Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why I Couldn't Celebrate Katrina

   Sigh! The 10 year anniversary of Katrina is finally over. To say I'm Katrina fatigued is a total understatement.   
   August 29, 2005, a storm named Katrina came barreling towards the Louisiana Gulf Coast. As many of us know this story so well, we New Orleanians lost a lot. Since then there have been countless stories of growth, redemption and progress.
   Fast forward to August 29, 2015, New Orleans is once again a bustling, vibrant, party town she was always known to be. All of the things that were broken before or due to Katrina has since been fixed. Now, everything here is all new and better than it was before. Well, at least those of us who lost everything would so desperately like to believe.
   That August 29, 2005 I  was a 20 year old college basketball player anxiously awaiting my 21st birthday in two days. The day before, I had spoken to my parents about evacuating. My parents were convinced that the storm was being overplayed. They were going to wait it out at home. After pleading with them they left. They took only a few days of clothes, 1 vehicle,  my brother, sister and my dog. They drove to Baton Rouge, La where they would hop from place to place until they would end up in Greensboro, NC where I was attending school. After they made it to Greensboro, the people there extended their hand and gave my family a place to live. The university I was attending,  North Carolina A&T State, gave my brother a free year of school. Things didn't seem so bad until. Until it was time for us to return home and clean out our house, our home. The place I grew up and saw my parents work hard to keep together was reduced to a swampy mess. Everything was trash. Baby pictures, trophies, prom dress, academic awards, now just trash. As night grew near, we knew we had to be out of New Orleans because there were no street lights. As we drove away towards the west bank, the darkness in the rear view mirror was all too ominous. The media reminded me every day of the lost of life that occurred. I was reminded every day of why no one should return to this city. In one of my moments of despair, I asked God why. I was at school studying to become a journalist and the basic questions of where, when, why, who and how couldn't all be answered. I  knew where it happened, when it happened and who was affected. But I didn't know why and how. I was told that the levee system failed and that's how the city flooded. But, why did the levees break?  Was it because the weight of the rising waters? Or, was it most likely because for so many years those who were supposed to serve the public, protect their citizens decided to serve themselves. Were lives lost due to overconfidence that the storm wouldn't be so bad? Or, was it because every elected official on every level faild to understand or care about the magnitude of what was to come? Til this day the whys and the hows haven't been fully realized.
   The city hasn't made a full recovery. The people who were displaced August 29, 2015 and have come back are again displaced. The affordable housing that was before Katrina is no more. Downtown communities have been replaced by high-rise condos that everyday people cannot afford. You know the same everyday people that serve your food and clean your hotel room, yeah those guys. There was a racial and economical gap before Katrina and since then, it has done nothing but widen.
   I'm sorry if this post is a bit of a downer, but frankly I think I have Katrina fatigue. The 10 year anniversary of faild levees, failed government, being a refugee, losing all of my possessions, my home and the city I knew and loved doesn't sound like something to celebrate to me. All of the neighborhood schools I attended as a child have been replaced by charter schools, private schools or the exclusive "must live on St. Charles or Audubon, or have money" schools. Building high-rise apartments that a person making the average income in this city most definitely couldn't afford does not help this city or its people. Politicians playing the same games with our tax dollars doesn't help this city. Crime and a lacking police force does not help this city. Crumbling streets and infrastructure doesn't help this city or its people. All of these things were problems before Katrina, they still exist. So, when someone invites me to a Katrina celebration,  I politely say "no". I'll celebrate when I  drive on properly paved streets, when every street light is lit, when my girls have a better variety of schools to attend, when crime and homicides are drastically reduced, when our pubic servants truly serve their people and when our representatives and senators take care of our state. Yes, if Katrina truly fixed these issues that it brought to light, I would totally do a second line! But until then, I will perpetually wear a veil, in mourning for the lives lost and forgotten, for the homes to never returen and for the people displaced by the storm to only be displaced again by "progress".
  Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? I do. I miss her everyday.

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