The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting 300 people who have made New Orleans New Orleans, featuring original artwork commissioned by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune with Where Y’Art gallery. Today: the hero of Hurricane Katrina, Russel L. Honore.
The icon: Gen. Russel Honore.
The legacy: In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as water was lapping at rooftops and outsiders were writing off the city as irreparable, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore came to the city’s rescue. Leading the 82nd Airborne and the 1st Calvary, Honore guided New Orleans’ first and most important step toward recovery: He helped evacuate the stranded, and he helped bring calm to a city desperate for order and direction. As tough and as no-nonsense as the native Louisianian was, his love and respect for the people of New Orleans shined through. “I felt that I knew the people affected,” he said two years later, “if not personally, a kinship connection.”
The artist: Jeff Morgan, WhereYart.net.
The quote: “It’s best to tell the truth, because if you don’t, it will come back and have some negative effects on you. So I think those are key in operating in a crisis with people around you that are tired, people who sometime don’t know where their families are, as was the case of Katrina. I think if we do that more in government and in our communities, we would get a lot more done.” — Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, speaking to NPR in August 2007
Explore more of Morgan’s work online at WhereYart.net and in person at the Where Y’Art gallery, 1901 Royal Street in the Marigny.
- Soon after arriving on the ground as the head of Joint Task Force Katrina, Honore caught people’s attention when he was spotted on Canal Street upbraiding soldiers who held the barrels of their weapons too high, reportedly barking, “We’re on a rescue mission, damn it!”
- New Orleanians’ view of Honore in the wake of Katrina — tough, heroic, capable — was probably best summed up best by Mayor Ray Nagin, who memorably referred to him as “one John Wayne dude.”
- Honore’s quotable brand of straight talk — he once admonished a reporter not to “get stuck on stupid” — also made him a media darling, with national publications and news shows jockeying for his time in the wake of the storm. A Times-Picayune headline dubbed him a “Three-Star Celebrity.”
- Another media nickname for him was “the Ragin’ Cajun,” although he’s not Cajun at all. He’s Creole.
- It wasn’t just the media who loved him. So did the people. “I loved the city and I love the people there, but when I come back to New Orleans, I can’t go anywhere (because of all the well-wishers),” he said in 2009. “I tried to go into a bar in the French Quarter once, and I could hardly (make) my way back to my hotel.”
- Honore is a Louisiana kid. He is a native of Point Coupee Parish, born as one of 12 children in 1947 in Lakeland just north of Baton…