I let the one year anniversary of the Destruction of New Orleans (i.e. Katrina, breaking of levees) pass without comment this week because I wasn’t sure what to say. But last night I actually met a person displaced from New Orleans by the disaster. She works (and I assume lives) right here in Springfield.
I was in New Orleans just a few weeks before disaster struck. I even blogged from there (posts here and here, pictures here). It was my first time there, even though I had always wanted to see the city. As expected, I fell in love with New Orleans in a way I have not since I first arrived in San Francisco. New Orleans, I thought, was unique, full of history and personality. Its uniqueness is what I think made it so American, and America should have been, and still should be, proud to have this city as part of the fabric of our nation. But like everyone else, I had no idea what was about to happen.
The destruction of New Orleans and the displacement (not to mention the death) of so many of its residents weighed heavily on me since it was all still so fresh in my mind. Streets I had traveled were under water, the people I met were who knows were, hopefully alive. I could still picture the man who gave us the carriage ride, the girl that served us lunch, the woman who gave us a tour of the French Quarter. Where were they, how were they doing? We had even ventured in to some of what would be the hardest hit areas in a search for mules (it’s a long story but suffice it say my father-in-law HAD to, just had to, know where the mules that pulled the tourist carriages were housed). All those people and places would be in severe distress not long after we left and they were still too real in my mind to escape thinking about them.
Anyway, back to Springfield last night. We were in a furniture store looking at (surprise!) furniture. The sales person who was helping us noticed that my daughter was wearing a New Orleans t-shirt. This woman commented on how that was her city and she had been displaced when her home got four feet of water. The resulting mold that grew after the water receded forced her to move. During the worst of the crisis last year, she had lost track of her mother who had been living in a New Orleans nursing home that was evacuated. She found her in a San Antonio, Texas nursing home a week later thanks to the internet. Her mother was later moved to a nursing home in St. Louis. This woman now lives in the area to be closer her mother.
This woman went on about how bad things still are in New Orleans. She said she had been back several times but New Orleans is not the same. She talked about it as if describing the death of a family member. You could tell it had taken a toll on her and she really missed the city she loved.
For now though, she’s here and I think Springfield might be better for it. I must say when she first approached us I sensed something different about her. She didn’t seem like your typical Springfield furniture sales person. Not that there is anything wrong with our native furniture sellers; it’s just that this woman seemed to have a different, more professional demeanor. I even thought maybe, since the store is new, she was brought in from elsewhere to get this store going. And maybe she was but, displaced and wanting to be relatively near her mother, I suspect she was just in need of job.
It just seems strange that a year later I would run into a Katrina victim/survivor right in my own backyard. It still makes me angry at how badly the governments, particularly the federal government, have responded to Katrina and its aftermath. I feel more insecure about that than I do about any potential terrorism.