Like everyone in New Orleans, the second anniversary of the Federal Flood has got me reminiscing and taking stock. Of course I'm angry with the failure of government on all levels, and disappointed in the country's apathy, and so tired and frustrated as my neighbors and I strive to rebuild a historic city with a very uncertain future. Brian Schwaner's article for the AP, in which he calls the slow death of New Orleans "a national disgrace," captures my sentiment quite well.
I just finished reading Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time, an excellent book about people who survived the Dust Bowl and the Depression. It continuously reminded me that even though my life in post-Katrina New Orleans is difficult, just about anyone in history would happily change places with me. Moreover, most people in the third world today would probably move to New Orleans if given the chance. So I've been thinking quite a bit about the good things that have happened in my life due to the failure of the levees two years ago. That might seem insensitive to the thousands of people who lost their life in the Federal Flood. But this post is simply meant to be a reflection on a few good things that happened to me because of this tragedy.
The best thing that happened because of Katrina was that we got to spend four months with our family in Nebraska. This was especially nice as my father passed away last February. One Saturday my father and I were even able to attend a Nebraska football game, something we did together regularly when I was growing up. I know our time at that game and being able to visit throughout the four month period meant a lot to my dad. My children were able to spend quite a bit of quality time with their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
After Katrina I also felt that my life was appreciated. After swimming in the flood waters, and escaping from the Causeway Concentration Camp, I posted "One of the Millions of Hurricane Katrina Stories."" I received hundreds of emails and phone calls after that, some from friends I hadn't heard from in more than 20 years. That was nice.
Since Katrina I have been more involved with the world. Much of the time I formerly spent researching the ancient world is now spent trying to improve the modern one. We're engaged in trying to rebuild one of the world's greatest cities. I know my neighbors very well. Before Katrina I didn't know many of their names. That changed in a hurry when you are helping them throw out refrigerators with rotting food, or teaching them how to get meals from Red Cross trucks. We get so excited when we see people moving back into our neighborhood, especially if they have kids.
We plan on being in our flooded house in one year. It's taken a very long time due mostly to problems with insurance. In the end our house will be much better than it was before Katrina, and Therese and I were able to design the remodeling so that it reflects our personalities. We think it will be the house in which we die, that is, if New Orleans doesn't flood again. Therese and I are willing to fight hard to rebuild this city once, but that if we lose our house to a flood again, we'll have to set up our lives elsewhere. But we're optimistic, and practical, as we are raising our house so that it rests above Katrina's high water mark. I would be angry if the politicians and press didn't come down to our city to cover the second anniversary, but I will sure be glad when they all leave. What we're striving for is a return to a sense of normalcy. It's probably still at least 8 years away.