(Art by Eric T. Styles)
There are hundreds of ways that any one of us could die in the French Quarter. Let’s take a look at one way we could all die together.
Solar flares or an electromagnetic pulse. It’s estimated a large scale event could kill millions in the months following a massive solar flare and mass ejection towards the Earth. The large loss of life would occur in every major city effected. A large solar flare such as the one that took place in 1856 known as the Carrington Event would devastate our modern electronic dependent modern world.
Similarly, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could be produced by a massive nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere above the continental United States by such nations as China or Russia. Such a blast would be delivered by new hyper-sonic weapons that the U.S. currently have no defense system to prevent. Given global tensions today, this is not so far fetched.
Either event would result in our electrical grid being shut down not for days, but possibly years. Replacing large transformers without an operating infrastructure would be near impossible. A strong enough blast would have the ability to fry nearly every electronic device. Everything from transportation to communication devices would instantly become useless.
Cities would take the brunt of the disaster. No electric means no fuel, no transportation for food deliveries or water distribution. You thought Katrina was bad? There won’t be any hope for outside assistance since every major city and town will be in the same situation. What little government and military still functioning will be looking after their own.
Let’s imagine the event’s effect on the French Quarter. To make it even more interesting we’ll have it happen on a busy holiday weekend like Labor Day. Every hotel booked, Bourbon Street filled with drunken tourists in the middle of the day.
THE FIRST FEW HOURS:
There won’t be any warning. Just a “boop” as power goes out and all trucks and cars stall in their place. Most all vehicles made after 1990 have a computer in them. The worst part for all of us will be the total absence of any information. No TV or radio broadcasts, no Emergency alerts on our devices, just darkness literally and figuratively. People today flip out if they can’t get a wi-fi signal or their device runs out of battery life. Imagine if every device just turned off and wouldn’t even power on.
Crowded bars and restaurants go dark, the music stops and a collective panic sets in when we all look down at our blank screens. If caused by man in an upper atmosphere blast, we might hear a distant rumble a few minutes after when the sound wave reaches us. Any critical thinker would realize that this isn’t a simple power outage that may resume operation in a few hours. Battery powered devices turning off and all traffic stalling in place would be the ominous sign something bigger has happened.
Imagine being a manager of a crowded club. Both guests and employees would become increasingly panicked. Forget closing out the tabs, no registers, no ATMs, no credit card machines. Push the guests out and lock the doors. Employees will want to go home, let them. They will be worried about their loved ones and you will be too. It will be a long hot walk home, grab some water for the journey.
Where will the tourist go? Back to their dark and excessively hot hotel rooms? Loiter in the streets nursing their last drinks? Gather and spread rumors? Was it was China? Russia? UFOs? If you think that they are demanding and high maintenance in the best of times, imagine them all in an emergency. The looting will start before it’s even nighttime. Tourists and locals alike will push themselves into Rouses, the drug stores and any shop with food and liquor. The collapse of order will happen with in hours.
It’s possible that New Orleans city government may have a communication system hardened and protected enough from such a event to stay in contact with state government, which in turn would have lines to the federal agencies. It would still take hours before the full scale of the disaster would become apparent. The only reliable transportation available to NOPD would their horses. Inter-departmental communications would probably not be sophisticated enough to function after the blast.
It would be optimistic to expect the police to place their own personal concerns for family after that of the city. Is it reasonable to expect the law enforcement to maintain order without vehicles, communication in complete and total darkness while they are thinking about their own families in other parts of the city? If any remain on duty, they will be used to protect the wealthy areas and important institutions like the banks and casino.
Don’t expect to see the National Guard riding in to save the day anytime soon. Those who do actually report for duty will be put to work in Baton Rouge. No trucks with MREs and water, no crowd control, no relief.
By midnight most every shutter has been pried open and every bar and restaurant has been ransacked by tourists and a few locals. Don’t be an idiot by sitting out on your balcony with a warm beer and your last bag of chips rubber-necking at the unfolding chaos below you. You will be seen as a “have” by the “have-nots.”
Were you a big fan of ridiculous zombie apocalypse films? Always fantasized about how cool the anarchy would be? Good news, it’s here, the bad news is that you will be one of the zombies soon. Remember those AR-15s with a 30-round magazine that “No one needs?” I bet you wish you had a couple of them now.
Before dawn of the next day, someone will start a fire. Forget NOFD, their trucks don’t run and most went home to protect their families. After a night of smashing of windows, periodic gunfire and constant yelling the smell of smoke will drift across the French Quarter. Unlike previous fires that ravaged the Quarter in the past, there will be no bucket brigades or effort to extinguish the flames. Large swaths will burn for days with the slightest breeze from the river.
Other parts of the city are not fairing much better. The collapse was hastened in the French Quarter by the presence of thousands of tourists. Uptown where all of the highly educated elites live they too are suffering. Most probably don’t have more than two days worth of food in their large homes. The university professor with a doctorate in political theory is outraged that Uber Eats isn’t delivering during The Battle of Armageddon.
Perhaps it’s time to get out of the French Quarter. You and your friends gather up what little supplies that you have left and hop on your bicycles. You have to pedal through a few neighborhoods to find the promised land. Without cars operating, suddenly bicycles are a very valuable possession. You will head north. Without a phone with GPS it’s next to impossible for you to tell directions, you’ll follow the road signs. You bicycled across the Netherlands, Louisiana will be a piece of cake.
You have a Glock, so you are not concerned. You fired it a couple of times at the firing range and have watched all of the John Wick films so you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Confronted by a group of men, you pull your gun and before you can utter a clever threat you get shot in the back a few times. As you bleed out you get to watch your girlfriend being gang raped. How’s that action hero fantasy working out for you?
If you are fortunate enough to escape the city limits, a long hot ride through the suburbs awaits for you. You come across a looted supermarket. Unsurprisingly all of the vegetarian and soy products are untouched. You gather what you can carry and pedal on until you find a spot to camp for the night. Those hundreds of hours playing the video game “Fallout” have paid off, you got the skills. Perhaps you should have grabbed a can opener and bug spray back at the store.
All of you talk about finding a farm where you can start a commune. None of you have any farming experience, never hunted or fished and really don’t like physical labor. The farmers that are there can do all of that. You have other talents to lend to the new community. One of you has a college degree in women’s studies. They will be the school teacher for the farmer’s kids. They’ll teach the kids reading, math and critical race theory.
You can play the guitar. With no electronic media, the farmers with love you as you sit under a tree playing the few songs you know but they don’t while they work in the hot sun for 12 hours a day to feed everyone. The rural farmers will be so thankful that you sophisticated city folk have arrived to make their lives better.
You spot the first farm house, it’s huge. A barn, large vegetable garden, corn field and chickens. This will be your new home. As you pedal up the long dirt driveway, two men armed with long guns greet you. They seem a little scary, but with your superior intellect you can manipulate them into taking all of you in as one of their own. Perhaps you may even become the leader of the community like Mao.
The farmer who is unsure what has happened, with the loss of all electricity and electronics and only wild speculation as to what the outside world is going through. He sees a group of oily, dirty 20-somethings with purple hair, face piercings and tattoos trespass onto his property. His family nervously wait inside and are also heavily armed as he and his brother go outside to speak to the strangers.
Before you can finish your well-thought-out speech about fairness and entitlement, they point the barrels in your faces and tell you to turn around. Maybe if you start crying it will soften them up, it always worked with your parents. Or maybe not. You threaten to call the cops but stop mid sentence and turn around to pedal on to the next farm up the road. Perhaps the next farm won’t be Trump supporters.
All of you stop along the country road for a good cry and plot to come back that night to steal vegetables that you are so rightfully entitled to. The next day your dead bodies are fed to the hogs.