Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Plus One

(Above: New Orleans underwater. Photo from Wiki Commons.)

A year ago today, Katrina devastated New Orleans. Oddly enough, last night turned out to be the grim anniversary that kept me awake and remembering most of the night. After all, it was on the 28th that we loaded up the cars and fled our home. It was on the 28th that we spread our sleeping bags on my daughter’s living room floor and lay down to listen to the wind and the rain beat up Baton Rouge, imagining how much worse it must be 70 miles to the east. It was on the 28th we realized that the miracle wasn’t going to happen, the storm wasn’t going to turn, our city wasn’t going to be saved.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning we lost power and with it all connection with the outside world (our cell phones had essentially quit working during the evacuation). The following week is a hideous blur in my memory, punctuated by a few stark moments: Sitting in a CC’s with Sam’s laptop, looking at online photos of the drowned city. A tearful telephone call (from a pay phone in Walmart) to my sister in San Francisco, asking her to please come get our mother and take her away from the heat and the helicopters and the unbearable tension of it all. A Fox reporter on Wednesday night announcing that everything in Kenner between the I10 and the lake was under 10 feet of water. It wasn’t true, of course, but I didn’t know that until we crept back into our wreck of a parish the following Monday. A foot of water is bad; 10 feet of water would have destroyed my house and absolutely everything in it, and killed my poor Press Cat. For four hideous days, that's what I thought had happened.

Anniversaries are peculiar things. Why mark this day? To remember those who died, first and foremost. But it should also be a time of affirmation, a commitment to the obligation to insure that such a thing is never allowed to happen again.

We are remembering our dead, and our pain, and our loss. But the degradation of the wetlands and barrier islands continues. The MR GO is still there. The levees are still 10 feet lower than scientists tell us they need to be. The city is still, for the most part, a deserted husk. Why? Because people are afraid to return, because they know that sooner or later it will happen again and nothing is being done to prevent it. Again.

No comments: