Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When the Levees Broke

Has it really been two years since Katrina? It's hard to believe that it was two years ago that Andy and I threw our housewarming party, right smack dab during the weekend that Katrina was feeding off all that warm air over the Atlantic, rapidly morphing from a Category 3 to a Category 5 level storm. While we were drinking beer and playing bocce bag, nature was getting ready to throw its first punch to the Gulf Coast. I remember thinking it was odd that Katherine made the trek to Tuscaloosa, laundry bag in tow, but thank God she did, because she would need those extra clothes when forced to temporarily relocate post-storm. She would not return to New Orleans after the festivities were over.

It all seems kind of surreal now. We watched the news coverage, the lines of cars exiting the city, the lines of people entering the Superdome, all the while hoping that the storm would lose some steam before it decided to make it's landfall. And then we woke up the next morning, and it seemed that the storm had done just that. Sure there was damage, but New Orleans had been spared. We sighed. We were relieved. And then before we could draw our next breath, it began. The levees broke (click here to see the graphic). We returned to the television. We watched in agony as the city began to flood, as the water level in the bathtub kept getting higher and higher. We watched while the people in the Superdome waited. Waited for food, water, rescue. We watched a cityscape change into a lake of submerged houses, with little black dots on the roofs. And we watched to see what our government would do. And we waited.

Two years later and the people of New Orleans are still waiting. Andy made this video ('Tourist of the Apocalypse') when we went down for New Years in 2005. We were shocked that 4 months after the storm, little progress had been made. But now, after 2 years I'm appalled that more has not been done. And that Bush continues to tout: "We're still paying attention. We understand", while many neighborhoods have not yet recovered, while health care continues to struggle (click here to listen to a NPR story about the mental health care crisis), while crime sores (click here to listen to Katherine's friend Eve deliver a NPR commentary), while the levees are still not fixed, and while most everything about New Orleans is still in a state of temporary disrepair (at least let's hope it's temporary).

Even though Katrina reminds us that our relationship with nature is tenuous, and that our attempts to control nature are often thwarted, I don't doubt for one second that New Orleans won't fight back. It's got tenacity, spunk, and a spirit that is not easily dampened. People believe in New Orleans. People need New Orleans. I for one, will be heading south soon to reacquaint myself with the Crescent City. Po-boys and Dixie beers are calling...

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