Four Years is Enough for Me


Four years ago.  That’s what’s been abuzz in New Orleans on the news, radio, twitter.

NPR did a story Thursday that will be published this Sunday in the New York Times Magazine.  I tuned in midway through the story, the story about Dr. Pou and the deaths at Baptist Hospital, a story every New Orleanian is very familiar with and has a strong opinion about, on both sides.  Several minutes listening, I thought, ‘Is it today?’

No.  The anniversary was not yesterday.  Nor today.  It’s tomorrow.  The 29th.  The day the storm hit land in southeast Louisiana–the night the levees broke.

It’s very hard for me to hear Katrina stories, to watch Katrina documentaries, to read accounts of the storm.

My immediate situation, my Katrina story, is not a horrible one.  I have relatives, and clients, who cannot say the same.  I have heard many stories of Katrina experiences.  Some that make me cry for the unsung heroes, others that make my teeth set on edge for the ‘what-can-I-get-for-free-from-whomever’s-got-a-handout’ mentality.

But those four-year-old stories of what happened during the storm, the standing water for the ensuing weeks, the utter and complete failure of our local, state AND federal governments?  Folks, I can’t hear it any longer.

I am done.  No more.

Yes, it was bad. Very fecking bad.  I do not in any way minimize the horribleness of those that suffered worse, those that lost everything, those that died.

But that was four years ago.

Life in New Orleans has moved on.  I know it is important to keep the Katrina story alive in the minds of Americans so that we can continue to get the federal support we desperately need.  But what NOLA does NOT need is to sound like a city of victims that cannot or will not help themselves.

Why is it shameful to acknowledge that schools are being rebuilt better and more advanced?  Because some schools aren’t coming back?  That isn’t a good enough reason to me.

Why is it shameful that not all New Orleanians who wish to again live here do not?  Because they found better jobs in other cities?  The same can be said for folks all over this country today due to the economy.  Isn’t it the responsible thing to seek out the location that will best serve you and your family?  My husband and I were facing the question of relocating out of New Orleans BEFORE Katrina.  NOLA’s been losing its youth to other cities for as long as I can remember.  Is blaming it on Katrina at this point even valid?

My point is this, lest I am not being clear:  We need to stop wallowing in what’s done and over and focus still on what’s yet to be done.

The point is no longer how long someone sat on a rooftop waiting to be rescued.  Or about Bush’s inane response (along with every other politician I heard or saw addressing Katrina).  Or about whether or not we even rebuild.

The point now is, how do we finally get the Charity Hospital issue resolved and a new facility underway in the city?  What on this earth will it take to get our Cat 5 levees?  When will the Corp of Engineers be deemed incompetent and a new agency put in place to do right by the levees we have and still need?  Can we elect a mayor this time ’round that can truly work with the City Council and move us forward?  When will the corruption, in politics, in tax evasion, in government contracts, end?  How can we keep the recent (and positive) influx of young, educated professionals moving to NOLA and staying here?  How can we create jobs and housing that will allow those that wish to return the opportunity, at long last, to do so?  How can we get crime under control?  Is it possible to even dream of trusting local leaders ever again?

Yes, the clips of NOLA underwater are compelling to look at.  Yes, it was a disaster of epic proportions.  Yes, New Orleans is still needing much effective political support and leadership.

But, at least for me, it’s time to stop painting NOLA as a victim and instead, at a minimum, as an out-patient that’s making great progress.

Because the heart, soul and spirit of this city cannot be drowned, even when her neck is stood upon in floodwater.  And I have no doubt, none, that New Orleans will, in time, be better than she’s ever been.  Prior to Katrina, it was felt that NOLA’s hayday was behind her.  It was just a foregone conclusion that her biggest industry was tourism and we had to accept that large business was no longer a part of the NOLA professional culture.  Katrina changed that.  And it is my firm belief that her best days are yet to be seen.  And if that is BECAUSE of Katrina, well, that’s one helluva silver lining.

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