Today is the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I'm not sure how to mark this day as I'm no longer in the city and some say that I turned tail and ran from the problems that followed the storm. On the other hand, I know folks that say I did the smart thing by leaving, that I was protecting myself and my future. I don't like to spend much time thinking about which group of folks are right, because I feel like a true New Orleans resident and the thought that I jumped ship hurts my heart.
Leaving was not an easy decision. And I know that, if it were possible, I would return to the city to do my part. I also know that jparks will hear none of this and has vowed that we will never live there again. He's not evil for saying this, just concerned for us. The truth is that the city has not recovered. Two years after being ripped apart, life is not back to normal for the majority of residents and the little bit of recovery that has happened is just waiting to get ripped apart again. Repairs to the levees and to the pump stations aren't enough to protect the city from another storm and the level of repairs that need to be made are too much for the city to take on alone. And sending aid seems low on the to do list for the government.
Today I was driving along 101 when I noticed a billboard asking people to help Free Vietnam. Right now the Gap wants us to support (Product)Red: the Global Fund. And everyone in Hollywood wants us to help Darfur. But who wants us to help New Orleans? Where are the billboards asking people to save a city within our own continental boundaries? Where is the clothing line that supports rebuilding the 9th Ward? This country is concerned with saving the world but could not care any less about saving one of it's own. Is this really the message we want to send to the rest of the world, especially since we've been saying for years that our goal in Iraq is to help them rebuild? I'm thinking it's not, but what do I know, I'm not in politics.
New Orleans deserves our country's attention. It deserves our support and help. It's a city worth saving. It's worth more than we are currently putting into it. Before Katrina the city had so much to offer; so many opportunities for its residents and for itself. Now people there have little hope and few are optimistic for their futures' or for the city's. And this is not the New Orleans I remember. This is the New Orleans that we need to work hard to make disappear.
And before I get ripped apart like a city by a hurricane (what, inappropriate?) for saying these things, I want to clarify that I know volunteers are in the city helping. Those people are amazing individuals for offering up their time and energy to help rebuild the city, a city most of them have never experienced before. They are one of the few reasons I have any hope that New Orleans will rise again. Thank you volunteers, your help has more of an impact on the residents and former residents of New Orleans than you will ever know.
We need to never forgot how amazing New Orleans was, how amazing it could be again, and how amazing its residents are for never giving up. We need to never forgot because that's the most painful thing we could do to New Orleans.