Updated: Jul 13

After seeing the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel up close and personal, it became personal. I was shook. Hard Rock was a massive, intimidating, heap of indescribable destruction. I stood there surveying the the damage, the sheer size of Hard Rock, 18 floors of pancaked concrete slabs, rubble, debris and wiring. I imagined the panic, the fear, the adrenaline rush those construction workers must have felt as the foundation buckled, the floors gave way beneath their feet as they ran for their lives in terror while being showered with falling concrete and debris. I was standing at a makeshift grave, a mangled concrete tomb of death where Quinnyon Wimberly and Jose Ponce Arreolas' dead bodies remain trapped inside. Two's. I was shook. In good conscience, I had no desire to celebrate Mardi Gras literally over their dead bodies.

The collapsed Hard Rock Hotel stands as the worst eyesore in the city, in the heart of tourism, on the Mardi Gras parade route, downtown New Orleans at Canal and North Rampart Streets, adjacent to the historic French Quarters. Tourist from all over the world come to Louisiana to tour plantations where Africans were enslaved. Tourist from all over the world come to New Orleans to tour the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I envisioned Mardi Gras tourist snapping pictures and taking selfies at the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel as it if were another tourist attraction. I did not have a burning desire to laissez les bons temps rouler this year for Mardi Gras. In spite of the Hard Rock Hotel tragedy, New Orleans let the good times roll for Mardi Gras as as planned. The good times were short lived.

Mardi Gras 2020 was marred by a series of tragic events that overshadowed the festivities, dominated local and national news headlines. The eerie part was, the tragic events all occurred in two's. People in the community speculated that juju had been cast over Mardi Gras as Quinnyon Wimberly and Jose Ponce Arreolas' restless souls and lifeless bodies remained trapped inside the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel. Two's. There were breaking news reports throughout Mardi Gras almost daily it seemed, "two people killed by parade floats, two people fall from balcony along parade route, two riders fall from floats during Mardi Gras parade". Today, two weeks after Mardi Gras New Orleans reported its' first Coronavirus case in the global pandemic. After 15 years of struggling to stay afloat and rise above Hurricane Katrina, a second disaster stands ready to test her resilience, interrupt her rebirth, alter her existence and challenge her survival. New Orleans will survive the Coronavirus pandemic. History has shown she is a survivor. Her next chapter will read two disastrous events forever changed her and forever changed everything we knew about her.

Cosette Richard

9th of March 2020