Katrina is personal to me because I grew up in New Orleans and much of my family still lives there. An artist cousin lost a lifetime of his work to the flood and my sister lost most of her belongings, including a lifetime of family photos. At least her house survived, the house we grew up in, and she was finally able to return to a rehabbed version of the Dad-built structure this year.
Mom wasn’t so lucky. She died shortly after a stressful evacuation from the nursing home where she lived for her last four years. Her health wasn’t very good at the time and she might have died that day even without Katrina, but that doesn’t make us feel any better.
New Orleans is still a broken city. The tourist areas have recovered and those parts of town suffered less damage to begin with. However, many parts of town still look like they did right after the water receded. My sister’s neighborhood is slowly coming back, but vacant lots dot as much as a third of each block; houses that couldn’t be repaired were torn down, a sad but safe alternative to leaving them there in moldy squalor.
And now another hurricane is threatens New Orleans.
Some people wonder why anyone would live in an island-like city that sits three feet below sea level. I often wonder that myself, as I sit here perched on high ground thirteen hundred miles away. But if you grow up there, or spend extended time in the “city that care forgot,” you understand the attraction and comprehend the risk. San Francisco has earthquakes, Nashville has tornadoes, Chicago has blizzards; no place is totally free from natural disasters.
So this week the cycle begins again: watch the weather forecast, say some prayers, hope that places like New Orleans just get a little rain and wind. And if you live along the Gulf Coast, pack your “ready kit” and fill up the gas tank.