Ten years ago I was drinking a Pimm’s cup in the dark with my mother. We were playing cards. Across the street, the overbearing neighbor with good intentions was spraying down his driveway…during a hurricane.
The hurricane. That’s how relatively textbook the whole thing was. Wind. Rain. No electricity. Standard.
Until it wasn’t.
I don’t like to talk about fall 2005. At the time, I lived in Baton Rouge, which faced its own hardships, obstacles and lessons from the flood of evacuees. New Orleans, however, had always cupped my heart in its crescent embrace. But my Katrina story? Five years ago, I put it into words as well as I could, Karl helped me translate it into Swedish and the big Skåne newspaper rejected it. Så är det.
There are thousands of other stories to be heard before mine, including the ones that can’t be told. Such stories aren’t privileged speech; they’re burdened speech. They are loads that have been [and are] carried. I have seen and heard enough of these loads lessened to know my story’s weight is that of a red bean or a grain of rice.
I prefer to share what I saw in October 2005. Among the aftermath images residing in my slideshow memory, these are the only documented ones I captured firsthand. They’re among the many that pop into my consciousness when I’m out and about–when my brain acts far older than its years and reminisces about what used to be where.
Ten years on, we’re maybe probably buying a house in the Lower Ninth Ward’s Holy Cross neighborhood. We are part of the ongoing solution. We are arguably part of the problem. Nevertheless, we are here, where people clap their hands for joy and sorrow. New Orleanians clap because we’re allowed to believe in whatever we want–fairies, ghosts, gods of all kinds, politicians, the Army Corps of Engineers. For better and for worse, this city believes in itself. People clap your hands.