Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eight Years On

It was eight years ago this morning that Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, changing our city--changing us--forever. So much has happened in the past eight years that in some ways those horror-filled hours and days and months seem long, long ago. And yet...

I can still feel the gut-wrenching despair of opening my front door for the first time after the storm and seeing what the floodwaters had done to the inside of my home. Still vividly recall the anguish of sitting beside my dying aunt in an understaffed hospital with boarded-up, shattered windows and orange FEMA blankets (because their laundry service had been swept away). Still remember the endless, strained jokes about blue tarps and National Guardsmen with machine guns at the corner and driving up to Baton Rouge for groceries and water. And none of us will ever forget that inimitable stench of decay that clung to the city for months and months--and, in some places, years.

They tell us the city has now regained 75% of its pre-Katrina population. That means more than 25% of us never came home, because our population today includes many volunteers who came down here to help, fell in love with the place, and decided to stay. It also includes new Hispanic residents who came to work on the reconstruction and also stayed.

In many, many ways, New Orleans is "back," as they like to say, although the changes are there, and heartbreaking. Yet change is a part of life, as are trauma and renewal. None of us will ever be the same again, in some ways that are good, but in others... Not so good. The memories of Katrina are always with us, a part of who we are. Yet every year on this date, those thoughts push their way to the front of our consciousness, and we go through our day shadowed by the old hurt and fear, shock and horror, despair and pain, disillusionment and bewilderment.

And we mourn what we have lost.


lmhess said...

I live thousands of miles from you and New Orleans, Candy, but I remember those gut-wrenching hours (and days) from the Weather Channel coverage. It broke my heart to see the distruction and your words brought it all home again. I think you - and all the residents who stayed on - are very brave (or a little crazy:)). Thanks for some poignent words of reminder.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

As Imhess said, the destruction broke my heart. I had the great pleasure to visit the Emerald City in '97 and to see the photos and coverage of so much washed away is still wrenching. Always, my thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

paz said...

Know that the thoughts of so many are with you during these sad last days of August.

Anonymous said...

I think Katrina and its aftermath taught many of us in this nation not to take things for granted. How very precious our way of life is and what can be gone in the blink of an eye. As you say, it will never be the same, but hopefully, as with any tragic event, we will remember and mourn for what was lost, yet be the better for having survived and overcome. Try to have a fun Labor Day weekend! Sabena

Helena said...

I too am thousands of miles away, but I remember you and the others who suffered when Katrina hit. Our thoughts are with you.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, I don't generally see a lot of differences in New Orleans now. A few things are noticable about the residents. Certain areas will jump out at you but I don't go through those areas very often.

Ariel Heart said...

Hello Ms. Harris,
This is not associated to this particular post, but more general.

I write a mystery/suspense book blog and reviewed your novel "What Darkness Brings" plus several others. I would like to interview you for the blog, if that works well for you. I would email you the questions and you would send your responses when you are satisfied with your answers. It is a very low-pressure way to interview.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank You,

ariel_heart (at) msn (dot) com

LOgalinOR said...

My goodness gracious, YOU have been thru a lot with Katrina. Your thoughtful reflections and painful recollections, are still haunting. Sabena said it well, about how life can change in an instant, and yet be better for having survived and overcome. I don't say that lightly, as it is still evident that the memories are still heartrending and that life in New Orleans is still adjusting---to the changes in the aftermath. We all hope that with each passing year, that the city and its' people can look back and see the positive aspects and successes. Yes, life is different, but it can still be good. Our thoughts, prayers, and hearts are with you at this time of year.

Anonymous said...

I remember Katrina well but not because I lived through it. because it was only a few short years after 9/11 and that I did live through. I kept thinking of the similarities – not that Katrina was an act of terrorism but because of the needless deaths, the terrible destruction and overwhelming fear that Katrina brought. And as you say, many things in life are back to the way it was before. But the memories will always be there and be a part of who you are and how you live. I know that is how I feel every time I walk along the river and don’t see the Twin Towers. Even now 12 years later it still seems wrong. I wish you the peace that only time and faith can give. Ali

cs harris said...

Imhess, I think crazy is probably about right!

Barbara, so much that made New Orleans unique is still here, thanks to the oldest parts of the city having been built on the highest ground.

Paz, thank you.

Sabena, yes, that is the lesson of those awful days. I live my life very, very differently today. And my Labor Day weekend was wonderful, thanks to a surprise visit from my older daughter.

Helena, thank you.

Charles, I read that 100,000 of those who didn't come back were African American, while only 15,000 were white.

Ariel, I'll email you.

LOgalinOR, thank you. I've noticed some anniversaries hit me harder than others, probably a reflection of life events at the time.

Ali, thank you. I think such events shock us out of our (probably necessary but delusional!) sense of safety and security, and thus are forever traumatic.

anabolio said...

The life has many ways...