I put together another post a little while ago about some recent increases in traffic I've seen (and after writing it I recieved another link here from PostModern Sass...Sass, you're the best!), but it just didn't seem right to post it. I'm sure I'll put up that post sometime soon, but there's something I needed to write that was more urgent.
Here's the thing. I was born in New Orleans. While my initial exposure to the city was less than two weeks (my father was actually flying to work in Baton Rouge waiting for me to be born so we could move), it's a city that is very near to my heart. My grandparents immigrated to New Orleans to flee the oncoming Holocaust in Europe. They had my mother and my aunt and both of them grew up on New Orleans. In fact, my mother didn't know that bars weren't open twenty-four hours a day until she moved away from the city.
We would go back often. I used to play on the steps of my grandfather's old New Orleans home. My grandfather was orthodox, so he would leave the television on during the Sabbath, because turning it on or off would violate the prohibition from working. So I would lie on my stomach on the carpet, my feet dangling in the air, my face propped up on the palms of my hands, annoying the crap out of my mother to let me change the channel.
I remember walking around the French Quarter with my grandfather. He would take me to his store in the Quarter where I had my pick of anything I wanted. My grandfather loved nothing more than to see his grandchildren smile.
I also remember one time when my parents came home to Baton Rouge from Mardi Gras. Usually, when beads are thrown from a parade float, they are thrown in groups and the beads seperate in the air. However, this time, the beads didn't seperate and my father caught the entire group of Mardi Gras beads and brought them home to me and my little brother. We still have pictures of my little brother and I wearing at least thirty sets of beads each, many of which extended from our little necks to the floor.
I spent hours looking at my mother's Mardi Gras albums. Not of pictures, but of dabloons, the coins that are thrown from the floats at Mardi Gras. My mother collected all the dabloons from Mardi Gras since she was a teenager. In those albums, I saw so many colors and so many themes of parades past.
I remember trips to the Fudge factory, where the men would take a cauldron of chocolate and pour it into a huge metal frame. They would exclaim, "TIME FOR FUDGE!!!" I think that fudge was what turned me into a chocolate addict.
And I remember going back to New Orleans years later, to visit my grandfather in a nursing home after his years of smoking finally caught up with him in as emphasema and stroke. And even though I knew then that he wouldn't be with us much longer, in the back of my mind, I knew that much of him died years before, in a New Orleans hospital, when my grandmother succumbed to a life with diabetes eight days before their only granddaughter was born.
Yeah, New Orleans is an important city to me.
So when Katrina hit South Florida, I was relieved that it was only a Category 1, and when it was forcast to go to New Orleans, and kept picking up power in the Gulf, becoming a Category 4, then a Category 5, then just barely a Category 4, I got worried. Really worried. It was like watching Andrew happen again, but to someone else. But Katrina wasn't Andrew. Katrina was worse. Much worse.
I was somewhat relieved this week when my cousin e-mailed me with a rundown of all my relatives from New Orleans and their whereabouts. I was relieved that they were out of the Lord of the Flies anarchy that has engulfed the city I've always seen as home. After thinking that Sass was a psychic, I started emailing my relatives to let them know that my family's houses and apartments were open to them for as long as they needed. Of course, with I-10 out of commission into the foreseeable future, who knows whether they could come if they wanted to. But whether they take advantage of the offer or not, I know how lucky they were and how lucky I am for still having them.
There are so many families and so many people with so many other memories of that bizarre and wonderful city. And so many of them are in need, of food, of water, of a place to sleep. And then there are those who have lost so much more.
Earlier today, I was spoke with a girl who was also from New Orleans, but who had spent her life there before moving to Florida for school. She explained that after calling her relatives and finding out they were fine, she started getting trickles of calls from friends. One of her friends called and she said, "I'm so happy you're ok. How's your family?" He responded, "We lost my dad." All she could muster in reply was, "I'm so sorry."
So, while I hope New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf coast, cities like Biloxi and Waveland and so many others, will rebuild. For some people, too many people, "rebuilding" will never be possible. "Reconstructing" would be all they could hope to do.
To do the right thing, go here or here or here or here . If you would like to help animals affected by Katrina you can go here or here.