Despite the spreading horror in New Orleans (Mayor Ray Nagin said earlier today that the number of deaths in the city had probably already gone into the thousands), there are a few signs of the city’s quirky and indomitable sprit still in view. Check out this item from the Times-Picayune’s invaluable newsblog, posted this afternoon:
In the garden behind St. Louis Cathedral on Royal Street lies an incredible tangle of zig-zagging broken tree trunks and branches, mixed with smashed wrought iron fences. But right in the middle, a statue of Jesus is still standing, unscathed by the storm, save for the left thumb and index finger, which are missing.The missing digits immediately set off speculation of divine intervention.New Orleans has a long history praying to saints for guidance and protection in times of great peril. In fact it was Our Lady of Prompt Succor who was said to be responsible for saving the Ursulines Convent in the French Quarter from a raging fire that consumed the rest of the city centuries ago.Since then, New Orlenians have prayed to the saint for protection from natural disasters. On Saturday, Archbishop Alfred Hughes read a prayer over the radio asking for Our Lady’s intervention to spare the city a direct hit by Hurricane Katrina. Many in the Quarter are now saying it was the hand of Jesus, the missing digits to be precise, that flicked the hurricane east just a little to keep the city from suffering a direct blow. And the search is one for those missing fingers.Shortly after Katrina passed, several men went to Robert Buras, who owns the Royal Street Grocery and told him they know who has the finger. Buras said he’d give them all the water and beer they need if they bring him the finger. They told him they’d find it and asked to be paid upfront. But Buras told them he wouldn’t take it on credit. “I’m going to find Jesus’ finger,” Buras said. ”I’ve got a lead on it.”
The Royal Street Grocery, BTW, has remained open through the whole saga, so far at least, though the owner has to toss goods to purchasers through an upstairs window where’s he’s stored his most valuable wares.Here’s another tale of French Quarter imperturbability from the T-P newsblog:
Johnny White’s Sport Bar on Bourbon Street at Orleans Avenue didn’t close Tuesday night, and had six patrons at 8 a.m. drinking at the bar.“Monday night, they came by after curfew and wanted us to close,” bartender Perry Bailey, 60, said of officers then patrolling the French Quarter. But all we did was shut the doors and stayed open.”
Unfortunately, most of this anarchic good cheer will soon have to come to an end with the Governor’s mandatory evacuation order. Current estimates are that the city may be shut down for three to four months. New Orleans truly needs the Hand of God to provide a future that’s anything like its past.