Instead, I left without so much as a long last look around. It would only be a day or two, after all, before I would return, before things would go back to normal. I drove out of town in typical Friday night traffic across a placid lake to my parents' open arms in Opelousas. And so the house that I grew up in sheltered me as I watched the city that shaped my life disappear.
When I was a little girl, New Orleans was the world to me. Every time my family visited, I remember asking my dad to drive me up and down the busy streets of the Central Business District so I could crane my neck to stare up at the tallest buildings I had ever seen. To a small-town south Louisiana girl, New Orleans was my New York, my Chicago, my London, all wrapped up in a gorgeous Gothic package that somehow still felt close to home. But the Big Easy could also be hard. When I arrived at Tulane University in 1989, a fraidy-cat freshman, New Orleans was the last place on earth I wanted to be. I wasn't ready for it then, but I got that way fast. The city has a way of doing that to you, insinuating itself into your personality, changing the way you are.
It certainly changed me. Full of knowledge and experience, scared to death about the future yet optimistic just the same, I graduated four years later in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, a place the world now knows as an epicenter of darkest desolation. On that day, the great halls were bright and brimming with hope and uncertainty. All of my memories of New Orleans are like this today. Parallel universes. Then and now.
Unsubstantiated reports indicate that my house and street may have survived relatively unscathed, although I already know of losses hard to bear. My place of employment, Gambit Weekly newspaper, was geographically unlucky, our alternative voice silenced indefinitely by the murky limbo in which the city now resides. More importantly, the precious people of my city ' those who survived ' have scattered to the four winds and we grieve for those we have lost.
I think I knew early on that I would not be one of those hardy souls queuing up at the parish line to get right back in there. For days, I sat and watched what seemed to me to be The End. I have always loved the idea of New Orleans, and for now ' no matter what the future might hold ' that idea is gone. Much of what has held me there seems to be no more. I simply cannot go back now; after all I have seen, there is no normal for me there. I crave a sense of stability andÂ vitality; I want to lose myself in another city's charms. Perhaps it is cowardly. It is all I know to do.
Ever since the storm, kind people, concerned people, have asked what my plan would be. All I could do was sit in silence at my parents', praying for some kind of an answer or, at least, the strength to look for one. WhatÂ I got was not what I expected: a generous and immediate offer to relocate to Washington, D.C., to work in the offices of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Anyone who knows me well knows this kind of change challenges me to my core. But if not now, when? The job makes sense for me, a lifeline to the profession I learned to love so much in Lafayette and then New Orleans. I struggle to feel grateful instead of guilty.
New Orleans may indeed be reclaimed ' rebuilt better and stronger, as they say. It may even one day be the same. I know I never will be. I have seen the mask of civility torn from my city, and in the void is terror and anguish, heroism and heartbreak. Far more eloquent observers have mourned the many costs of Katrina. I will miss the simple things, the tastes and smells and memories of a home that, truth be told, chose me long before I chose it. I will mourn the city's favorite fantasy, its promise that everything can change at any moment, its whisper that nothing ever really will.
I leave next week, and New Orleans comes with me. It will always be with me. My suitcase is light, but my heart is heavy. Someday, I shall return, but I cannot yet see that path. The water begins to recede from the city, drop by toxic drop. The sun shines. God is inscrutable; God is good. I am moving on.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.