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.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
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.
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.”