I have a dear and old friend who lives in New Orleans. He has lived in the French Quarter for the past few years. He loves New Orleans, and he has always sounded profoundly at home there. I have never had the fortune of visiting, but his stories about being there have always made the birthplace of Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet come alive in my mind.

And now — well, he phoned yesterday afternoon and said that he was all right, except for broken windows and some flooding. But things are different 24+ hours later in the city. As far as I can tell from the conflicting reports, the French Quarter has escaped the worst of the flooding (thus far), but there’s been a lot of looting and mayhem. I pray that he’s all right. I pray that he continues to be all right in the days ahead. With no way to contact him for now, all I can do is hope.

If anybody has any friends or loved ones in the city and environs of New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or any of the other affected areas, my heart goes out to you.

If you can possibly donate anything to the relief efforts, please call the Red Cross at 1-800-HELPNOW.