Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Miasma of Despair


Do you believe you can “feel” other people’s emotions, like a faint indefinable presence that hangs in the air? Think about the peaceful calm of a cathedral or an Australian Aboriginal sacred site. Or the skin-crawling horror that lingers even after so many years in places such as the Coliseum or the World War I battlefields of Europe. Is it imagination? I don’t think so. I have caught the echo of such emotions before I understood the history of a place or its significance. I’ve known houses where the very walls seem to have absorbed the anguish of the unknown women and children who suffered there, and other houses that radiate an exuberant joy left by generations of happy families laughing and loving.

A miasma of despair hangs over New Orleans. Statisticians tell us the death rate has more than doubled. People who have lived with medical problems for years are suddenly succumbing to them; others were young and seemed healthy enough, before. Medical personnel report responding to more suicides and suicide attempts in a DAY than was normal for a month, pre-K. Even the animals are dying. So many who managed to save their pets from the storm itself are now losing them to the stress of its aftermath.

The Big Easy. The City that Care Forgot. We weep for what we have lost, rage at those responsible. We try to pick up the pieces and rebuild, but it is so hard. Vast areas are still without power, without water, without phones or sewage. Mail service in the entire area is a joke. The medical system is in a state of collapse. I talk to friends in other parts of the country, they say to me, “I guess things must be getting back to normal in New Orleans by now?”

No.


What I’m reading…
Nonfiction: LAST TRAIN TO PARADISE, by Les Standiford, on Henry Flagler and the building of the Key West Railroad. The hurricane parts are making me more than a little uncomfortable, but it’s a fascinating story.

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