The Corner

“The Most Blessed Guy in New Orleans”

From a CNN segment with Raymond Arroyo, who I mentioned here yesterday:

Last week, Raymond Arroyo had a home, a flourishing family restaurant in New Orleans and a brand new baby girl. Today his daughter is 14 days old and her father is facing the fact that he has lost almost everything else. Mr. Arroyo joins us tonight from Birmingham, Alabama.

How did you get out?

RAYMOND ARROYO, LOST NEW ORLEANS HOME AND RESTAURANT: We — on Saturday, Aaron, I saw what was happening. I was — I worked in Birmingham. I was on my way back to New Orleans and got one of the last flights in and I said we’ve got to pack everything up and get out. We have two little boys. One is six and one is two and we had this little child who was only 10 days old at the time. And we had to get out and we did so we grabbed what we could, few clothes we could throw in a suitcase, a couple of photo albums and got on the road and look, you’re talking to the most blessed guy in New Orleans, tonight, considering all we’ve seen in the last hour here.

BROWN: Mr. — Can I call you Raymond?

ARROYO: Oh, please.

BROWN: I was just thinking that you must, to some degree, look at the television pictures, sitting there, I assume, relatively comfortably in Birmingham …

ARROYO: Oh, sure.

BROWN: Looking back at your city and the condition it’s in and saying, A: thank God that we’re okay and B: what is it those poor people are going through tonight?

ARROYO: Aaron, look, my — it’s my grandfather’s restaurant, Tony Angelo’s, which locals would know. It’s a venerable Italian establishment. He’s had it for years. It was, by all reports, washed away by that breech in the levee we’ve been hearing so much about.

You know, we live this life of abandonment. At any moment in New Orleans, these things can happen. But you never imagine they’ll look like this when they do and to many people watching these are rooftops, these are chimney tops and people on them. But to us these are icons of our childhood, this is our music, our culture, our life, and it’s awful watching it in this state.

And I can’t imagine, people are saying weeks, a few weeks. I can’t imagine. The reports I’m getting and I’ve spoken to a few people who have just been there or who are on their way out. In Jefferson Parish, right next to Orleans where we live, in Metairie, there are floating bodies, there are snakes, there are alligators, gas leaks, and this is sitting and it is going to sit for several weeks.

So the home is the least of our worries, honestly. We got out with our lives. We were very fortunate.

BROWN: The — a short time ago, I’m not sure you were able to hear it, but a short time ago we were talking to the mayor. He talked about three months before New Orleans becomes New Orleans and I thought, well, that’s about the most optimistic number I’ve heard. I think if New Orleans is New Orleans a year from now, that will have accomplished a great deal.

You talk about sort of at some level living with this reality. If you live in the city you know the geography of the city, you know every late summer you’re at risk of something or another but as you think about those things, do people really believe that when it happens it’s going to look like this?

ARROYO: No. I don’t think anybody does, Aaron. You know, when I look at this I think of our great music, the great food, the wonderful, warm people of New Orleans, which was the reason we came back, and as many people my age, you know, in their mid 30s, who came back, grew up in New Orleans and returned because we wanted our families to experience what we did and it’s a wonderful place to grow up with its own dialect and its own great cuisine. You look at this and you can’t imagine that returning any time soon.

My little son, my Lorenzo (ph) last night woke up at about 2:00 in the morning and we, as I said, we are blessed to be here in Birmingham and safe. He woke me at about 3:00 in the morning and he said daddy, are we home. And I hesitated for a minute and I took his brother and he in my arms and I said, “We are home, Honey.”

And I think there are a lot of New Orleaneans with that same feeling. We carry home with us and some day we might be able to go back to the place.

BROWN: Well, yeah, and we all look forward to when that is going to be but it’s not going to be for a while. Raymond, thanks. Nice job tonight. You’ve helped us understand this in a couple of different ways. We appreciate that. Thank you.

ARROYO: Thank you for your fine work.

BROWN: Thank you, Raymond Arroyo, who is in Birmingham and as he said, the most blessed person around the be safe with his family, including three children, one two weeks old. Safe and dry in Birmingham, Alabama tonight.

We’ll take a break and our coverage continues in this special edition of NEWSNIGHT in just a moment.


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