Sunday, October 7, 2007

Katrina - A Second, Melancholy Anniversary

Originally posted on 8/29/2007.

I am feeling somewhat melancholy and homesick today. More so than last year. I'm not sure why. Things have gotten better in New Orleans but for some reason I am more depressed this year as the anniversary rolls around. Maybe it's because two years later and things aren't further along.

My mom is moving out of her trailer at the end of this month. Housing is outrageous. My nephews have jobs. I have two less siblings this year than I did two years ago. I didn't think it was possible for New Orleans to have fewer IT jobs than it did several years ago but that is the unfortunate truth.

So, today, I will leave you with two NPR stories. You can follow the links to hear the recordings.

The first is titled: Dear New Orleans: I'm Leaving You. This is the story of a reporter, a non-native, who had adopted New Orleans as her home. A female representative of Generation K. Eve from K-Ville. Maybe that makes her a native.

The story isn't so much about her as it is about the sadness and the crime permeating the city two years after Katrina. The big easy that is less easy. Her feelings about New Orleans seem to be a lot like mine:

They don't understand that I'm in love. I talk to friends about New Orleans like a dysfunctional romance. I gush over it one day, then call up bawling and heartbroken the next. Why can't it change? Stop being self-destructive and violent? It has so much potential.

I don't live in New Orleans anymore. I don't know if I ever will. But I am still a local. I always will be. There is something about New Orleans that forces that on you. Even through the embarrassment of re-electing Nagin, I will forever be a child born in Mercy Hospital.

The reporter, Eve, is leaving New Orleans after a friend being murdered, after friends being mugged, after being mugged herself. I wish her the best. Go to the link above and listen to the audio. It's worth a few minutes.

The next story is a little different. Another non-native but one that went the other direction. From sensing an initial futility to being hopeful. Amid Lingering Chaos, Hope for New Orleans' Future, is a story about a reporter who has been reporting on New Orleans for the last two years.

He's seen the rebuilding struggle but understands what a special place New Orleans is. What special people New Orleanians are. Even though it is special, it has always had its issues:
Because the fact is, long before Katrina, New Orleans — a unique gem, with its own architecture, food and musical styles — was in many ways a broken city.

Poverty was endemic, the schools were among the worst in the nation, public housing was a mess, streets and other infrastructure badly needed fixing, and political corruption was a fact of life that led many to believe things couldn't change for the better.

And that's all true. I can't argue with that. It's been that way as long as I can remember. I don't know what kind of ratings my schools had. When I saw the picture of my elementary school under 4 feet of water, I cried. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world thought of it, it was my school.

The first time I went back to my mom's house afterwards, and saw the walls gutted, I felt sick. I could see from one end of the house to the other. Nothing in the way except studs, pipes and wires. Most of the wires needed to be replaced. She was fortunate. She was able to sell the house and move out (and on).

The fact is, with all the corruption, with all of the broken promises (at the federal, state and local levels), with the abandonment of the insurance companies, New Orleans and the surrounding areas are moving on. It is sometimes painful and very often difficult, but New Orleans is a special place.
It's a mix that was created by Spanish, French, African-American, Creole, Italian, Irish and Cajun influences. Add to that mix the Vietnamese of the Versailles neighborhood, who have pulled together to rebuild their neighborhood without waiting for outside help. New Orleans continues to defy planners, just as it defies order. If you want nice, go to Disney World.

I second that.


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