In Her Angry Path; Hurricane Katrina vs. Bookstores<br>Part One
By Karen Wright
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, my question was, what, if anything, can we as booksellers - comrades in arms, or perhaps arts would be a better word - do to help our fellow booksellers who were in Katrina's angry path?
This from the American Booksellers Association CEO Avin Mark Domnitz: "There has been a Bookseller Relief Fund started to assist booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Contributions to the fund will be accepted, and ABA is seeding the relief fund with an opening donation of $25,000. Checks should be made payable to Bookseller Relief Fund and sent to ABA's office at 200 White Plains Road, Tarrytown, NY 10591. Please write "Bookseller Relief" on the outside of the envelope. "Our hearts go out to all those devastated by Katrina, and we want to do whatever we can to help. We know many in the book industry feel the same way, and are looking for ways to offer assistance."
"Several stores from around the county have also indicated their willingness to house and/or employ booksellers whose stores are unlikely to be able to reopen anytime soon. For a list of offers, go to www.bookweb.org/read/8067. Anyone willing to take in or to employ a displaced bookseller is asked to contact ABA's Director of Special Projects, David Walker, at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6612 or firstname.lastname@example.org."
I checked in with David Walker of the American Booksellers Association and he put me in touch with two different booksellers affected by Katrina. One store was lucky and survived almost unscathed, the other was essentially disintegrated. Here is the story we gleaned from Tom Lowenburg whose store survived one of Mother Nature's nastiest temper tantrums.
We felt a ray of hope for southern booksellers when we got a press release that said "Octavia Books, co-owned by Tom Lowenburg, is back. Octavia Books is the first book store selling new books to reopen in the Greater New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina. We are determined to help residents return to a normal life, and for most of them that means some form of relaxation, and entertainment after non-stop clean-up of homes and businesses."
We called Tom in New Orleans and queried him about some of his experiences and thoughts on this tragedy.
Q: Tom, how long have you lived in New Orleans?
A: All my life. I grew up here, though I have traveled elsewhere.
Q: Have you experienced any other hurricanes?
A: As a child, Hurricane Betsy was memorable. That was about 1964 or 65 when I was in third grade. We missed a bit of school, but it was nothing like this. I was not here when Camille struck, but we saw a lot of destruction for years afterwards between Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans.