August 25, 2008
Three Years After Hurricane, the Backup Is a Fixture
By DAN BARRY
On the seventh-floor parking garage of a Holiday Inn that calls itself the “jazziest hotel in New Orleans,” soldiers dressed for combat wait for the evening’s call to fall in. They chat, smoke and gaze out upon an American city still in need of their armed presence.
At a sergeant’s bark, these two dozen men and women, all members of the Louisiana National Guard, stand at attention for their nightly pep talk. The sergeant instructs them to drive carefully, to be alert, to keep an eye out for a hyperactive band of armed robbers and to remember: “We’re not here to make friends.”
They slap clips into their 9-millimeter pistols and climb into decade-old white sedans no longer of use to the state police. Then out they go, on patrol, their flashlight beams skimming like the nation’s eye across shotgun houses achingly abandoned and beautifully restored, down streets named St. Maurice, and Piety, and Elysian Fields.