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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 05, 2013.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.
An ordinance to phase out a 2 percent rebate to Lafayette merchants for collecting and remitting on time sales taxes cleared the City-Parish Council by a 6-3 vote.
Louisianans are the fourth most likely to use profanity yet also the fourth most likely to be courteous. So, please, just kiss my a** ... if it’s not too much trouble.
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted Tuesday to authorize two lawsuits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A long night on the field in Seattle got even worse off of it, and now the Saints are operating on a compressed time-frame as they brace for surging Carolina with first place in the NFC South at stake.
Public school letter grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion won't be affected by Louisiana's shift to more rigorous educational standards for two years, the state's top school board decided Tuesday.
Vitter told The Associated Press that he is sending an email to supporters Wednesday and is in discussions with his family about the possibility.
The Ragin' Cajuns go for New Orleans Bowl three-peat, this time against the Tulane Green Wave, which is making its first postseason appearance since the Hawaii Bowl in 2002.
Louisiana has joined four other states in filing a so-called “friend of the court” brief in support of Mississippi’s lawsuit against the federal government over new flood insurance rates set to go into effect.
Kerry Wayne Bertrand was charged Monday for the alleged killing of his stepdaughter, Skylar Lee Credeur, a UL Lafayette chemistry major found dead in the bathtub of her family home in August.
Louisiana's state school board is considering a two-year delay for some consequences tied to the phase-in of more rigorous educational standards, called Common Core, at public schools.
The most anticipated game in the NFC this season was a laugher.
The attorneys for Busted in Acadiana administrator Chris Hebert got an extra 2.5 months Monday to prepare for their client’s felony trial, marking the third time the case has been delayed this year.
In an effort to ease tensions, Lafayette Parish Superintendent of Schools Dr. Pat Cooper is calling for board approval of two day-long workshops: one to address lingering questions caused by Act 1 of the 2012 Legislature, and a session focused on mending the tattered relationship between the board and administration.
Lafayette has so much going for it, and so much yet to do.
Has Louisiana found a way to hold the Corps of Engineers responsible for coastal erosion?
Children and grief
It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy!
Life and parenting after loss
Long before Brian Mitchell or Jake Delhomme, there was “Red” Cagle of the SLI Bullpups.
The Citizens Advisory Committee working on Lafayette’s comprehensive plan will meet with representatives of planning firm WRT on Tuesday to commence the next stage in developing the plan for Lafayette’s future growth.
Nearly two dozen non governmental organizations that have received $2.5 million in state funding have been referred to the newly created state Office of Debt Recovery and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. The local Colomb Foundation is not one of them.