Reprinted with permission from the CGC Communicator, September 2, 2005, by Robert Gonsett.
As many of you know, John Buffaloe was the man in charge of Jefferson Pilot’s San Diego radio engineering operations for many years. He had a very successful career with JP, lived in San Diego County and followed his and his wife’s dream to move to New Orleans where he became Director of Engineering for a radio cluster in January of this year (CGC #670).
Just before leaving San Diego, however, he had to deal with the collapse of the KSON(AM) tower structure, and he is now dealing with a far more difficult situation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Following is John’s report, dated today. He’s one of us, and we could well be in his shoes.
Annette and I are fine and in Memphis with friends. She was already here when Katrina hit, and I arrived last night after several harrowing experiences. We escaped with both of our cars, my two favorite guitars and a Crate V-15 amp, various electronic devices (gotta have that laptop), five days worth of clothes, some tools and Annette’s portfolio negatives.
We don’t know the condition of our house, although we do know it’s not under water nor did it ever flood. It has probably been looted by now, or will be soon. I was fired from my job on Wednesday, but I won’t get into that for obvious reasons.
The power has been out at my 85 year old Dad’s house in Jackson, MS since Monday and will probably be out for another two to three weeks. He has excellent round the clock assistance which allows me to be in Memphis with my wife for a little while.
Annette and I had dreamed of leaving southern California for years and moving to New Orleans to spend the rest of our lives. We were fortunate that I landed a job there in January and we moved into a beautiful renovated house in Algiers Point and were getting on quite well with our new life. I stumbled into an association with a gospel vocal group called the Zion Harmonizers, and was honored to be the first Caucasian to be associated with them in their 56 year history. We did two shows at the House of Blues Gospel Brunch two weeks ago, and I was featured as lead bass singer on a song called “Crossing Over.” My brother-in-law was there and is the only family member that ever got to see me with the Zions. We were to do a short tour in Spain in December and I was looking forward to performing with them at Jazz Fest in the spring. I don’t know any of the members whereabouts or condition at this time. They are true gentlemen and devoted Christians and they accepted me like I was a family member.
This is intended only to inform, not to engender sympathy. Annette and I are fine and will be fine in the future. All we have lost is stuff. We have our lives and each other, and we’ll eventually put it all back together and get back on our feet. We aren’t broke by any means, and our insurance will cover most of our financial losses. Employment for me will become an issue but I am confident I’ll find something at the appropriate time. In the meantime, we have a small apartment next door to friends, and a large support group of other friends here in Memphis. Considering what’s happening in New Orleans right now, and that either or both of us could still be there, I find myself extremely lucky to be in the current circumstances.
Many ask the simple question, “What will you do next” which calls for a million responses. I will actually do my laundry next as I have been on the road and used up all of my clothing for the past five days. Then Annette and I will begin to focus on what needs to be addressed, get centered, and start knocking things down. It will be somewhere between three and six months before we can return to assess our house damage and recover whatever possessions may be left intact.
Sometimes life does funny things to you. While I am certainly saddened by our misfortune, I very much count myself and Annette as two of the lucky ones with options to recover. It will take a couple of years, but we both have our talents and intelligence and will come out fine.
Thank you all for the encouraging emails and the reaching out of love and support. It really does help.
The city of New Orleans as we knew it will never exist again. A new New Orleans will eventually rise, but the “bowl” will be uninhabitable for years to come. There are thousands of homes that will have no option but to be demolished, and the land on which they sit will be contaminated from the chemicals in the flood waters. What will remain of the old New Orleans will likely be a small strip of town running between the river and St. Charles Ave. which will include the French Quarter if they can get a handle on the levee breaches.
If you can make a donation to the recovery effort, I urge you to do so. There are two million displaced people, many without resources and most will never be able to return to their homes. To say that this is catastrophic is a clichéd understatement. I was actually on the ground in New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon, and what I saw was way beyond what you can imagine from the video on TV. I was fortunate to be flown in and back out in a helicopter rented by my former company. I felt sick as I watched others looking up at us as we departed, knowing I would be free to move forward with my life while they would soon find themselves in a desperate struggle to survive.
Annette and I are indeed fortunate. Our experience is a lesson in counting your blessings.
I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to forward this to whomever you feel may be interested.