Love and Death in New Orleans, a Decade After Hurricane Katrina
Ten years after the storm, there’s still a city at the mouth of the Mississippi. Just not the same one.
A woman walks along the rebuilt Industrial Canal levee, Lower Ninth Ward, May 2015.
A HOT DAY TO BURY SOMEONE
It was a bright, hot morning at the end of June, one of those Louisiana days when the heat and the humidity make a shawl of the air long before noon. Traffic was piling up along Crowder Boulevard near where the land ends and the lake begins. Automobiles and motorcycles were parked willy-nilly all around the intersection of Crowder and Morrison, stashed side by each on the grass of the island dividing the boulevard, overwhelming the parking lot of the barbecue-meat place and the check-cashing joint a little ways down from the intersection. For the most part, these were not civilian vehicles. Most of the cars had red lights on their roofs. Most of them had emblems on their doors. Kenner. Slidell. Gretna. The Louisiana State Police motorcycle honor guard. Occasionally, there was the brief blast of a siren, just to clear the road. There was going to be a funeral at St. Maria Goretti, and nobody wanted to be late.
They were burying Daryle Holloway that morning, a member of the New Orleans Police Department shot and killed in the line of duty a week earlier. All over the spreading lawn in front of the church, cops in formal uniform stood in small groups, tugging their tight collars, angling for what little breeze there was. A great spreading oak tree provided blessed shade. Gradually, in twos and threes, the assembled police from all over the state gravitated to the cool darkness beneath it. Two aging police horses stood alone in the sun, drooping as though they would melt right into the earth. It was the last week in June, and they were burying Daryle Holloway.
A week earlier, down on North Claiborne Avenue, Daryle Holloway had rolled up to transport a guy named Travis Boys to the Orleans Parish Prison. Somehow, according to police, Boys got free of his handcuffs. Somehow, Boys got hold of a gun. He shot Holloway through the partition that separated them in Holloway’s patrol car. They struggled in the car until Boys got out and ran. Holloway, dying at this point, rammed his patrol car into a utility pole. He died in a hospital an hour later.
Freddie DeJean wandered amid the police cruisers and the satellite trucks that were scattered like jackstraws on the island in the middle of Crowder Boulevard. He was there because Daryle Holloway had gone to St. Augustine High School with his stepson, Malord Gales. “He got along with everybody, man,” Freddie said. “Daryle was the type of police officer, man, that you would wish he would stop you. Because he gon’ talk to you. You know? He’s not like some of the police officers, you know, they talk to you bad. You know? He wasn’t that way, man. I’m hoping that maybe some of the NOPD would take a page out of Daryle’s book and do like he did toward the people of the community.” In 2001, Malord Gales was shot during a robbery at a grocery store, and he has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since. Freddie rented a van so that Malord could come out this morning and say goodbye.
That was the way it was on that bright, hot morning. Everyone, it seemed, had a story to tell about Daryle Holloway. A lot of those stories had to do with what is now known in New Orleans, a decade later, simply as the storm.
On August 30, 2005, a day after Hurricane Katrina came raging out of the Gulf of Mexico and right about the time when a lot of Holloway’s fellow officers were abandoning the city to whatever came next, Holloway made his way to Charity Hospital, the great art deco monument to a different time and a different kind of medical care that loomed above Tulane Avenue like ancient Troy above the plains of Turkey. At that point, Charity was a virtual island, cut off from the rest of the city and, indeed, from the rest of the world. Its basement had flooded, taking out the massive building’s electrical systems. Olander Holloway, Daryle’s mother, was the head nurse in Charity’s emergency department. Her son went to the hospital to make sure she was all right and to see what he could do to help. By then, all of Charity Hospital was an emergency department. Hell, all of New Orleans was an emergency department.
For the next several days, Daryle Holloway went out on boats all over the city to rescue people who were trapped in their homes or stuck on their rooftops. He was not a small man. His friends jived at him that the little boats they were using might not be able to handle him, that they’d all capsize somewhere in the Lower Ninth. This would have been a problem. Daryle Holloway couldn’t swim. One of Holloway’s friends showed a picture to New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry in which Holloway is leading a family out of the attic of their flooded house, where they had been trapped for several days. But there is a more famous picture of Daryle Holloway.
BY CHARLES P. PIERCE on esquire.com