Monday, December 26, 2005

Thanks for Everything Nebraska

About 3 AM we plan on leaving Nebraska and driving back to New Orleans. Inside our car will be four people, two dogs, 1 sugar glider, and tons of stuff. Most of the stuff includes Christmas presents, clothes, and things we collected in just four short months. Our families, friends, and pretty much everybody in Nebraska have been very helpful while we were misplaced. Thanks.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Oot the Sugar Glider's Last Leg?

We came home tonight after our 6th of 7 Christmases, and Oot the Sugar Glider is either very sick or hibernating. More later...
It's later now, and Oot seems fine. I guess Nebraska winters are too much for his tropical blood.

Update: Oot recovered and he's doing great now that he is back in Louisiana.

Christmas Day

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I got coal, again. The kids made out better:
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Friday, December 23, 2005

Detective Needed! One Bear, One Boat Motor, and Some Lingerie

I was on Xavier's campus December 11th helping students and their families get personal stuff out of their dorms. After this, on my walk home, I saw many amazing things brought about by the hurricane and flood waters that ravaged New Orleans. But one thing that I saw amazed and bedaffled me like I had never been bedaffled before. It was this amazing sight.
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As you can see, it was a large teddy bear, wearing lingerie, and just to the right of this saucy stuffed animal was a small outboard boat engine. I have several theories about what happened prior to this moment, but I need you, the readers of this blog, to play detective and give me your theories about what happened just before that bizarre and fateful moment when this bear, wearing this lingerie, came to rest next to this boat motor. I should also add that the concrete you see on the top is the canal that runs by Xavier. This same canal further to the north is the infamous 17th street canal that breached. So have at it detectives.

Glasses and Wal-Mart

I woke up yesterday morning and to my horror my glasses were broken. Here in Omaha where we set up our refugee camp, I don't have a night stand and so I sleep with my glasses under my pillow. But that morning, they were snapped in two, broken right on the nose bridge.
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So Therese and I went to get me new glasses. I also got contacts, but they are hard for me to wear because I don't like touching my eyes. There was some silver lining in all of this. My old glasses were purchased about four years ago following an episode that I like to call "Gilgamesh flushed Abu's glasses down the toilet while he was in the shower." Not only did I lose my glasses, but I got very cold water also. But I bought them from a Sam's Club in New Orleans. I didn't know at the time that Sam's Club and Walmart were essentially the same company. And everytime I would explain to friends like Mark Gstohl (or whatever he calls himself these days) why they should boycott Wal-Mart, he would point to my glasses in what he thought was a triumphal sign of hypocrisy. So now that I have new glasses, I am free of all former connections to Wal-Mart, and I can see more clearly and righteously. But honestly, right now my glasses are in the shop waiting for me to pick them up, and it is 6AM, and I don't have my contacts in yet, so I'm not seeing clearly at all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

93-0

The Senate unanimously passed a 29 billion dollar bill for hurricane recovery today. It also included 1.6 billion for hurricane ravaged schools. Thank you.

Curfew A Go Go

This Friday, starting at 6 AM, it will be technically legal for me to be in my house, outside of my house, and even walking on my street 24 hours a day. This has not been the case for nearly four months. The curfew, which at first was all day, then was limited to nightime hours, then more recently 2AM-6AM, is now totally lifted for areas such as mine that are west of the Industrial Canal. But I won't be in New Orleans. Instead I'll be in Columbus NE hanging out with my brother Jim and his family, my sister Chris, and my dad. On a sad note, Crystal hot sauce, my favorite sauce with oysters, used to be right by my house, but now they are moving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Hate You Ted Stevens!

Today the Senate has a very hard decision to make. They have to vote on a $453.3 billion defense bill handed to them by the House of Representatives. Of this, $29 billion was for a hurricane recovery package. But Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) at the last minute attached a controversial provision to allow drilling for oil in the ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). Thus, it seems that the defense bill and hurricane relief, two things which would have easily passed, are now in jeopardy of failing. Also, just when it looked like it would pass Congress, the Baker Bill which would have helped avert thousands of mortgage foreclosures failed due to opposition from the White House and banking lobbies. Basically the plan put forth by Richard Baker (R-Baton Rouge) would have formed a corporation that would have bought hurricane/flood damaged property, and in the end people would have received about 60% of their lost equity. Without it many people, including us, are considering faulting on our mortgage as an option, leaving us with very bad credit. What looks like it will pass the Senate easily is a $39.7 billion budget cut, reducing student loans, cutting Medicare and Medicaid, and making pensions less secure. Merry Christmas America. I wonder if I would like this crowd better if I were rich?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What To Do With Our House?

The 140 mph winds of Hurricane Katrina severely racked our house. That means that the bottom story of our two story house leans to the side. I'm sure this awesome graphic will better explain what happened:
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The wind blew our house so that the walls on the bottom floor lean much more than the walls on the top floor.
In the picture below Therese is holding a level to a board that is straight up and down. However, as you can see from the door jams in relationship to that straight board, our house is crooked.
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It turns out that every 90 inches one goes up on our walls, it leans 4 1/8 inches over. That calculates to it leaning 2.62 degrees. We could live with that. Especially if I got some shoes where one was taller than the other. Well, actually I could live with a crooked house easier than Therese, but who could blame her for not wanting to live in a crooked house. It's like a Fun House that isn't so fun. But the biggest problem is that in time it will continue to lean more and more, and pretty soon it will be touching our neighbor Mike's house.

So we're not sure what to do with the house. Basically our decision comes down to raising or razing. We could fix the house. That would mean leveling the floor of the house, repairing the foundation, and then straightening the walls. Most people think that would cost in the neighborhood of $80,000. What I like about this option is that is saves a beautiful 100 year old house from destruction. I prefer old things over new things, as after all, I am an ancient Near Eastern historian. It was also the first home that Therese and I bought. Our children's heights are marked on the door jams of their rooms. Therese and I have also spent so much time and money renovating the house. I know every detail about it. So it is like a friend. But many people say that you need to make this decision financially and not emotionally.

If we fix the house we would also have to totally rewire the house, costing about $15,000. Some of our house still has the old knob and tube wiring.
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We would also need another $5000 for plumbing. Then you would have to put in new insullation and sheet rock. In the end it would cost almost all of the $157,000 that we spent to purchase the house. So is it worth it?

If we tear it down, which costs about $25,000, then we could do several things. We could rebuild a new house on the lot, we could keep the lot for a few years and sell it when we need some cash. We could also sell the house and lot to someone else who will demolish it. We're still waiting, now more than 110 days after filing the claim, to hear from our insurance company. They tell us that an engineer may or may not have been to the place. Gee, thanks Allstate.

You can see more photos of our racked house in this Flickr set.

A Few Photosets from New Orleans

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thank You Mr President

Although President Bush has callously refused my invitation to help me tear out walls and fix our house, he did pledge 3.1 billion yesterday to help fortify our levees. That is the first step to making this city great once again, and I would like to thank him for that. I know it won't be a popular proposal to many congressional leaders in this country, and so I hope it isn't just rhetoric that is stalled in legislation.

Death of An American City (NYT)

On December 11, 2005, this Editorial ran in the New York Times. It reflects many things that I've seen, believe, am ashamed of, and want to happen. Thank you Mr/Ms Editorial person.

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.

The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed.

The price tag for protection against a Category 5 hurricane, which would involve not just stronger and higher levees but also new drainage canals and environmental restoration, would very likely run to well over $32 billion. That is a lot of money. But that starting point represents just 1.2 percent of this year's estimated $2.6 trillion in federal spending, which actually overstates the case, since the cost would be spread over many years. And it is barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.

Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

Losing a major American city.

"We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better," President Bush said that night in September. Our feeling, strongly, is that he was right and should keep to his word. We in New York remember well what it was like for the country to rally around our city in a desperate hour. New York survived and has flourished. New Orleans can too.

Of course, New Orleans's local and state officials must do their part as well, and demonstrate the political and practical will to rebuild the city efficiently and responsibly. They must, as quickly as possible, produce a comprehensive plan for putting New Orleans back together. Which schools will be rebuilt and which will be absorbed? Which neighborhoods will be shored up? Where will the roads go? What about electricity and water lines? So far, local and state officials have been derelict at producing anything that comes close to a coherent plan. That is unacceptable.

The city must rise to the occasion. But it will not have that opportunity without the levees, and only the office of the president is strong enough to goad Congress to take swift action. Only his voice is loud enough to call people home and convince them that commitments will be met.

Maybe America does not want to rebuild New Orleans. Maybe we have decided that the deficits are too large and the money too scarce, and that it is better just to look the other way until the city withers and disappears. If that is truly the case, then it is incumbent on President Bush and Congress to admit it, and organize a real plan to help the dislocated residents resettle into new homes. The communities that opened their hearts to the Katrina refugees need to know that their short-term act of charity has turned into a permanent commitment.

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.

Streetcars

The streetcars are coming back to our neighborhood on Canal Street. They are supposed to return on Christmas Eve, and I can't wait to see them again. Unfortunately, the streetcar line on St Charles Ave was heavily damaged, and the RTA doesn't know when they will be back.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quick Update from New Orleans

Therese and I are in New Orleans. We've been here for about five days. It's been difficult and depressing. We learned we can't get electricity restored in our house and that most people think we'll have to bulldoze the property and build from scratch. Raise our house or raze it, that is the question. So we focused on plumbing. We thought if we could get hot water we could live there. The biggest problem was the vent for our new tankless hot water system. We're hoping to meet with the plumber today, check the pressure in the gas lines, and then meet with a city inspector sometime soon. If all that goes OK, then maybe in a few weeks an Entergy employee will come turn on our gas. It will have cost about $2500 in the end to get hot water. I've never had a $2,500 shower, but I'm looking forward to it. Finally, we have new cell phones. My number is 504 377-7284. Therese's number is 504 377-7272. She got the cooler number.

Blogged from Rue de la Course coffee shop, because the New Orleans wireless network sucks.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Packing for Reconnaissance

Tonight Therese has her final class of the semester at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She took two courses at UNO, which must have been hard for her given all this turmoil, and after tonight she will be just two courses away from finishing her Masters as a Reading Specialist. Then around midnight we'll head out down I-29 to Kansas City, cut across to St Louis, and then south on I-55 to New Orleans. The trip usually takes about 17 hours, but with heavy snow reported in Kansas and Missouri it might take longer. We plan on being in New Orleans about a week. Our goals are to take out walls and treat the foundation and studs for any mold, to try to meet with a plumber and city inspector and get gas hooked up again (for hot water, heat, and cooking), and to talk to a few electricians about the possibility of getting the electricity turned on upstairs, as the upstairs didn't flood and won't need to be totally rewired. We also plan on seeing some friends, eating some great food, hearing some jazz, and getting the house ready for the triumphal return of Gilgamesh and Kalypso shortly after Christmas. To reach that end I have a generator, some kerosine heaters and lamps, and a few solar lights and candles. Hot water will be the biggest obstace. I plan on placing a large black hose on the balcony, which I hope will heat up during the day, and then each evening there should be enough "warm" water for two short showers with a hose. Oh yeah, and we're putting the two dogs in our completely filled car. That should be fun. I hope the next time I can enter a post I'll be using the new free wireless in the French Quarter. Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Refugee or Concentration Camp at I-10 and Causeway?

On September 2nd-3rd, the night after I evacuated my house in New Orleans, I spent several hours inside this massive encampment of suffering people at the intersection of Causeway and Interstate 10. There I saw the most horrific scenes that I have ever witnessed. I estimated that I saw 20,000 people. A few were corpses, many were elderly, and in bad physical condition. I saw many people with Down syndrome, and casts, catheters, wheel chairs, all sorts of stuff. They were almost all people of color, except for the National Guard and police, who were almost all white. The National Guard and police were not letting people out of his area. Total disorder reigned on the ground inside the camp. I was glad I had my dogs with me, as that place was anything but safe. People inside the camp told me that they had been there three days. They were sitting outside without food and water in near 100 degree heat just waiting for buses. Every once in a while a bus will show up and there would be a mad rush of people to get a few seats out of that hell. I never saw this, as apparently only a few buses showed up in the daytime. I later learned that once you were on the bus, you couldn't get off, and they would later tell you where you were going. If you lived in Jackson but the bus was going to Utah, they wouldn't let you off the bus as it went through Jackson. You had to wait. And friend and family couldn't just come and get you out of this camp. There were barricades set up blocking the I-10 at LaPlace, about 20 miles away. I still get very angry at this country when I think about those suffering people in that camp. I think about what if my mother or children had to see such sights, and I get furious.

Five African American residents of New Orleans, Katrina survivors, testified before Congress today. Many members of Congress didn't believe what they heard. Four of the five citizens claimed race played a big role in the lack of recovery immediately after the flooding and even now. Some claimed that race played a role in the flooding to begin with. They said that if the stranded people were white that the government would have done more to help them. They said that National Guard troops pointed guns at their toddlers, and they were treated like criminals. Personally I believe that class had much to do with the situation as well, but I still believe that race played a major role. I saw it personally. These National Guard troops were scared to death because of race. They were mostly from rural areas and for them their knowledge of African Americans comes from TV shows like Cops. They pointed guns at many people, and there were plenty of racial slurs from both white groups and black that I heard driving around the city in a boat, as well as inside the camp. Another blogger who saw the same camp at Causeway and I-10 describes it as well.

I thought in the Congressional testimony today, the most interesting moments came when Leah Hodges claimed that "people were allowed to die" and likened what happened to the black residents of New Orleans to "genocide and ethnic cleansing." Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., asked Hodges to stop referring to the camp at I-10 and Causeway as the "Causeway Concentration Camp." He then asked Ms. Hodges is she knew just what happened in the Holocaust. Hodges retorted "I'm going to call it what it is, that is the only thing I could compare what we went through to." Miller kept asking her to stop with the analogy, and said that "Not a single person was marched into a gas chamber and killed." Hodges then said that the people "died from abject neglect" and "We left body bags behind."

I of course admit that nothing that happened in New Orleans was as bad as the Holocaust. And comparing tragedies and arguing about which was worse helps nobody. But I feel that New Orleans is on its own. And I believe that none of this would have happened in Connecticut.

Monday, December 05, 2005

CIA's Black Highlighters

According to The Onion, it turns out the CIA has mistakenly been using black highlighters.

Hardball in New Orleans

Therese and I will be driving down to New Orleans December 9th. We'll stay about a week tearing out walls and trying to live without gas and electricity. We're taking the dogs, but the kids will stay in Omaha. There are some interesting developments pertaining to New Orleans. First, Zulu, one of the greatest Mardi Gras krewes, has refused to parade on the city's new limited Uptown route. Instead, they are insisting that they roll on their traditional route through the Treme neighborhood. I think that is great. Endymion, a giant krewe and also very popular, traditionally paraded in my Mid-City neighborhood. However, this year they will roll in Uptown instead. By the way, I can't wait for this year's Mardi Gras, if you couldn't tell already.
Then according to the Washington Post, on the day after Mayor Nagin's announcement that all of New Olreans will have free Wifi, the phone company Bellsouth angrily took back an offer to donate one of their buildings to the New Orleans Police Department. We used to get our phone and internet service through Bellsouth.
Times Picayune columnistChris Rose explains how New Orleans is depressed and gravely in need of hope. It can be overwhelming. The radio, TV, media, signs in the street, actual devestation, it is all about death and tragedy. I remember being exhausted much in the same way as I was after September 11th, 2001, listening to all the horrible stories about lives lost and ruined. I get the same way when I live in East Jerusalem.
Finally, the radio station WWL 870 AM has been fantastic. They were the only media that stayed on the air throughout the storm and the flood. They are also the radio home of my new hero, Garland Robinette. But just the other day they went back to their original format with Rush Limbaugh between 11-2. Of course, the first time he is back on the air, a caller from New Orleans tells him things are awful down here, and that none of the great things Bush promised in Jackson square have come to exist. Limbaugh informed the listeners that he has two friends in the New Orleans area and they tell him things are just fine. WWL is rightly embarassed, and they have invited him to broadcast from New Orleans, and to drive to Lakeside and Gentilly and the 9th ward and my neighborhood Mid City. Things are just about the opposite of fine in New Orleans.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Santa Picture

After driving on icy streets, fighting for a parking spot at the mall, freezing as we walked a mile, waiting in line for an hour, and paying $15 to a disinterested worker, we got this:
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Letters to Santa Clause

Kalypso's (age 10) letter to Santa can be seen on her blog.

The following is Gilgamesh's (age 5) letter:
Dear Santa Clause,
I love you Santa Clause because you're my favorite person. I like you because you give toys, and I like your funny elves. You can bring toys, presents, and fun things for kids. I like presents. This year I was bad and good sometimes. Because my sister Kalypso sometimes beats me up and it hurts my feelings. At school I was good. I was especially good at field trips. On Christmas I like to play with blow up things like the Abominable snowman. I play with my friends, games in the world, and I'm nice. Sometimes I'm funny when I play with them. I make funny faces and make them laugh. When my mom tells me to brush my teeth I always brush my teeth. I come in and I listen to her. Sometimes I listen to my dad. I like to wrestle with him when his watch says it is fighting time. So Santa Clause, I want the Star Wars toys with the Darth Vader costume. I want the Batman gun thing because Batman is cool and he beats up bad guys. I want toys and maybe clothes if they are cool and a bicycle. I don't know why I said bicycle because it's gonna be real hard to do it. I'll let my sister ride it. When my sister dies I'll be a big person. I like Ninja Turtles toy things where they fight in the Ninja Turtle house. I want the game Mousetrap. I want the laser trip wire. And that's what I want for Christmas. That's all I want. OK Santa Clause? Santa Clause I love you, goodbye
Gilgamesh

Saturday, December 03, 2005

First Annual BibleDudes Awards

According to the latest entry in the BibleDudes blog, 2005 will be best remembered not for hurricanes, wars, or tsunamis, but for the inauguration of the BibleDudes awards. Send your nominees to mhoman@xula.edu.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Letters to My Congressional Leaders

Recently an editorial in the Times-Picayune urged all who love New Orleans to write to Congress to remind our leaders of promises made to New Orleans in the past, and why investing in the rebuilding of New Orleans matters. Even more recently, Norman Francis, the president of my university, encouraged those affiliated with Xavier to do the same. In my Theology 1120 course, as part of an exercise to get my students to be active and educated participants in government, I have them write letters to their elected officials arguing for some change to improve the world. So out of fear of being called a hypocrite by former students, and to possibly influence my government, and to be a cathartic exercise, I spent most of today writing letters to Congress. I wrote to a few people whom I don't much respect, such as the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. I wrote to a few people whom I admire, such as Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and John McCain. I wrote to my representatives in New Orleans, including my two senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, and my representative in the House for Louisiana's Second District William Jefferson. I also wrote to Bobby Jindal, the congressman for Lousiana's second district. What I want to share here is the letter that I wrote to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who has a pretty good chance at being elected president in 2008.

Dear Senator Chuck Hagel,

By way of introduction, my name is Dr. Michael M. Homan, and professionally, I am an Assistant Professor of Theology at Xavier University of Louisiana, situated right in the heart of New Orleans. Because the wall of the poorly constructed 17th Street Canal failed shortly after Hurricane Katrina, my university was severely flooded, as were my house and hundreds of thousands more like it. Unlike many other families, thankfully everyone in my family, and even our pets, are safe and healthy. My wife Therese Fitzpatrick, a teacher of gifted students in the New Orleans Public Schools, lost her job the day the city flooded, as did all of the other teachers in the New Orleans Public School System. When we evacuated a week after the storm, my family and I came straight to Nebraska, as it is where we have family, and it is where Therese and I both had the privilege to grow up. Nebraska is also where we were educated, as we both graduated from Nebraska high schools and UNO. Now my children are in Omaha attending Sunset Hills Elementary School, the same school that I attended more than 30 years ago. And while we would love to stay here in the great state of Nebraska, and it would certainly make our lives simpler, we believe that the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is essential to the welfare of this country and the world. So Senator Hagel, I'm hoping that you will take a few minutes to read this letter, and my goal is to convey to you, a fellow proud Nebraskan, just how important it is for Congress to help in getting the great city of New Orleans, and Xavier University, back on their feet again.

My family and I moved to New Orleans just five years ago, but from the beginning we felt a special affinity for the place. It's history, cuisine, architecture, and especially the music all combined into a cultural gumbo that appealed deeply to me. In many ways being in New Orleans was like traveling backwards in time. New Orleans, unlike many cities, kept its historic neighborhoods intact, and resisted the trends towards cultural uniformity that currently plague this country. I'm not sure if you've ever had the privilege to visit New Orleans, but it is such a unique environment. The people there are genuine, honest, moral, and possess healthy appetites for good food and entertainment. They are very much like the people of Nebraska in those regards. New Orleans is also worth saving purely on an economic basis. I've read that 2/3 of the fuel in this country travels through our city in some form. I also feel that much of what happened to New Orleans wasn't purely due to inept local politicians. The damning of the Mississippi River played a key role in the flooding of New Orleans, as the river used to flood and leave silt deposits in wetlands and barrier islands that are now gone, making the city more vulnerable. We were promised by national engineers that our city could withstand a Category 3 hurricane. That wasn't true. I remember after the actual hurricane winds subsided being outside on my street talking with neighbors about how we dodged a bullet. But then the waters steadily rose over the next 24 hours until the brackish toxic water was 8 feet deep on my street, and it stayed there for nearly two weeks.

But more than just the city, the university where I work is vitally important to the world. Xavier is unique for many reasons, most notably that it is the only Historically Black University that is also Catholic, as we were founded by Saint Katherine Drexel. Xavier's mission is important to all of us who work there. The university's mission statement reads as follows:
Xavier University of Louisiana is Catholic and historically Black. The ultimate purpose of the University is the promotion of a more just and humane society. To this end, Xavier prepares its students to assume roles of leadership and service in society. This preparation takes place in a pluralistic teaching and learning environment that incorporates all relevant educational means, including research and community service.

In my opinion, this country needs places like Xavier, where the ultimate purpose isn't profit driven, but altruistic. At the end of October, 30% of the faculty were laid off. These were some of the most talented and committed teachers I'd ever seen, and many of them had tenure. We are trying to open again in January, but we desperately need Congress to help in at least two ways. We need to be sure that the city's levies can withstand at the very least another Category 3 storm, and we need financial assistance for the long road to recovery. I think it is very important.

Thank you so much for your time, Senator Hagel, and I hope that you will keep us, the residents of New Orleans, as well as the entire Gulf Region damaged by this year's hurricanes, in your thoughts, prayers, and also in your legislation. We very much need your help. Our future depends on you. And if you ever feel like coming south for Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, to visit Xavier, or for any other reason, please give me a call. I would love to show you some of my favorite places.

Sincerely,
Michael M. Homan

**Later note: when you contact these representatives you have to fill out an online form. They force you to choose a topic for your message. Outside of Louisiana, and of the approximately 30 people I wrote today, only Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and John McCain of Arizona had Hurricane Katrina (or something similar) listed as a topic. For the others, I had to choose things like Homeland Security or Environment. I think this shows again that New Orleans can't expect help from the federal government. However, things like flu shots, capital punishment, gun control, and Court Appointees were categories on just about everyone's autoforms. Why won't our government help us?