Katrina +1 - WE ARE NOT OK
This past year has been the most difficult and unbelievably life changing times that will hopefully ever happen again to me and the hundreds of thousands of other residents of New Orleans. This city that I love - that is my true love - foundered and nearly died. An American city was almost entirely destroyed.
While we have fought to resurrect this most unique place in the world, we've had to endure an almost constant barrage of criticism from the federal government and fringe lunatics, while trying to get the rest of the country to understand we are now forced to rebuild a city from the ground up - schools, electrical networks, gas lines, streets, water, sewage, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, dry cleaners, businesses, individual's homes - everything. As I've said many times now, the storm was nothing. The aftermath was everything…
It is widely misunderstood and thought that New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, those terrible images of New Orleans flooding and the human suffering that occurred almost a year ago were in reality caused by human error. Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast while New Orleans was only brushed by the storm. It is quite obvious as to where the storm hit - virtually every structure along the Mississippi Gulf Coast no longer exists, whereas New Orleans' housing still stands, albeit in a ruinous state.
The flooding of this great city occurred because of years of neglect, wetlands loss and faulty levee construction done by the United States Federal Government.
Today, one year later, one must still drive through miles after miles of devastated neighborhoods to get anywhere and I have to only step outside of my FEMA trailer and look a few doors down to see a home where two of my neighbors and their dogs drowned.
I paddled right past that home a little less than a year ago wondering then how many people were trapped in those attics or floating in their bedrooms like the two floating and bloated golden retrievers that I saw that day. It isn't hard for the littlest thing to suddenly spark memories of that time, and I am glad we are able to finally move past this first anniversary.
This has oddly been the best and worst year of my life. It has also been the greatest adventure of my life… even with all the pain, heartbreak and anger. I've learned a heck of a lot over the course of this last year, but I think the most startling revelations for me are how common heroism and the generosity of strangers can be.
The nights are still hard, but in the daylight, there is a spirit here amongst the people of this city, a will and a demand to survive this. We could all be morons for thinking that this city can be saved - but damn if we're not going to attempt it. If we do succeed though, we as a people will probably father an odd strain of human who will re-populate this city far into the future - heroic and able to withstand anything.
We created Jazz here once… who knows what music we'll invent after this.
* Update: I woke this morning with an ironic smile wondering why the big days in New Orleans are always on Tuesdays... Yesterday felt like some kind of dark Lundi Gras... and I laughed at how on Ash Wednesdays I tend to say Mardi Gras should not happen every year. Maybe once every four years... I never get my wish.