One year after The Thing:
On Sunday (08/28/05) and Monday (08/29/05), I avidly monitored Katrina from 2,000+ miles away. After landfall, I’d felt relieved because the initial reports indicated that NOLA was battered, but not broken (a bullet dodged, nothing more than a very messy flesh wound). It wasn’t until Tuesday that the breaches and flooding were accurately reported to those living outside of the region.
I spent the first three weeks of September locating scattered friends, loved ones and folks not personally known to me who were important to my long-time allies. At the time, I hurt because didn’t know how to do more; not having been displaced, I didn’t fully comprehend the value of being a stable point-of-contact (simply because my phone number is one that’s easily memorized). The morning I was able to confirm the location of the last person on my list by speaking with him directly in his new place of residence, I quietly left my workplace, walked to a small, quiet park down the street, sat down on the grass in the sunshine and finally cried.
An excerpt from an email I’d sent to a long-time ally, Brother Tom on 09/14/05: “I know that the best parts of me live openly and freely in New Orleans. I knew where the people were who easily shared laughter with me and had heartfelt hugs waiting for me no matter how much time had passed since the last time I came around. Family is all that matters at this moment; we’re all miles away from Toulouse and Burgundy these days. You’ve all welcomed me well during the days and nights when I’m able to be there; now I’m being given the chance to return that favor.”
Of the 25 friends/loved ones that were living in NOLA, fourteen returned. Of those, ten remain one year later (one of whom is presently struggling with the idea of starting over elsewhere).
During the past year, I’ve told many not familiar with New Orleans that things like the architectural charm, the sense of history, the fragrance of night-blooming jasmine, the food and music are part of what makes New Orleans undeniably unique, but that it’s really the people who live there that give it a life/character/flavor all its own. These days it’s those people (imperfect, uncommon, opinionated, gracious, funny and amazingly strong) that are my reason for coming back.
I wasn’t even back in Seattle for 72 hours from last week’s brief pre-anniversary visit before I’d booked my next trip (10/29-11/03/06). At present, I’m a frequent visitor — next year, I hope to return as a resident.
over 6 years ago