In New Orleans these days, there seems to be two kinds of people whom you can tell apart by looking at them. There are those who got flooded and those who didn't.
The people who got flooded understandably seem to desperate, lost, and confused. For the most part, they have lost much of their lives and there is little certainty in anything. Should we rebuild or move? Should we gut the house and repair it or raise it? Is the insurance coming or not? Should we sue the government or protest for better protection? Each accomplishment is daunting, exhausting, and major. The inner strength and resolve is beyond my comprehension. Just driving around and helping the few people that I was able to help may have broken me. You just get numb.
The people who did not get flooded look like the clown who is smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. The smile is vacant, and they know that luck is a strange creature. How close was Uptown to getting it? How many blocks of the city were left dry or untouched? What parts of Metairie and Kenner didn't get flooded? Do those elevation maps mean anything anymore? Magazine Street stirs, but it is uncomfortable stretching its legs. The "sliver by the river" indeed.
nola.com had a great article today about the levees on the lake versus the levees on the river. Clearly the construction was different, but interestingly the only part of the river levees that failed was the part that had the "I" floodwalls. Who saw that coming? A levee system that protects against the maximum possible hurricane is needed which we can probably all agree on (no matter the cost because if this happens again the cost will be even more astronomical.)
But, and as hard as it is to do for those who are dealing with their own loss and problems, people need to keep thinking about the future. The future of their own lives, their families, and their neighbors. I know I don't live there anymore, but I consider everyone in the New Orleans area my neighbor, brother, and friend. We need to think about each other. And we need to start thinking about how we can come back better and stronger and show the world that we know what we are doing.
People live in New Orleans for all kinds of reasons - some are better than others, but all are valid. The attitude, the music, the food, the people, the parties, career, whatever. It is so important that the world have a place like New Orleans. Why? Precisely that we are unique. We do things our own way, we call things different names than anyone else in the world, we eat food that no one considers food, we dance when the spirit moves us, and we live to love and love to live. Where else in the world can say all those things? (Not Easton, PA, that's for sure!) All the cultural nuances, the joie de vivre, and hope for the future are important. Remember them. If not you, who? If not now, when?
Stay strong, everyone. Please, I am begging you - don't let the FEMA and insurance and corps of engineers bastards get you down. The rest of the world needs you to succeed (if you don't buy into that, at least know that I need you to.)
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