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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On the first anniversary of Katrina...

On a pretty normal day in Connecticut last Aug. 29, we read with growing horror about Hurricane Katrina as it stormed ashore on the Gulf Coast. The news was sketchy at best, but on discussion boards operated by New Orleans tv stations and the city's terrific newspaper, ordinary people telling what they knew made it painfully clear by mid-day that Katrina's devastation would easily surpass anything our country had seen in generations.
At Tattoo Central, we wanted someone to tell that story for us.
Lacking a single writer or photographer anywhere near the scene, we did the only thing we could do: try to recruit someone on the spot.
Figuring that a news-minded teenager might well be reading the same desperate message boards that we were scanning – they really were the only decent source of news that day – we posted a handful of pleas for any teens who had a story to tell about Katrina to contact us and write.
At 3:30 that afternoon in Louisiana, a girl named Samantha Perez entered our life.
She wrote this to us:

I was looking for news on the flooding near my home on the forum, hoping I'd find some better news than we were hearing from family that didn't leave the area. We left our home in St. Bernard, located in southeastern Louisiana, at 3:00 on Saturday morning, and we evacuated to Shreveport, Louisiana. I read your post in the forum, and I thought maybe I could help.

I've lived in St. Bernard parish all my life, and hurricanes are something you have to deal with here. It's part of living in this area. My entire family lives in St. Bernard, the parish that was hit the worst of all in this hurricane. The eye of the hurricane passed directly over my parish, which means our homes endured the eyewall, the worst part of a hurricane. We had the strongest winds and storm surges that broke the levees on the canals and ship channel. Water poured into neighborhoods and flooded the streets. We found out an hour ago from family that my street is under ten feet of water. I don't have a home anymore....

I've been writing stories since I was little, but my mother got angry before we left, looking for my cell phone that we were going to give my grandparents, who were also evacuating. She dumped out the bags I'd packed of my things, just dumped them on my bedroom floor. All the disks of my writing are there, under ten feet of water. We're 9 hours away from the parish now, but she's still yelling at me because I left my new senior ring on my bedroom dresser.

My parish, my home, the homes of my friends ... it's all gone. I don't know what I can do for
TheTattoo, but I'd like to help tell people about what's going on. A close friend of mine lives in New York, and I tried telling her about the hurricane. She didn't understand what it means to have 12 feet of water in your streets, to have everything you have ever owned simply washed away. My family is very close and has lived here for generations. I grew up, listening to my grandparents tell stories of Hurricane Betsy in 1965 that sent people to their roofs. People went around in boats during the aftermath, taking dead bodies out of the water. Betsy was a category three. Katrina was a category five, and it hit my parish, my home, with a direct hit. New Orleans didn't take the direct hit. We did. St. Bernard parish. And all our homes are under the water because of it.

I have no home to go back to, and I'd like to write about it for your newspaper. This was the hurricane of the century, and I know that it would be a good thing if teens actually understood what happened in Louisiana. This wasn't just a "bad storm." This was a monster of a hurricane that brought total destruction to my home. My friends, family, and I have nothing left, and I'd like to help people know what really happened here during this hurricane.
Email back if you'd like me to. I'm not sure what you need. I've only heard of
TheTattoo before briefly, but it'd mean a lot to write about this. Wish the best of luck to any other teens who've contacted you about this hurricane. We all need it.

- Samantha Perez

We couldn't believe it: through sheer luck, we'd found a real writer who could put our readers in the middle of it all. We grabbed at the chance, and so did Samantha.
She's kept writing, too, for all these many months of her gypsy life, giving us, and our readers, an enduring look at the emotional toll of losing nearly everything. It's been a story of heartbreak and courage, told with unimaginable skill by a genuine writer with an eye for detail.
We have no doubt that Samantha's journal is going to be read for a long time to come and are honored that The Tattoo had a role in helping her to find a worldwide audience for it.
Today, Samantha looks back over the past year in another of her wonderful entries. Please do yourself a favor and read it. Get others to read it. And if you haven't seen what she's been writing starting that awful day in August 2005, then go back to the beginning and find out what you've missed.
Make Sammy Perez a part of your heart and soul, just as we have.

Check it all out at:

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Garrison Keillor is a funny fellow

"A Prairie Home Companion" at Tanglewood. July 2006.

Don't miss Connecticut writer Wesley Saxena's review of the live "Prairie Home Companion" show performed at Tanglewood up in the Berkshires early in July. Host Garrison Keillor proved a soothing, funny fellow and guest star Meryl Streep seemed to have a pretty good time, too. Check out Saxena's views at ReadTheTattoo.

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Michel Lee's Harvard Journal

California writer Michel Lee has packed up and gone home from her summer program at Harvard, but she hasn't closed the book on her experience.
Read the latest posts in her "Harvard Journal" for The Tattoo to find out how come not everybody packs on the infamous 'freshman 15' while eating cafeteria food at college and why writing college applications is one of the more onerous chores for high school seniors.
Catch up with Lee's journal here:

Harvard Journal

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

New Insider's Guide to High School issue published

Kicking off our 13th year, The Tattoo offers a new round of advice to high school students from their peers who have been there, done that.
"There’s a lot more to navigating high school then how to get from one class to the next on time, managing your time and money, getting noticed by the opposite sex, and eventually getting ready to apply to college, even though that’s what most people think about when the subject of getting through high school comes up," Tattoo writer Stefan Koski points out, before he lays out his own advice.
Oscar Ramirez weighs in to emphasize that teens should try new things so they can find out what they're truly passionate about.
Molly Horan tackles the ever-present problem of the lunch room: where to sit. Don't miss her piece.
Michel Lee offers up a list of must-have books that students, well, must have.
And the talented Justin Skaradosky rounds out the first issue of our new year with yet another of his wonderful cartoons: "When pigs fly...."
Check it all out in our August 28, 2006 issue (Vol. 13, No. 1).

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

A new entry in Samantha Perez's Hurricane Journal

Don't miss the latest piece by Louisiana writer Samantha Perez, who only recently got an Internet connection that allowed her to send this on to us:

Monday, July 3, 6:44 p.m., St. Bernard, Louisiana
Before — before the hurricane — things were different.
Everyone looked forward to July because it was so special to all of us. Almost every weekend during the summer, I would spend at the camp we had in the Violet Canal, but the Fourth of July was different. The water was different then. The water was alive that day. It was bright and it was smiling because my entire family and the people raised as my family were out on that water, cooking things on the grill and laughing.
The Fourth of July was my favorite time of the year. It meant an entire week with my cousins and my aunts with their amazing stories to tell and my uncles who give my family its magic.

Read on by clicking here: "Lost freedom on the Fourth of July"

And be sure to check back on Tuesday, when Perez weighs in on the first anniversary of the devastating storm.

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Read the best writing about Hurricane Katrina

In the year since Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore last Aug. 29th, millions of words have been written about what happened and why. None of them are as good as the journal that 17-year-old Samantha Perez started writing for The Tattoo the day the hurricane destroyed her home in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.
Anyone who wants to understand what happened should read Perez's stunning, detailed, heart-tugging account at

Here's just one of the many, many comments we received from readers who stumbled across Perez's journal and coudn't stop reading: "I have just finished reading your online journal. I can hardly find the words to tell you how impressed I am. You have so much talent, and more than that, so much strength. You keep on writing. You will only get better, and I can hardly wait to read your stories. I know we don't have a clue what you and your family and thousands of your friends and neighbors are feeling, but your words give us a little insight. We pray for you, we hurt with you, and we encourage you to keep on climbing up, till you have overcome this awful thing that has happened."

The journal is long but utterly absorbing. Just make sure you have a box of Kleenex at your side before you begin.

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 21, 2006

2006 Insider's Guide available now

Though there's more to come, we've started updating our comprehensive, award-winning Insider's Guide to High School. Check out Molly Horan's advice on sitting at lunch, a perennial concern for teens, and don't miss Justin Skaradosky's new cartoon. They're both available now on The Tattoo's website at
Poke around a bit in our Insider's Guide (currently on the right side of the home page, at the top) for years worth of knowing advice from students who have been there, with eyes wide open. It'll do any teen good.

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tattoo Central moves to Nebraska, temporarily

Watch this space for a behind-the-scenes look at Zach Brokenrope's hometown of Aurora, Nebraska, which is about as close to the middle of America as it gets. We're here, nosing around now. We'll let you know what we find.

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Get ready for school

If you're thinking about the start of the new school, which is coming up all too soon for many, check out The Tattoo's comprehensive Insider's Guide to High School for great advice from peers who have been there. It's at

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Joy riding with Joe

Okay, it wasn't really joy riding with Joe. It was more like hopping aboard the campaign express with an embattled U.S. senator, his wife, some aides and a few stray reporters. And it was cool.

Go along for the ride with Tattoo reporter Wesley Saxena and find out what really happens behind those tinted glass windows.

Check out the story at

Oh, yeah, in case you're wondering. When The Tattoo sought to interview Sen. Lieberman, he invited our reporter and photographer onto his campaign bus for a few hours and sat down for a lengthy interview just a few days ago.
His opponent, Ned Lamont, who was not particularly swamped at the moment we approached him, responded to our request for an interview with this: "You've got seven seconds." He sounded like he meant it. Lamont actually gave us more time than that, but....

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tattoo tackles Leiberman-Lamont race

Tattoo writer Wesley Saxena interviews U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman on his campaign bus.

Sure, you can read about the hot and heavy race between Greenwich millionaire Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Time and a thousand other publications, but WHY BOTHER? The Tattoo has the story.

Find out what makes this Connecticut Senate race so important -- and find out what the candidates told The Tattoo during the final days of the hottest political contest in America.

Check it out at

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

The hottest political story in America -- and we're on top of it

Joe Lieberman on his campaign bus.

The Tattoo's Wesley Saxena spoke with both of the candidates in Connecticut's hot political primary in recent days. Both U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont, hero of the anti-war movement, took time to answer Saxena's questions for a story that will be online this weekend at

Ned Lamont fields questions from Tattoo reporter Wesley Saxena.

Our official policy: We hate blogs.
Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

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