This year, Connections students were given an opportunity to meet and have lunch with Chris Rose, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter from the New Orleans The Times-Picayune. Rose has a broad background in journalism and spent a great part of his career in New Orleans. In 1984, Rose moved to New Orleans and for the next two decades was the Times-Picayune newspaper’s most popular local columnist, covering social, cultural and political trends and personalities. He received a Pulitzer prize for his post-Katrina coverage of New Orleans.
To be considered for this honor of dining with Chris Rose, students submitted a 350-400 word essay stating why they should be chosen and what questions they would ask him. This year, seven students were selected and they include Austin Spence, Ellyn Thornton, Melinda Helms, Marilize Van der Walt, Darcie Christensen, Britany Chamberlain, and Allison Fife.
Each student shared a little blurb about their experience dining and discussing with Chris Rose. Their comments can be found here:
Lunch with Chris Rose was an interesting and eye opening experience. Rose was the first person I had ever met from New Orleans and who had experienced Hurricane Katrina. Obviously, I had read the books and seen the news stories about Hurricane Katrina, but those were nothing compared to the experiences Rose brought to the table. To me, the best part was to see that Rose could share his emotions about the experience. Not to say that was easy for him, but when asked about his family or how the he thought the government dealt with the situation, we could see his true feelings. Rose was angry and sad for his city and people, but he was also looking towards the future. He had ambitions and hope for his city. This showed that Katrina victims weren’t just another news story, but real people with real problems. It can be hard to realize that without knowing any of the actual victims, and Rose did a fantastic job representing New Orleans. –Austin Spence
I highly enjoyed the lunch with Chris Rose, and found his opinions regarding the changes in society as a result of disasters especially interesting. He related his observations regarding both the polarization of humanity under stress and a community’s ability to unite and rebuild after a crises. These insights were both meaningful in hindsight and for future application. His personal experiences regarding the Hurricane Katrina added depth to my understanding of Zeitoun, in addition to increasing my understanding of the events associated with the storm. –Ellyn Thornton
The lunch with Chris Rose was fascinating. The thing that I valued most from the conversation is the new perspective on the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
With myself living in the Western states, my perception came from the media. Chris Rose gave a completely new image of what happened in the aftermath. From what I had originally heard, everything got much better fast. But Rose was quick to point out that rebuilding is still occurring, even after 6 long years. I couldn’t believe it. His stories about life before, after, and during were both riveting and depressing. But they needed to be told. –Melinda Helms
What stood out the most for me was that Chris Rose was so human. He stayed to report the catastrophe, and though he only did what he deemed necessary at the time, he became a hero; he became the eyes for the rest of the US. His stories are fantastically inspirational yet he did not come out of the experience without injury. He seemed emotionally and physically drained–even now, years later. It is because of this evident scarring that we were able to see a vulnerable, human side–his most powerful attribute. Because of it we could put ourselves in his position and feel his pain, the determination of New Orlean’s people, and the lust for this “sexy, sensual city” that binds one so whole-heartedly that all there is left to do is to rebuild. –Marilize Van der Walt
From my lunch with Chris Rose, I learned that so many possibilities for improving our nation were abounding after Hurricane Katrina but none of them were built upon. Speech upon speech was given to stir people to change, but no action was ever taken to progress after the disaster. The things that were done, such as buses coming to rescue people from the Super Dome, were all for show. Those buses could have been there to pick up passengers long before they actually did. The grandeur of the situation was higher on the priority list than actually saving the people. Rose emphasized what a shame it was that more action wasn’t taken against prejudice, racism, and crime in this situation though there were many opportunities for action. He was quite livid that his people were suffering all for the sake of making the government look good via the media. It made me realize how many great opportunities we pass up. Each day, we should be looking for ways to help and serve others just to show our love for them, not to show that we are better than anyone else. –Darcie Christensen
Speaking with Mr. Rose provided a great opportunity to really make the story and heartache of what happened in the wake of Katrina hit home. Whether it was the evident loss, accounts of hardship, or simply hearing first-hand about the process of recovery, Mr. Rose communicated the “realness” of Katrina with every fiber of conversation. Of particular interest to me was his account of how New Orleans has grown since the hurricane—stronger and closer together than ever before. His understanding of the increased level of political efficacy amongst New Orleanians, and of the political opportunities missed in the debate surrounding the city provided a fascinating perspective on some of the broader impacts Katrina had. Ultimately, I felt meeting Mr. Rose was a unique opportunity to really “connect” to the themes of Zeitoun. –Allison Fife