

A weekend is all many would require, a great Fall project to get started. Go to the mountains and take photos of log cabins when the leaves have changed. Go to historic sites in your hometown, all of them, large and small. They aren't important until they are gone and it's too late.

Good advice and a great family project. We are connected in many ways, part of the houses we inhabit and the communities where we live.

You don't have to have an historic house to document it easily for the future. Who knows what use it can be put to in the decades ahead?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink

DMORT

What is DMORT? Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team.

It's part of the National Disaster Medical System, DMORT. They are private citizens, each with a particular field of expertise, who are activated in the event of disaster when they become temporary federal employees.
Their responsibilities include:

• temporary morgue facilities
• victim identification
• forensic dental pathology
• forensic anthropology methods
• processing
• preparation
• disposition of remains

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:31 AM | Permalink

September 8, 2005

William Rehnquist, R.I.P.

The body of Chief Justice William Rehnquist lay in repose for two days at the Supreme Court in Washington.  His austere pine casket, flag-draped, was bourn by six pallbearers, all of whom served at one time as his clerk. 

Imagine the thoughts of one of them, Judge John Roberts, nominated  to succeed Justice Rehnquist as Chief Justice, as he carried the coffin of his mentor up the stairs to the Upper Great Hall and placed it on a catafalque that once held the body of President Abraham Lincoln.  His past and future poised at the fulcrum of the reality of one death.

The New York Times reports on his funeral yesterday.

With soaring song and fond stories, family and friends recalled Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on Wednesday not as the cerebral public conservative who helped transform the Supreme Court but as the private man who loved history, singing and cards and showed "how a wise man looks at the law and a good man looks at life," as President Bush put it in his eulogy.

Imagine his friend ever since Stanford Law 59 years ago, Sandra Day O'Connor who

spoke tenderly of an old friend turned colleague who relished wagers on everything from sports to the amount of snow that would fall in the court's courtyard....
If you valued your money, you would be careful about betting with the chief; he usually won," Justice O'Connor told more than 1,000 mourners at St. Matthew's Cathedral, including Mr. Rehnquist's designated successor and onetime law clerk, John G. Roberts Jr. "I think the chief bet he could live out another term despite his illness. He lost that bet, as did all of us, but he won all the prizes for a life well-lived. We love you, William Hubbs Rehnquist."
----
The service nevertheless amounted to an extraordinary glimpse into the chief justice's personal side, much of which was well known to the Supreme Court bench and bar, but unseen by the public in his 33 years on the court and all but invisible in the months of his final illness, in which the court even declined to say precisely which kind of thyroid cancer he had.
There was thundering classical music from organ, brass and drums, some of it still new when the framers of the Constitution were growing up, including the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah," a performance of which Chief Justice Rehnquist made a point of attending for 50 consecutive Christmas seasons through last year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 PM | Permalink

Guidance for Mourners

Tom Peters reports in Nice! on an obituary he chanced upon in the Vineyard Gazette.  The deceased was Stanley Murray and the guidance to mourners was as follows:


"In lieu of flowers, please buy some coffee for the person behind you in line at Dippin' Donuts or Espresso Love and tell them it's from Stan."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:08 PM | Permalink

Bodies of the Dead

The Anchoress speaks for me in Echoes of Madame DeFarge.  I can add nothing to her eloquent outrage.

…shouldn’t common decency for our fellow human beings preclude the exposure of our dead to sell papers and garner ratings?
Oh, I know, I know, I know, some are saying their are “noble” reasons for showing the dead. What might those be, please? Because I am trying to understand why the press quite rightly decided that NONE of the dead of 9/11 should be shown (after the first day or so’s shock wore off), but now believe that Katrina’s dead should be put on display.
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Please tell me how, suddenly, it would be quite all right for some distressed evacuee, now living in a Texas shelter, to look up at a television screen and see a bloated, discolored “Grandma!” floating in the filthy water. Please tell me how, suddenly, it would be a positive thing for a child to see his dead, disheveled mother, or for some mother to see her floating, half-eaten baby?
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I don’t care how much you hate the president and want to do his presidency harm - it is indecent and grossly insensitive to the surviving family members of these folks to put their bodies on public display.

There is news reporting, and then there is cruel and gratuitous, sensationalistic voyeurism, which serves nothing but a malicious feeling, and a base instinct.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 AM | Permalink

September 6, 2005

Small towns become morgues for Gulf Coast

Two small towns will soon become two big morgues.

In Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, a small town of 8000 where Norma Singlet, a grandmotherly woman faces the grim job of identifying neighbors

She  will be aided by DMORTs,  Disaster Mortuary Assistance Teams from FEMA, who will conduct a grid search, town by town, to find and retrieve bodies.  "Some of the discoveries are hideous."    What keeps people working in such circumstances?  "In my opinion, it's determination and love of your fellow man," said Singlet.

In Louisiana, it's St Gabriel, a small town of 5300,  outside of Baton Rouge, reports the New York Times.

"Our goal is to do everything we can under the circumstances to treat each body with as much dignity and respect as we possibly can," said Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, which is managing the mortuary operation with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We're trying to treat them all as individuals."

Many of the dead on the Gulf Coast will never be identified.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

September 5, 2005

Miss Vera

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Jim Stratton, Neighbors unite to bring dignity for dead woman left in street.

  Here Lies Vera


I watched them bury Miss Vera on Saturday.

They laid her on the sidewalk at the corner of Magazine Street and Jackson Avenue on the border of the city's Garden District.

She'd been dead since Tuesday -- the victim of a hit-and-run -- and her body had been sprawled in the street next to a lush little pocket park for four days. The number 29, the New Orleans police code for death, was scrawled in orange spray paint on the sidewalk.

Friends and neighbors had tried to get someone to pick her up, but they'd had no luck.

When a city is sinking and exploding, the bloated, decaying body of one Hispanic woman isn't a huge priority.

So Saturday, John Lee, Patrick McCarthy and Maggie McEleney decided it was time someone treated Miss Vera with some dignity. She was, after all, their neighbor.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 PM | Permalink

September 4, 2005

Painted numbers tell tale of death

We're only beginning to hear tales from the outlying areas.

From Chalmette

Search teams from as far away as Canada ride airboats through receding waters in a parish that's become a virtual ghost town except for the rescue workers. They conduct house-to-house searches for anyone who might still be alive. When they finish searching a building, they leave a spray-painted marker to indicate whether anyone was found.


An "X" means the house was empty. A number indicates how many bodies were discovered. On one house, just a block away from the Bell South building where evacuees are being taken for decontamination before being transported to the slip, a blue-pained "6'' tells the gruesome tale of what became of those inside.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 PM | Permalink

September 3, 2005

An Empty Sodden Tomb

An empty sodden tomb is how the AP describes New Orleans this Saturday night,

Thousands more bedraggled refugees were bused and airlifted to salvation Saturday, leaving the heart of New Orleans to the dead and dying, the elderly and frail stranded too many days without food, water or medical care.

No one knows how many were killed by Hurricane Katrina's floods and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating among the ruined city, crumpled on wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 PM | Permalink

Death from the Sea, Galveston, 1900

Quote from Death from the Sea: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 by Herbert Molloy Mason, Jr. 

Looters found despoiling the dead were stood against the nearest wall or pile of debris and shot without hindrance of a trial. The grisly work of collecting the dead continued by torchlight. The workers were issued generous rations of bourbon and strong cigars. They breathed through handkerchiefs soaked in bourbon and smoked cigars to mask the smell.

In the sweltering heat that followed the storm, decomposition was rapid. The bodies soon lost the rigidity of rigor mortis and had to be shoveled into carts. At times the fixed bayonets of the militia were all that kept many of the men at their work. Superintendents of the work gangs were finally given permission to torch the wreckage wherever found rather than try to extricate pieces of flesh from the ruins and cart them away.

“It was like living in a battlefield. The fuel-oil smoke hung over the city, day and night, and the heavy air was never free of the smell of carbolic acid, of lime, of putrefaction.”

From Charles Johnson at LGF who also has this quote from a Dallas paper.


Looters found despoiling the dead were summarily executed by the militia - stood against the nearest wall or pile of debris and shot without the hindrance of a trial. The same brutal justice was delivered to amateur photographers. “Word received from Galveston today indicates that Kodak fiends are being shot down like thieves. Two, it is stated, were killed yesterday while taking pictures of nude female bodies.”

— Dallas News, September 14, 1900.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

Leeden on Doomed Cities

Michael Leeden has a wonderful piece on the Doomed Cities, comparing New Orleans with Venice and Naples.


New Orleans is one of a handful of cities that are defined in large part by the recognition that it can all come to an end most any day. Joel Lockhart Dyer wrote that "New Orleans is North America's Venice; both cities are living on borrowed time." New Orleans and Venice are both subject to the vagaries of the water gods, and both have acted sporadically to fend off their seemingly inevitable fate. But their basic response to the looming disaster has been defiance, a ritual assertion of life in the face of the inevitable, and an embrace of human frailty that echoes the frailty of the city itself.
-------  ----------
as Frederick Starr puts it in his excellent book on New Orleans, "death...was not merely a private drama occurring in the intimate circle of one's family, but a civic event, experienced by the entire community." Both cities have a highly developed culture of death. The dead are believed to be actively involved in daily life, busily haunting houses and even restaurants, sending dream messages to the living, and organizing good and bad fortune for those who have or lack proper respect for the inhabitants of the spiritual realm.

The dead themselves require special treatment, because both cities lack proper traditional burial grounds. New Orleans is below sea level, and the soil in Naples is very porous, so the dead are usually placed in tombs, not in the ground. In some Neapolitan churches, you can see skeletons in the walls, and local artists paint clothing around the skeletons. This sort of intimacy with the dead is unknown in most of the modern world.

The combination of a rich culture of death with the looming threat of catastrophe is an intoxicating mélange for the spirit, and it no doubt explains why so many great writers have been drawn to these two southern cities, both of which have developed a unique version of Catholicism, often to the consternation of Rome. As Starr observes of New Orleans (and it is equally true of Naples), "all this frivolity occurs in the very city which, for over two centuries, Death visited more ruthlessly than anywhere else on the continent."

Doomed cities with an intimate relationship with the dead are special places, incubators of exceptional qualities of spirit and thus of extraordinary inventiveness. If we have lost one of those cities to the forces of nature, it will impoverish our world far beyond the enormous human tragedy. Even if it was long foreseen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2005

Struggling with Dead Bodies

The struggle to deal with dead bodies is only beginning.

In Mississippi, coroners are conducting autopsies in parking lots because the only available light is from the sun.

Crews are driving around coastal Mississippi picking up dead bodies and depositing them in refrigerated mobile morgues.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2005

Death on the Road to Safety

Heart-breaking.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune Breaking News Weblog, Keith Spera writes


At 91 years old, Booker Harris ended his days propped on a lawn chair, covered by a yellow quilt and abandoned, dead, in front of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Mr. Harris died in the back of a Ryder panel truck Wednesday afternoon, as he and his 93-year-old wife, Allie, were evacuated from eastern New Orleans. The truck's driver deposited Allie and her husband's body on the Convention Center Boulevard neutral ground.

And there it remained.

With 3,000 or more evacuees stranded at the convention center -- and with no apparent contingency plan or authority to deal with them -- collecting a body was no one's priority. It was just another casualty in Hurricane Katrina's wake.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:56 PM | Permalink

No Dignity in Death

There is no dignity in dying in New Orleans these terrible days.  No jazz bands leading funeral processions.

  K Women Cries Near Dead Husband

When her common law husband, already ill with cancer, died from lack of oxygen, Evelyn Turner couldn't call a funeral home.

She wrapped his body in a sheet, laid him on a makeshift bier, and floated him down the street to the main road.

“There’s nothing we can do right now,” an officer said. “We don’t have any equipment.”


“So what I’m supposed to do? Sit with the body until you get somebody?” Turner asked.

“Unfortunately, yeah,” the officer replied. “That’s the only option I can give you. Because we have no way of getting to him.”


“Oh Lordy,” Turner said in despair.

From MSNBC, Moving dead becomes city's second priority.

Rest in peace, Xavier Bowie.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:01 AM | Permalink