October 23, 2006 West Virginia's annual Bridge Day attracts thousands of spectators to watch parachutists leap from a bridge spanning a gorge nearly 900 feet deep. But this year, a pioneer of the sport plunged to his death.
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October 6, 2006 Thoroughbred horse racing is a big-money industry, and when horses like Triple Crown hopeful Barbaro get injured, the damages -- in pain and suffering for the animals, and in costs to their owners -- can be huge. Some racetracks are replacing their traditional dirt tracks with an artificial surface called Polytrack, which is touted to reduce injuries.
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October 2, 2006 At a retirement home for Thoroughbred racehorses in Kentucky, a once-great stallion is nearing the end of the line. In his career, Precisionist earned more than $3 million.
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September 10, 2006 Host Noah Adams remembers how beautiful the weather was when terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
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September 1, 2006 My final visit today was to the Fair Grounds Race Course in the Gentilly neighborhood. The "sad Fair Grounds," is the way I've come to think about the place, flooded, with plywood replacing big sheets of grandstand glass. The soft early morning sound of hoof beats around the turn of the sandy track is no longer there. I drove into the parking lot past a garish sign that proclaimed in red and black letters: "OTB OPEN NOW SERVING FOOD!" Nothing wrong with off-track betting if you like it. The TV monitors showed the action at 26 tracks. You could bet on a horse at Arlington Park in Illinois, Charles Town in West Virginia, Golden Gate in California and Evangeline Downs and Louisiana Downs in drier parts of this state. Racing at the Fair Grounds is scheduled to return on Thanksgiving Day. The winter season opening is a traditionally a grand event (this track was founded in 1872). There was no racing this past year and it's taken the full year to get things ready for the coming season. But what about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which also sets up camp each spring at the Fair Grounds? That's another matter. Word on the street is that "it was just like it always was -- just as hot (weather and probably food), just as great (music and friends)..."
September 1, 2006 I drove out Piety Street then switched over to Desire. It's now a familiar route, heading into the Ninth Ward. This is across the Industrial Canal from the Lower Ninth and some call this neighborhood the Upper. I crossed the streets named Industry, Abundance and Treasure, then turned on Clouet to find St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church. I first came here in 2004 for a story about an after school supper program – meals for children and their families prepared by students at Dillard University. That was a happy, satisfying story. Last October I came back, finding no one I knew. Only a few of the houses were sound enough to live in. Today, the crunch of dried light brown mud is gone from the streets and the grass. A few more houses have people. I met Jene Moore, a grandmother. She'd been away in Murray, Ky., and smiled when she talked about the folks there who brought a school bus to New Orleans. Jene and her family were the next in line at the convention center when the bus from Murray pulled up. Now she's back in a trailer, her collapsed house untouched. "No school," she said. "No store."
September 1, 2006 St. Claude Used Tires -- not a single place more valuable or as busy after Katrina. It's outside the business district by a few miles (on St. Claude Avenue). When the water went down after a few days, if you had a flat, Joe Peters became your best friend. And because of all the junk in the water after the storm, he had a lot of best friends. "Ambulances, Humvees, boat trailers… everybody who was in here was getting in trouble," Joe told me today. He was watching two of his men change tires for customers from a chair in the shade. I asked, "Did you have trouble with looters?" "No, everybody knows Joe. I've got a 12-gauge. I've got a big dog I tied up out front and I'd go to sleep inside." I asked him if he raised his prices a little during that time. "Stayed the same," he answered. "$8.00 to fix a tire. Same today. I don't want to get rich on poor people."
September 1, 2006 Imagine being able to sit at a laptop at a command post in New Orleans and zoom a video image in on the faces of the people stranded on the rooftops in the flood? Imagine seeing their expressions. And you can direct rescue units to the precise locations. This morning I talked by phone with Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Harbin back at the Pentagon about his mission a year ago here in New Orleans. He commands Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) units for the Air Force. They're basically small aircraft that are used for precise targeting (and sometimes bombing) and they have, in his term, superior “loiter time.” When Katrina hit, Harbin was sent to the Gulf Coast where he assembled a team. He brought the "Evolution" UAVs -- the smaller models made of Styrofoam construction with three and a half foot wingspans. When they arrived, the airspace of New Orleans was chaotic and the FAA decided the tiny planes shouldn’t go up so Harbin and his techs took the wings off, leaving the sensors intact. They duct-taped one to the bottom of a Blackhawk helicopter and put others on top of the Industrial Canal Bridge, the Hilton hotel and the Chase bank building, which, at 21 stories, is the tallest in town. They controlled the cameras with signals to their tiny motors. Soon, Harbin had 360-degree coverage. The team stayed for three weeks and helped rescue, by their count, 182 people...
September 1, 2006 Friday morning in New Orleans, a city that must now be letting out a long sigh as the anniversary week closes. I've heard that before Katrina, people were fond of "Friday Lunch." A long, slow sort of formal lunch where people lingered, planned for the weekend or finalized a deal. And significant food -- not red beans and rice, which, as we've learned, is for Monday washday, when you'd cook up the leftovers. It was Friday Lunch before the storm that, people say, may have muted concerns about another hurricane coming, the business week pretty much ending by noon, attentions turned elsewhere. We -- outsiders -- have learned about New Orleans over this past year and find it fascinating to go deeper into the story of the city's beginnings and present-day culture. At NPR, we've been helped by colleagues who grew up here (and who know where to get the best salt-baked crab). Gwen Tompkins, editor of Weekend Edition Saturday for many years, was a source and advisor and did her own great series about the Lakeview neighborhood. And All Things Considered editor Susan Feeney guided that program's coverage, drawing on her knowledge of the city...
August 31, 2006 I don't know who Louis B. Porterie was, but I bet his family was proud that they named a ferryboat after him. My afternoon in New Orleans ended with a peaceful ride across the Mississippi on the Canal Street Ferry. Algiers was the destination across the water. The river seems wide (and green in today's light) but it was only a six-minute trip across, and free for a walk-on! It would be a great way to commute. On the trip over we had about 15 passengers in the enclosed cabin, and five cars, four trucks and one bike got off at the Algiers landing. Algiers had no hurricane flooding, and from the water it looks like a sleepy Louisiana town. I was interested because back in Bay St. Louis, Miss., yesterday it was announced that a ferry service would be set up soon between that town and Pass Christian, across the bay. The Highway-90 Bridge was wrecked in Katrina and is nowhere near rebuilding. The way the roads work out it's a 40-minute drive between the two towns. If it all works out the neighbors will be minutes away again. And I think ferries are great for communities -- you get to do a lot of standing around and talking...
August 31, 2006 Awfully hot sun in downtown New Orleans and it was only right that a cold, dark IMAX theatre was waiting for me. The new film Hurricane on the Bayou premiered here this week. It features the always-stunning IMAX photography of southern Louisiana -- both before and after Katrina. The idea was to do a film about the disappearing wetlands, and that first section opens happily with underwater shots of alligators and "Iko Iko" on the music track. Meryl Streep is the narrator and she explains how New Orleans was once sheltered by 1000 square miles of disappearing wetlands. Silt from the Mississippi replenished the marsh areas, but after levees were built to stop flooding, those muddy waters went out into the Gulf. Then, in the film, Katrina hits. This is done mostly with special effects and news footage, followed by huge spanning views (taken from a helicopter) of the rising water… and the victims...
August 31, 2006 A dispatch from Noah Adams, blogging from the Gulf Coast: Consider the Wet Dog Studios of New Orleans in the Mid-City neighborhood of warehouses and small factories. Wet Dog is where the New Orleans Creative Glass Institute hopes to have things humming again -- artists and students blowing glass and firing and finishing piece of glass artwork. Laurel Porcari took me there this morning, both to see the damage two feet of Katrina water could bring, as well as the group's plans for revival. Porcari is an architect with an MFA in glass art and she works mostly in "architectural" glass designs that would be incorporated into a wall, for example. Before Katrina, about 50 artists rented space in this large room to use the ovens and tools. Many of them were professionals, selling in galleries across the country. Others were students who would show up on the loading dock of the studio, offering to help out as a way to get started in the field. The flooding from Katrina trashed the glass shop and dispersed the artists. Most are not coming back...
August 31, 2006 A dispatch from Noah Adams, blogging from the Gulf Coast: "Will you shut up about that storm?" I actually haven't heard people say that, but surely they do. And this morning in the Sun Herald, the South Mississippi newspaper, there's this note from a reader in the "Sound Off" column: "I'd like to suggest that we take at least one day where Katrina isn't even mentioned." And coming here on a regular basis this past year, I've noticed that sentiment. What's it like to wake up every day and have Katrina on the front page of your paper? The Sun Herald leads today with: "Checks not yet in the mail." (about delays in Katrina homeowner grants). And the Times-Picayune from New Orleans is almost yelling. Three stories above the fold: "Study: People standing tall after Katrina." "N.O. planning process puts residents on edge." And "Firms struggle to find insurers." There's also a story about mandatory rules for Jefferson Parish. Last night I was pleased to be with some friends at a potluck dinner -- good food and talk, catching up. And I noticed the conversation kept circling back to Katrina, which is why I'm on the Gulf Coast this week, but again, what's it like to be talking about it every day? Someone said, "To get away from it you have to get out of town, take a break."
August 30, 2006 A dispatch from Noah Adams, blogging from the Gulf Coast: On the drive back west from Ocean Springs I got to thinking about the Lowe's hardware chain and sure enough, when I got into Waveland, Miss., and down to the town's main intersection I noticed a grand opening sign on the brand new and very big Lowe's. I'd noticed back in June that Lowe's was building right next to a new Home Depot, and right across the street from an existing 84 Lumber. That's a lot of building supplies for Hancock County. Then I drove over to the next-door town of Bay St. Louis to see what the folks at the W.A. McDonald hardware and building supply might think about all this. I'd noticed this interesting older store by the railroad tracks. (One of the store signs said "W.A. McDonald & Sons" and another read "W.A. McDonald & Daughters.")
August 30, 2006 A dispatch from Noah Adams, blogging from the Gulf Coast: I'm in Ocean Springs, Miss., and I've seen the future... Or maybe not. Where can you live if your house gets washed away? The Katrina cottage was designed after the storm as a "dignified alternative to the FEMA trailer." Maybe you've seen the pictures -- cute, small homes with peaked rooflines and front porches. The idea was to build one, live in it for a while, and maybe use it later as a guesthouse or studio or just expand the cottage itself. Cottage Square was dedicated in Ocean Springs yesterday, the one-year anniversary of Katrina. It's to be a showcase neighborhood of the Katrina homes. Seventeen will be built, mostly rentals plus several model units. Michael LeBatard, one of the architects, talked with me on the couch in the living room of the larger of two cottages, already built (Yes! It's air-conditioned!). This one, at 540 square feet with steel wall construction, came from Pennsylvania on a flatbed truck. "How much would it all cost -- the kit that I'd order, the construction I'd pay for, the foundation?" I asked him...
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