J.W. Marriott Jr. believes New
Orleans will rise again. He appeared to have little doubt about it
as he spoke to reporters a few days after Hurricane Katrina
ferociously pounded the Big Easy into submission, destroyed its
precarious life-support systems and left it battered, broken,
powerless and in shambles.
This is a most
distressful and concerning time for us, he said. Obviously, it is
the biggest natural disaster ever to hit our country.
[Nevertheless] the long-term outlook for New Orleans is very
Marriott is chairman
and CEO of the Marriott hotel chain, which has 15 managed and
franchised hotels in the New Orleans area. All were affected by
Katrina. All but two, the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton, were
already closed by the time he spoke with reporters.
had called a press conference to update the media on the conditions
of the hotels, evacuation plans for guests and employees and plans
for eventually reopening.
Though the company
had helped evacuate thousands from its hotels, more than 300 guests
and employees were still in the Ritz-Carlton, where water from Lake
Pontchartrain had created a four-foot-deep lake on Canal Street in
front of the hotel.
Those people had to
be transported by raft to the JW Marriott a few blocks away, where
motorcoaches waited to take them to Baton Rouge.
Plans for reopening
will have to wait.
Against the backdrop
of destruction and flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina, reports
streaming out of New Orleans in the days following the storm
painted a stark picture of unimaginable devastation, as people,
unable to evacuate before the storm, were left stranded in New
Orleans without food, water or medical supplies.
conditions resulted in lawlessness in the streets as the citys
beleaguered mayor, Ray Nagin, begged for help.
even hired a cadre of armed guards to ensure safe passage of their
guests and employees from the city.
The images were far
removed from the New Orleans many of us once knew.
This was not the
inviting city that welcomed some 8.4 million visitors each year.
Not the dynamic city where seven hotels, including a new Marriott,
were currently under construction. Not the grand, playful,
mysterious, romantic, risqu? city that never took itself too
seriously, where people embraced any excuse to party in the
This was a new New
Overall, the tsunami
of human misery in Katrinas wake has left many, including me,
wondering whether anything will survive of the old New Orleans we
once knew, even as the prospect of a world without the Crescent
City seems unfathomable.
What if New Orleans
were to fall victim to yet another hurricane? After all, the season
is far from over.
But I had to admire
J.W. Marriotts confidence amid all the uncertainty.
Like other chains,
Marriott is already planning to reopen closed hotels.
In fact, Marriott
officials said that once the city says it is safe to return, they
are prepared to bring in an army of engineers and others to get the
properties up and running.
The Ritz-Carlton once
again will hold court on Canal Street.
And after days of
limited action, the federal government finally began mobilizing
significant aid to the city, which, according to experts, has a
long, long road toward recovery.
Some suggest it may
Still, New Orleans
has a history of overcoming unimaginable tragedies, including a
plague that once nearly wiped out the population.
And then theres
Americas love of the Crescent City.
When this country
gets mobilized and decides it is going to do something, it gets it
done, Marriott said. Whether it is 9/11 in New York, Pearl Harbor
or back to the San Francisco earthquake or the Chicago fire, we get
it rebuilt, and we do it in a hurry.