Bodies lay injured or unconscious on the floor of the devastated mall. More bodies were reported to be floating, lifeless, down the Mississippi River. Cadaver dogs searched the rubble for those missing or dead. Emergency responders erected a temporary morgue. Family members of the missing, and countless onlookers, set up a vigil just beyond the disaster scene.
Witnesses described a “terrifying” sound of grating concrete and shrieking metal as the Bright Field made contact. Fifteen shops and restaurants were all but eliminated as were portions of an adjacent garage and the waterfront rooms of the Riverside Wing of the Hilton Hotel, which towers over the Riverwalk.
we confused her more.
https://youtu.be/GhIAEOJMaK8 Brenda had a lot of information, but unfortunately — like us — she didn’t know where the plaque was. We said our goodbyes, and as we walked away, drinking the insanely sweet drinks that were rotting the teeth out of our mouths while we spoke, I told Aaron her story was way different than what I had read. Aaron suggested we head upstairs and, when on the way we were accosted by a Chinese masseuse, we briefly entertained the idea of a couples massage. It is aligned with the adventure, I argued, as the ships crew was Chinese. Once upstairs I was reminded of one of my favorite things about malls. Food samples! A And food courts! And even a giant Pac-Man next to a Daiquiri shop! Come on! Why am I not hanging out in malls all the time? Malls are also extremely safe…except for when ships occasionally run into them. And, like that, we had wasted 30 minutes without getting any closer to finding the plaque. We took a walk along Riverwalk’s second-level balcony. There were tons of signs that looked like they could be our sign, but none of them were. They were all advertisements for the Riverwalk’s social media accounts. Still no sign of our sign, and the clock was ticking. Now, with only about an hour until tip-off, we worried we might not find it. We both got on our phones and Googled frantically. Nothing was coming up. Had anyone ever seen this plaque? We stood along the railing on the second-level, looking out at the river picking up speed as it curved under the Crescent City Connection. I turned to Aaron. “Dude, can you imagine being here for that?” “For what?” “The ship. Seeing a runaway cargo ship headed this way. Alarms blasting.” We shook our heads and walked back inside. And when we walked through the door, Aaron exclaimed, “Look at that!” I lifted my head in excitement! Did he find the plaque? He pointed at the Information Desk. “They might know where it is.” Not as good as the plaque itself, but maybe some progress. We waited in line as the two young ladies manning the desk answered the questions of customers in front of us. “How do we go on one of those alligator tours?” one couple asked. “What’s the best restaurant on Bourbon Street?” two bros wanted to know. “Where can we hear live music around here?” a woman with arms full of shopping bags wondered aloud. “Hello, a ship rampaged into that section of this mall. Do you know where the –” “When?!” the woman, startled, interrupted me. “Oh, I’m sorry, it was in 1996, I think. Do you know where the plaque commemorating that event is?” “Whew,” she sighed relief, “no, I don’t know where that is, I’m sorry. Maybe it’s on the mall map?” It wasn’t. We had already checked. Dejected, we walked back outside. I stopped at the kiosk outside the “Creole Queen” to ask if they knew anything about it. Again, no luck. “Man,” I said to Aaron, “this’ll be the first adventure I fail at.” “Ah, it doesn’t matter,” he said as we stopped at the railing. I was watching this interview with Greg Popovich from the San Antonio Spurs, recently, and he said, ‘It’s not supposed to be easy. This is supposed to be hard.’ We’re not trying to win an NBA Championship here, but I think it’s cool it doesn’t always work out every time.” That made sense to me. We still learned a lot about the event and did fun things in the site at which it happened. A plaque wouldn’t really change anything. More than anything, I’m just curious where it is. Like a scavenger hunt. We approached another plaque, which accounted a second maritime disaster I hadn’t heard of. On Easter in 1969, Captain Kenneth H. Scarbrough was captaining a freighter that was in a collision with several barges. His ship, the Union Faith, caught fire. Rather than abandoning ship, Scarbrough remained aboard the burning vessel, managed to free her anchors, and stayed with her until it sank. If he would have saved his own life, the ship would have crashed into one of a number of downriver wharves, potentially setting the French Quarter ablaze. The ship, as well as its captain, rest at the bottom of the river, just off the edge of Canal Street. And this will have to be an adventure for another day. (I think Brenda, the bartender from earlier, may have combined elements of this story with the one we were pursuing today.) Aaron and I continued to walk along the river, past Spanish Plaza, which is currently under construction. “I wonder if the plaque is normally in there?” Giving up for the day, we decided to add one last bit to our adventure before the Pelicans game. Aaron had never had the chargrilled oysters at Drago’s. In my opinion (and in the opinion of many others) these are the best oysters in the city. What I didn’t know was how extraordinary the couple who founded the restaurant were/are. I don’t have the space to go into it in detail now, but both are from Croatia. They met here, went to Canada when their Visas expired and then eventually moved back to New Orleans. Their three restaurants employ more than 450 people, and — in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina — they gave approximately 80,000 free meals to victims of the storm. While we waited for our oysters, I remembered we were inside the Hilton Hotel, which received major damage in the incident. Maybe someone here knows something? I went up to the concierge, Connie, who wanted so badly to help me, but who — after five minutes of intense internet research — was only able to narrow it down to somewhere along the river side of the mall. Does anyone have any idea where this plaque is? If so, please let me know in the comments section. We gave it a great shot, and I got to hang out with my friend while learning something, goofing around in the Mall, and eating the best oysters in the city. Hardly a failure! In the wake (ha!) of the Bright Field Incident, there was some debate about whether New Orleans should continue to build like this along such a busy section of river. The “againsts” didn’t get very far as the city and the river have been inseparable since its founding. The river is the very reason we’re here. I think Joe Clayton, a ship captain and president of the New Orleans Steamship and Riverboat Association at the time of the incident, best answered that concern in an interview with The New York Times. “Taking all the barges and ships off the river would make it perfectly safe,” he said. “But then there would be no New Orleans.” I really want to end this post there, but I had to come back and include another response he gave in that same interview, because you can’t give this kind of reply now. “The river is like a beautiful woman,” he said. “It can be dangerous.” Until tomorrow then, watch out for those beautiful women.