New Orleans is a ghost town. Where once I lived a normal and unsuspecting life I'm now met with phantom memories, unfulfilled promises, and overinflated fantasies about the future. Poltergeists fill the streets. They remind me of a past I can no longer participate in. A time when we didn't have to wear a stupid tee shirt to remind us of why New Orleans was amazing - we just knew it was. It was shared knowledge, unspoken and hidden, but always present. It seems so distant now.
All of the bloated and over-hyped stories about the "New New Orleans" and the "entrepreneurial bohemian" New Orleans and the "green" New Orleans will never make up for what we lost. A vibrant American city, shaped by human and natural forces over hundreds of years into something magical, organic, and real has been transformed into a litany of half-truths and vaporware.
At first I was angry. Angry at the Bush administration, angry at our leaders in Congress, angry at the Louisiana statehouse, angry at Ray Nagin, angry at the City Council, angry at my fellow citizens, angry at myself.
Then I felt really, really sad. I fully absorbed the trauma and tragedy of what transpired here, and what little anyone could have done to change the course of history here. How all of this failure had been hundreds of years in the making. How the constant state of mediocrity and do-nothingness was an inherent part of our collective psyché, a part of myself.
Then I felt numb about it all - dazed and bewildered at how all of this went down. But I also started to feel older and wiser. That maybe I needed to just try to get over this thing. And then one day after years of work and grinding I accepted this whole tragedy for what it is. A part of life. A part of my life. An important lesson that will always be with me.
I too have been transformed by Hurricane Katrina. I understand the world in a way that I couldn't conceive of back then. It's a sadder place, one based in the realities of an inefficient government that will let one of its greatest cities fall into complete and utter disarray, that will allow her people to be cast to the wind and out into the streets. It's a world where magic can die, where the most beautiful and intangible experience can be recast again and again into pithy wearable one liners, equally empty and banal. But it's also a world where you can look these tragedies in the eye and overcome them.
I become more aware with each passing day of the valuable life lessons that Katrina and her aftermath gave to me. How to grow up. How to overcome injustice. How to deal with life's blows and get on living. That family truly is the most important thing in the world. That New Orleans is a secret few will ever truly understand, but is absolutely worth saving.
As Mahalia Jackson sings I am finally feeling like I got over. But it's left me with a giant hole in my heart.
New Orleans will one day soon be herself again, but it's going to happen organically through the work of her people. The government isn't coming to save us. We need to quit the hype and increase the good work. Sinn Fein!