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.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The HMS Acasta

The HMS Acasta is a Royal Navy reenactment group portraying the crew of the HMS Acasta, a 40 gun frigate built in 1797. The Acasta saw action against the French, Spanish, and Americans in the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. After taking a number of prizes, mostly in the West Indies, it was broken up in 1821.

The HMS Acasta reenactment group maintains a wonderful blog at They are fanatical about being true to their period, which makes the blog a great source for anyone interested in the Regency period. So be warned! Click on that link and be prepared to lose hours meandering through their past posts.

One of their most interesting posts is this one, available on YouTube, "Dressing Mr. Darcy," which does one of the best jobs of explaining Regency male dress I've seen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

More Pomp and Circumstance

We had another graduation in the family this past week when my younger daughter, Dani, received her master's degree in cognitive psychology from LSU.

Although Baton Rouge isn't far away, they're doing a lot of construction on the interstate at the moment, so Steve and I drove up the day before and stayed at LSU's lakeside hotel. My daughter actually completed the degree last spring and has now started work on her PhD (she taught her first course, Introduction to Psychology, this summer), but she didn't quite finish in time to get all the paperwork in and go through the ceremony in May. Which was a good thing, since not only would she had graduated the same day her big sis graduated from medical school (the medical school ceremony is in New Orleans), but sitting through a graduation of less than 800 students is far more pleasant than enduring a parade of thousands!

While graduations can be painful--especially when the seats are as scrunched together as those in LSU's arena--I still get a buzz out of the atmosphere of intense pride and accomplishment (and relief) they generate. The familiar strains of Pomp and Circumstance still bring a lump to my throat.

And yes, Steve and I are very proud of our girls.

Top photo courtesy of Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations.