Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five Years

 I can't commemorate this day by watching footage of the suffering.  It is still too raw, too painful.  I don't think it'll ever not be.  I was in a sandwich shop last night and on the tv was Katrina aftermath footage.  I felt, instantly, like I had to get out.  GET OUT!  What I feel in those moments is panic, rage, darkest anguish.  It was nearly unendurable then.  I can't deal with it now.  Not even for a moment or two.  I wish I were stronger and tougher than that, but I am not.

What I can do is thank the people who helped us, who housed us and our cats for sorrow-drenched weeks upon weeks, who sent us care packages of coffee, gnocchi and love, who slipped us $100 bucks during a long hug or via Paypal from the other side of the country saying "...for urgent stuff like kitty litter and tampons", who, from afar, helplessly listened to us pour out our anguish and agony even though they couldn't fix anything, even when it had been months or years since and we were still crying, still hurting, still broken.

Thanks to the millions of people who donated their vacation time to come help, their money and possessions and hearts.

Thank you to those who did not judge us, who kept their minds and hearts open when they saw our city ripped open and it's ugliest parts surface.  Thank you to those who did not pretend that their own city would not also have such an underbelly.  Thanks to those who never once questioned whether we should rebuild.

It's five years and many of us have finally started to feel normal again.  Many of us still do not.  We rejoice over the things that have returned but even those are bittersweet.  "More restaurants than before the storm!" we crow... not always mentioning that there are huge swaths of the city, like the one my dear friends live in in New Orleans East, that have no restaurants at all.  My friends own a lovely house on a once lovely street that is, to this day, still mostly vacant because its residents have not returned.  They have fixed the tremendous damage to their own home, but for varying reasons, many of their neighbors have not come back to New Orleans.  I often wonder what it feels like to, for five years, still come home every day to a mostly empty neighborhood.  I marvel at their strength and resilience and I ache for them (and the many, many others who are in the same boat) despite that fact that they do not complain.

Katrina damaged everyone it touched in unspeakable ways.  Every New Orleanian, Southern Louisianan and Mississippi gulf coast resident.  We learned things we never wanted to know, lost faith in things that should never have been challenged, lost it ALL and struggled to put it all back together again afterward. Some things were rebuilt stronger and better.  Some things are desperately askew.  Our biggest loss is certainly our people, those who perished (during and after the storm) and those who left.  I still can't forgive Katrina for that.

We will never be the same but we will still be beautiful, unique, vibrant and strong.  We will still be.


Lisa August 29, 2010 at 3:35 PM  

This has to be so hard for you. I remember meeting you, when you were gracious enough to play tour guide in a city you obviously loved, just about a year after the storm. (Has it been that long? I need to come back!) It was one of the hardest vacations of my life, but I felt good being among the survivors and the rebuilders. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

NOJuju August 29, 2010 at 4:35 PM  

The good thing, Lisa, is that it has gotten so very much better! The next time you come down, I will almost definitely not cry at you while touring the city. :) In fact, I'm very proud of our progress and looking forward to more to come. But ooph... it's a looong road.

Anonymous,  August 29, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

I love you sister!

Lola,  August 31, 2010 at 4:52 PM  

Beautifully written, friend. You may not feel tough but sticking with it shows you are!

I am looking forward to being in NO again.

NOJuju August 31, 2010 at 4:58 PM  

Thanks Lola. I am so looking forward to your visit! You're going to have a wonderful time.

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