It's been two years now since Katrina hit my town. I was just commenting to my best friend, now roommate, last night that I can't believe it's been 2 years since. I'm having trouble believing that it's been a year since I wrote my last annual post! Last year I reflected on how much my life has changed in just 367 days. This year I've been forced to take on a more outside view of the city, since I'm only there about once a quarter on business.
As the news goes, people face fatigue with the stories that just can't seem to go away. Katrina is one of these stories for many people. A huge frustration, still, for the people of the city is that only the negative media coverage seems to come out. Earlier this year, we had former medical professionals appear on a grand jury for possible euthanasia. Never mind, that they saved many other victims under extraordinary (literal sense) circumstances. It's not like it was a typical day in the sun and they decided to just start killing people; but people tried to bring them down on such charges...unsuccessfully. I can still remember Anderson Cooper trying to cause controversy less than 3 weeks after the storm to get the mayoral candidates of Kenner in a shouting match for "news." It makes me want to curse out the news channels like my Iraqi cab driving friend.
It's been a rough year for politicians as well. At my last count, we've had 4 politicians indicted on federal charges...two at the national level and two at the local. The most upsetting for the locals was probably school board member Oliver Thomas because he was seen as the good and decent one, and I emphasize one, on the New Orleans school board. Just like anything else, there were probably many other politicians facing federal indictments in every state around the union; but we are under a microscope so everything counts.
Chris Rose, a writer for the Times Picayune who has gained much national recognition since Katrina due to his impressive writings, has had his book "1 Dead in Attic" now picked up and published by Simon and Schuster. We, the people of New Orleans, knew about our gem well before the storm. For me, Rose has been my source for the real happenings of the city from the outside. He pushes through all the clutter and let's you know what's truly down under the pile. Even Oprah has succumbed to the negative media. He has denied an appearance on Oprah today because they didn't want to discuss his book...they want him to come on and talk about, "the mental health crisis" in New Orleans. I'm glad Rose denied the opportunity; but I'm sure Oprah will still create healthy dose of drama around the country for their 90% drama-craving audience. To the people of New Orleans the situation is a very real problem...to people around the country it's a punchline or a good book.
The city of New Orleans focused fast on getting tourism up and running because it's the bread and butter. I still become sad each time I fly in because there used to be 20 planes at a time there. and now I can count the number of direct flights per day on two hands. The airport looks almost identical at 9 in the morning as it does at 9 at night. It's weird. Family and friends talk to me about happenings in the city like I'm just supposed to know what's going on. In Atlanta, the only time I hear about New Orleans is if the Saints have done something or if something bad happens. I suspect it's the same everywhere else.
And naturally after all of this, it comes back to crime. The crime that gets portrayed by national outlets is the same as it is in Chicago or Baghdad. People have to know where and when not to walk. The crime that should have been discussed was the level of increased teen violence in the suburbs due to parental displacement. That was/is the real problem. No one outside of the city has a clue though.
My company just hired a new VP from NYC. He expressed what the general overall feel of people up there is on us. Their mindset hasn't changed since the storm happened. They look at it on paper and wonder what the hell we're doing. He was very interested, as most are that find out I'm from New Orleans, to hear my view point. I liked that he was receptive and listened to me. He mentioned the sentiment of most New Yorkers. I mentioned 9-11. All of a sudden, he understood. All of sudden, the situation wasn't on paper anymore.
I miss my city a whole bunch, and I miss my family that is still there like I was dying of thirst. They're all still down there. Two siblings are at LSU, and the rest of my family is in the Big Easy. This year, I've had a slow dance with my older sister at my brother-in-law's Bacchus Mardi Gras ball; I've had long conversations with my dad about doing what you have to do and staying mentally tough; the much-missed home cooked meals of my mother; the sense of pride watching my younger brother move up the depth chart on the LSU football team; my younger sister graduating from high school and moving to the next chapter in her life; my godson and niece growing in front of my eyes...becoming little people; a cup of Community Coffee with the mentors that were cultivating me to one day help be a leader in the community. It's amazing how those events to me mean so much because their just samples of life; but to the people that see it every day, it is life. It really makes me have an appreciation for what this life is supposed to be about.
I know the Saints have been talked about so much as a miracle. I guess sometimes you just get lucky and those things happen. Although, we've suffered as fans for a little over thrity years, so I guess one day something good has to happen. I've heard ignorant comments about why do they care about football so much or that the Superdome is a waste of money. I think Tony Kornheiser said it best on the Monday night football game against the Atlanta Falcons last year, "If it's important to the people of the city, then it should be important to us." Sports give us an "out" and immediate gratification. I hope that the local teams do well this season, so the people have something to fall back on and unite.
In the big picture, I know that the people of the city will continue to move forward; and I hope that the people of this country will give us the time, chance and help to do what it takes to rebuild lives because it's going to take all of those things coming together.