Harry Connick, Jr talks about first days after Katrina

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Connick told the crowd about his Hurricane Katrina experiences

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — It’s the first time he’s told the story, according to New Orleans own Harry Connick, Jr.

“I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t know that I’ve ever said this, ” Connick told a crowd at Gallier Hall on Friday as he began to tell a room full of people about his experience in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

Connick says he used the private jet of an executive at NBC to get to New Orleans.

“I couldn’t find my dad.  He wasn’t answering the phone, ” Connick said.

The comments came during a big announcement that included Connick, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and the top executives from Walmart.  The retail giant is participating in a “Day of Service” event on the Katrina anniversary that aims to put 10,000 volunteers to work.  Walmart is also making a $25 million commitment to disaster relief around the world.  The first $500,000 will go to nonprofit groups along the gulf coast.

Connick told the crowd that he eventually reached his father and then was taken to see the people left stranded at the convention center.  He said that he saw the bodies and the suffering and had to do something, and that’s when he began brainstorming with his friend and fellow New Orleanian Branford Marsalis.

Together the two came up with the idea to build the Musicians Village that now provides more than 80 homes for musicians and others in New Orleans.  But he says it wasn’t an easy sell early on.  Even his father was a little dubious.

“And I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, we need to rebuild New Orleans.’  And my dad said, ‘You are so stupid.'”

The humorous story brought a chuckle from the crowd.  Then Connick updated everyone on the progress of the Musicians Village.

Friday’s event at Gallier Hall also included a leadership forum for business, government, and nonprofit leaders to discuss the lessons learned since Hurricane Katrina.

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