Eight Years Ago, We Realized Something Was Wrong


When I went to bed on August 29, 2005, everything was okay. At least, news footage of New Orleans implied that everything was okay. There were no hints of lingering problems, other than lots of powerlines down, lots of shingles in the streets.

Jonno woke me up as he crawled under the sheets a bit later. He said: “The levees broke. New Orleans has flooded.”

And in my usual, nonchalant, Pollyanna way, I said something like, “Well, we can’t do anything about it tonight. We’ll take care of it in the morning.”

The next morning, eight years ago today, was the only time during the whole Katrina ordeal that I cried, hugging my friends who had taken us in, not knowing that they’d be hosting us for another seven weeks.

This is what I wrote:

I can’t tell you what it’s like to be in New Orleans right now. I can only tell you what it’s like to want to be there.

Obviously, I want to know that my house is okay. I’m not too worried about the things in it–we managed to secure most stuff before we left–I just want to know that it’s still standing. It’s a stupid psychological thing, but to me, if the house is still standing, there’s a possibility that things will return to normal at some point down the line.

want to stop thinking about the minutiae of my daily life. I want to stop thinking about work, and the multiple jobs I had running at the print shop in Metairie–a print shop that is most likely underwater now–and how that’s going to affect my marketing plans for the year. I want to stop thinking about our theatre company and how our schedule is going to be seriously thrown off, and how we’re going to have to postpone the Facts of Life: “Carrie” project that we’ve been giggling about for years. I want to stop thinking about other things, other plans, other projects that will have to be cancelled, put off, or drastically re-envisioned. I want to stop thinking about paychecks and bills and all the practical things that I don’t usually think about–things that, thanks to direct deposit and online bill payments and other modern miracles, would normally manage themselves.

want to stop watching the news. It’s deadening, and the broadcasters are prone to get things wrong. Yesterday, reporters kept talking about a levee break in the 9th Ward (my neighborhood), when, in fact, the break was in the Lower 9th Ward, which is further away and is separated from us by another system of levees. I guess the confusion is to be expected when you’ve got non-New Orleanians trying to make sense of our byzantine neighborhood naming systems–but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling.

Not least of all, I want to express my gratitude to our hosts. The mayor is saying that we won’t be able to get back to town for another week, and that utilities won’t be up and running for several more. I love spending time with Drew and Don, but I feel very, very uncomfortable imposing on them for that long. Hell, I wouldn’t feel right camping with my own family for that long. But Drew and Don have been nothing but accommodating.

And to CNN: would it kill you to do a flyby of the Faubourg Marigny? I mean, really, just one good pass up Royal Street…

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