1,051,200 minutes

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's been a million minutes since New Orleans was devastated. One million minutes have passed since the storm that killed 1800 people passed over the Gulf of Mexico and hit land in the Gulf coast along Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. One million minutes since families lost everything, since the people here lost their sense of normalcy.

I wrote about the anniversary of Katrina last year with a feeling of hope, of excitement for change, of dreams to do something big and make change happen. I did hope that this update would be filled with rainbows and butterflies, telling the story of the recovery of this city, it's not, but that's okay. It's not that there haven't been improvements in a year or that the recovery effort isn't well underway, because it is. Thanks to organizations and donations and the hard work of people here and all over the world, things have changed. Homes have been built, families have been reunited, businesses have been reopened. But what Katrina destroyed over the course of one or two days will take years, maybe even decades to repair, and that's a hard reality to come face to face with.

Homes still lie in ruin here, businesses still unopened, many lack rooves, walls and doors. Families are still living in FEMA trailers, waiting for contracters to come and do what needs to be done. People are still waiting in emergency rooms for hours on end without seeing doctors, and offices are horribly overcrowded. The tragedy of Katrina was not a one day affair, for some it will be a lifetime experience. For most a life-altering one. Things might not ever be the same here before. And I suppose it's ironic that I never got to see the city pre-Katrina, because I don't have a standard of comparison, but I do see the fire in the eyes of those trying to restore this city. I see the passion in the parents trying to get back into their homes. I see the love in the hearts of the children who are back at their normal schools. In that, there is great hope.

There are many people who say that this city shouldn't be rebuilt, that the fact that we're below sea level is enough to warrant throwing in the towel and walking away. Do not become one of those people. This is a home. This city takes in the lost, the homeless, the ragged, the rough, the loners, the groups- anyone and everyone. This city is all things to all people. Not necessarily all good things all the time, but you won't find that anywhere. It is a culture unto itself and to give up on it would be a tragic tragic mistake. We will rebuild this city, we will work until it is fixed and the bottom line is that you can be with us or against us, but either way, it's going to be done. Every house that is erected here is a new ray of hope. Every family with a moving van heading back to their home is a new start. Every day that we wake up and go to our jobs, whether they are blue collar, white collar, construction gloved or anything, getting up everyday and living life is proof that this city is alive and will survive.

And it has to. It has to for it's history and for it's future. For all people who have ever and will ever call this city home. For the people who've never been here but dream about it in brilliant shades of purple and yellow and green. For all those who have had faith and who have worked to get to where we are, here, one million minutes later. New Orleans is not gone. It is here and it will remain here as long as the people have faith, love and perseverance. Those three elements have preserved the city when it was nothing. When it fell apart at the seams they sewed it back together. When it literally burned to the ground, they built it up again. And when hope fell far below the city's altitude, people held strong and they believed.

Like last year, I want to leave you with a question. Last year I asked what you were going to do for this city, what you were going to do to save New Orleans. New Orleans is saved. It's not perfect and no one here will pretend it is. But today, 1 million minutes after Katrina, I ask each of you to look inside yourselves and ask, do you believe in this city? Do you believe in it's ability to rebuild? Do you believe in the ability of the people? Do you have faith in us and in our home? If you do, then spread the word. People have let New Orleans fall off the radar. We've become an afterthought. A news story. An annual update. But we are so much more and we still need so much more. Do not let the nay-sayers win, do not let your friends or family or co-workers give up on us. We're not done, we will not quit.

One million minutes have passed by, and we're still here, fighting, building, working and waiting. I have absolute faith that this city will be standing for millions and millions of minutes to come, probably much farther into the future than I can even imagine. I believe in my heart of hearts that New Orleans will someday rise above this tragedy to be what it was and more. Do you?


Lanny said...

Beautifully said Katie!

I DO believe in the city! I also believe in the Saints! :)

Daisy, Just Daisy said...

I believe. I also wrote a post on my blog about it all.