Six Years

I'm not sure I have anything left to say about Katrina that hasn't already been said.

When I turned on WWL radio this morning on my way to work, they were giving the results of one of their usual online polls and today's question was whether people felt they were better off since Katrina. I'm happy to say that about 65% of the respondents were saying they were better off, which, to me, seemed like a good way to start the day.

In all honesty, I'm better off. I'm happily married and have a six-year-old daughter who is my world. I have a great job and great friends (although I still really miss the ones who moved away). My house was a major fixer-upper pre-storm, and now, thanks to our flood insurance policy, we were able to re-do it the way we had always planned to do, just on a quicker timeline. We now have wood floors throughout, replacing the worn carpet that was here when we bought the house. We have really, really nice kitchen cabinets, a far cry from the crappy, lower end stock cabinets with particle board shelves that were here when we bought the place. Thanks to the generosity of friends and family members (and contents insurance), I have nicer furniture.

This anniversary has been blissfully silent. It's the first year that we haven't been absolutely inundated with anniversary coverage, which is a good thing. It's the first year that it's really felt as if enough time has passed to be able to truthfully say that I'm over it (mostly), that I'm ready to move on. And I think most people in this area feel the same way. We're all ready to move on. We're (mostly) tired of talking about it.

At the same time, this is that weird anniversary year where the dates and days lined up. (Katrina came to town on a Monday, today is a Monday.) And being one of those people who has always paid special attention to dates, days, where I was, etc., an anniversary date where the dates and days line up has always been hard for me--it was just as hard when that anniversary rolled around for Charles' death. It just makes it a little more surreal for me, for some reason. (Does that make me weird?)

So, I'm not sure what I'm trying to say with this post. I'm ready to move on from Katrina. But then I read some asinine comment on Facebook by someone in New England who has no idea of what it was like to go through the experience of a post-Katrina New Orleans and who thinks it's cute to make comments about living below sea level, as if that's the ultimate judge of character and intelligence or something. Tell that to the people in Vermont and Upstate New York right now. I'm pretty sure they're pretty far above sea level and just got some pretty severe damage from a hurricane.

I'm ready to move on from Katrina. But then I read yet another uncharitable comment about welfare queens and their big-screen televisions and the anger just comes over me in waves. I think about people being turned away at gunpoint by cops on the Crescent City Connection and being ordered to turn around and go back to the Convention Center, when all they were trying to do was leave this city. I think about Henry Glover and his burned body and burned car. I think about James Brissette and Ronald Madison and the other people gunned down on the Danziger Bridge. I think about Vera. I think about all of the people at the Superdome and the Convention Center and stranded in their apartments. And then I think about the reactions that a lot of people in this country had and, oh God, I just get so livid I can hardly stand it. I can feel that rage welling up inside of me right now as I type this--just bubbling and roiling and seething below the surface, making me want to hit something. And I'm not usually an angry person.

I'm ready to move on from Katrina. But then I see a show on television where it shows someone opening up a cedar chest that looks just like the one I used to have, that fell apart after sitting in flood water for 12 days, and I'm filled with a sense of longing. I see my friends on Facebook playing some game where you're supposed to post your senior year picture as your profile picture and I can't play because I no longer have a copy of my senior year picture. I see a photograph that someone else has, that was taken in my house pre-K, and I can't get enough of drinking in the background, of remembering the things that used to belong to me (I miss that vase!) And then I feel selfish and stupid for grieving things. Just things.

I'm ready to move on from Katrina. But then another hurricane rolls into town and as much as I don't want to, I compare and contrast. As much as I don't want to, I get a little irritated with the people on CNN who are hysterical over the fact that their basement flooded. (Try having water in your house for 12 days and then get back to me, the ugly side of me wants to scream at the television. Or try watching your friends and family members lose their entire houses, and then let's talk about your basement.) And then I feel uncharitable for being such a mean bitch when all suffering is relative.

I'm ready to move on from Katrina. And I actually felt pretty good today. But then, as my husband pointed out, the coverage on MSNBC was about what a "somber" day this is in New Orleans, and then I get pissed off that they're trying to fit us in a box, to ascribe feelings to us, to tell us that we're feeling somber today, even though maybe I'm not, while maybe others are. But at the same time, I realize that I'd be equally pissed off if the national media didn't mention it at all. There's just no pleasing me. And I know, rationally, that if it bleeds it leads and a story about how great everybody in New Orleans is doing now would most definitely not sell. (And would probably make me mad, too.)

I'm ready to move on from Katrina. I don't want to be defined as a victim. My grief over the events of August 29, 2005, is not limited to a single day. Nor does my grief encompass me every day. Katrina was a death, like any other. I experience joy and I mourn, and neither of those are dependent on the calendar.

I think there will be times for the rest of my life when I will feel sadness and immeasurable anger over what happened to us here and on the Gulf Coast. But at the same time, and as I've said before, I'm glad I'm one of the people who experienced it. Do I still get bogged down in the little stuff? Sure--more times than I can count. But always, in the back of my mind, is that I've most likely gone through the worst challenge that will ever be put before me, and I'm a better person for it.

Remember. Grieve. And then live.

And in honor, the one song that, to me, will always define that period in my life without needing any words to do so.

Beausoleil: "L'Ouragan" - Musique Cajun by jolysable

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am glad you are moving on! I am imagining all the NOLA citizens that do not have the ability to put their feelings into such direct thoughts and words. I am glad to say my brother for sure is one of that 65% that is better off after Katrina. His family evacuated to my house afterwards and we shared lots of tears. You and my brother are two of the reasons that New Orleans will never be a defeated city! Well that and too much booze every now and then (I prefer too much of a fine chardonnay) Thanks for staying ALM!