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.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.