I believe in cyberspace as the most democratic means to tell a people’s story in the 21st Century, especially in a time of crisis as made evident by the infinite volume of personal accounts distributed worldwide by survivors of Hurricane Katrina. I was one of those survivors who took to the Internet immediately after I escaped the social chaos that submerged my beloved New Orleans.
I witnessed the criminal negligence of a federal government through the apocalyptic abandonment of its people at a crucial time of need, but I was fortunate enough to find a wormhole to the other side of madness when I boarded a stolen Jefferson Parish School Board bus, operating the kind of rescue mission only imagined in a Hollywood South Babylon by the bayou version of “Hotel Rwanda.”
With my wife, and two other friends, we used the last of our dollars to purchase passage to safety on the metal floor of a yellow bus rescuing Creole families on the Wednesday night after the storm. As the clock struck midnight, we were dropped off at the Baton Rouge Airport. There, we were greeted by the welcoming arms of Andrei Codrescu, the Romanian-born poet with the Transylvanian accent heard on national radio airwaves. Having fled with our precious computers in hand, we all took to the Internet the following Thursday morning and began typing away with the urgency of cyber cowboys herding our stories in the vast electric frontier.
Awaiting my inbox, were hundreds of emails voicing grave concern for my safety from friends and acquaintances across the globe. I heard from x-girlfriends, performers from Poland and Slovenia, and artists and writers from the East and West Coast. Tears poured out of me as I read through the emails of some people who had been out of my life for years. They had sent these messages with what I imagine must have been a haunting unknowing—wondering if I was to ever communicate a reply.
In the weeks that followed, I disseminated one cyber essay after another to put my personal truth on what had transpired, and I had numerous cyber epiphanies reading stories from survivors who were actually inspiring the slow-footed media outlets to look into the myriad abuses and atrocities that had been suffered, sometimes at the hands of delinquent authorities. The most striking cyber tale was from the two paramedics who had been visiting New Orleans for a convention, and found themselves and hundreds of others being forced down the only public bridge to safety by Gretna Police firing bullets over their heads.
Cyberspace allowed us the freedom to transmit our uncensored voices to the world and put an electronic pulse on the human misery we had been victims to. It is no wonder that the same administration that was willing to let us die is interested in reigning in this medium. I say refuse and resist because cyberspace is our last democratic hope for a people’s truth to get out to the world.
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