Monday, August 23, 2010

Special Edition: My Katrina, First Post

I became a serial blogger on September 2, 2005, while exiled in Florida, heartbroken to my core, trying to work through what was happening... and what was going to happen... in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I'd lived in Louisiana for seven years at that point, in New Orleans for six.  You'll often hear people from New Orleans say that they love the city with the same kind of love they have for their families.  And that was me.  I'd fallen in love with New Orleans as a teen, worked my entire young adulthood to get there, and never imagined I would ever leave.  Ever.  So much so, that I'd never evacuated for a hurricane. Ever.  Until Katrina.

A while back, I thought I would honor the fifth anniversary of Katrina by re-posting posts from that blog, simply called "Displaced."  And just ten minutes into starting to re-read the blog, I started to cry.  And I realized I couldn't keep reading.  Most of it is just too sad.  And some of it is too incongruously beautiful.  But I thought I'd start by republishing the first post, at least.  I reserve the right to not publish any more.  I've not changed any of the typos or grammer errors-- or even the places where I sound utterly mad.  Mad as in crazy.  Mad as in MAD, too.  I've just changed a couple of the names.

Post title: First Thoughts
Original post date: September 2, 2005 4:22pm

I’m waiting. I’ve always been bad at waiting. Terrible at waiting patiently.

And yes, like every New Orleanian, every displaced denizen of the Gulf Coast, I am waiting for answers, for news, for concretes. And like every American I am waiting, and not very patiently I might add, for help to arrive in my city. For those who have the power to step up and do the right things, the logical things, the compassionate things…

But it’s Friday now, and I’m still waiting, and this time patiently, for the right words. I told a number of friends who emailed me early this week that I would send them a “proper email” as soon as I could. And I can’t.

As soon as I knew I would be displaced (although then I thought it would be briefly—weeks, not months), I knew I’d have a lot of people who’d want to know the hows and wheres and whats of my displacement. I decided that the best way to do that would be to establish a blog; that way I wouldn’t trouble people with newsy emails and anyone who was interested could check in at their convenience. I thought too that it would be nice to have a journal of the experience for myself.

And as I said, it’s Friday now and I’ve yet to put finger to keyboard except to respond to emails, briefly, and to search the internet, incessantly.

Writing has always been an escape, a catharsis. But for the past days, the act of articulation has seemed burdensome.

And I am waiting, too, for the enormity of this tragedy to finally be real enough to me that I am able to parse out my emotions. Grief, yes, more than I can possibly articulate. Anger like I have never felt in my life. Anger that I hope is common to everyone who tunes in the news. But there are other emotions there that I have yet to tap or yet to identify. Dichotomies of selfishness and selflessness, hope and despair, optimism and crushing pessimism.

But there has been a single sentiment that has eked through the morass in my brain, even long before I saw my city become alien to me, long before the ravages of nature turned into the savageness of unrest and criminal neglect. In the course of a lifetime, we are confronted by personal tragedies, even social tragedies, to which we respond “My life will never be the same. I don’t know how I can go on.” Death of loved ones, divorce, even the enormity of events like 9-11. But even as early as Monday morning, when the national news began to release image after image of places that I know and love fallen, under water, the lives of so many washed away—whole towns wiped from the continent—I felt humbled, tragically na├»ve, to have ever believed that any sorrow that I have suffered, either personally or sympathetically, could ever have made me feel like it would be difficult to “go on.”

And in the past days, it has gotten worse. My gut response was to the power of nature. I am now—we all are now—confronted with so much more to process. We’ve seen true evil. We’ve seen incompetence and neglect that is unfathomable. We have seen preventable suffering and death and despair that goes beyond our ability to comprehend.

Hopefully within the next day or two I’ll be able to start this blog properly—to use it to disseminate information about my plans, about the status of my school, about what people can do to help those who need help. Right now I have absolutely none of that information. We are safe in Tampa, displaced but not homeless in anything but the sentimental sense of the word. Heartbroken but so lucky. Grateful for the love and kindness of our friends and family. And despairing with helplessness and uselessness.

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