I started talking with my sister yesterday about using writing prompts to get back into writing. I got pretty excited about it and started thinking about looking up some prompts right away. But then I realized I have a real life prompt going on around me right now. Especially yesterday, August 29th, 2015. The ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
There’s a lot going on in my city right now. Parades and presidents and TV specials and hoopla. It’s all a little too much. I feel like the only people who really want to “remember” are the ones who weren’t here. Those of us who were here, we don’t need in-your-face reminders. We spend a lot of our time since the storm trying to keep the reminders out of our faces. Because there are always reminders. Even if there weren’t still blighted properties, and houses with water lines and Katrina Xs still on them, there are still reminders, constant reminders, everywhere.
The smells are a big one for me. When I walk by a dumpster with something rotten in it. When it rains a lot on a hot day and the whole city takes on a mildewed smell. Then there’s traffic. Not regular inner city rush hour traffic. The kind of traffic that causes a couple-hours-drive to last much, much longer. Like last month when A and I went to Houston and got stuck in traffic that turned our 4 1/2 hour drive into a 7 1/2 hour drive that almost gave me an anxiety attack. Like how it took me ten hours to drive to my hometown 3 hours away when I evacuated on August 28th, 2005, the day before Katrina. And how whenever I go away, even for just the weekend I always way over pack. Because the last time I under packed, my 2 day “evacu-cation” turned into 2 weeks where I had nothing I needed, or wanted, or loved because those things were all back at my house which I wasn’t even sure existed anymore. And then there are the well-meaning strangers. The tourists who come into my restaurant and ask if I was here, if I lost my house, did this restaurant flood. Or when I’m the tourist and someone somewhere learns that I’m from New Orleans and they give me a pitying look and say “How is it now? You know since the hurricane?”
I still go to bed with the possibility of nightmares about floods, about running from a flood, about trying to save my pets from a flood. Sometimes in the worst ones, my attempts are in vain. In most of them I’m looking, for pets, friends, strangers, trying to find and gather them so we can flee the ever encroaching flood.
I got off easy compared to the loss others in my city experienced. I was able to come back two weeks after the storm to help open the restaurant I worked at the time. My house had minimal damage. I had a job to come back to. Things ended up working out for me in the end. But I’m in the minority.
So no, we don’t need or want the big flashy parade and media attention and constant barrage of pictures and images from ten years ago. Yesterday afternoon I read that that morning there was a wreathe laying ceremony on Canal Blvd, where the unidentified and unclaimed are buried. I wish I had known about that. That is a commemoration I could have gotten behind. Solemn and intimate and quiet. I don’t want my memories, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to honor theirs.