Hurricane Laws

Saturday, August 30, 2008

We are safely in Nashville, so we have a beautiful change of location in which we can freak the fuck out until Tuesday when we see what this storm does. But I feel like something needs to be said before we get any further into this. It sort of ties into the fact that yesterday marked 3 years since Katrina destroyed New Orleans, and it also ties to what the future with Gustav might hold.

No one in New Orleans is ignorant to the fact that the city lies below sea level. We know this. We understand the our elevation (or lack thereof) is one of the main reasons we have to have an elaborate levee system, one which failed 3 years ago yesterday.

We do not know what Gustav will do. Right now, he thankfully looks to be far enough west of us that we might not get the full force of the storm, but as everyone continues to point out, there's just no way to know right now. We are getting the "dirty" side, which presents its own challenges, but Morgan City seems to be taking one for the team.

If the worst possible scenario happens, if our city is flooded again, it will not rise up. I don't say this to be negative, but to be real with you. New Orleans can't rebuild the way it has these past 3 years. No one will be able to afford insurance, Tulane, the 2nd biggest employer will likely have to close in addition to many other schools and businesses, likely including the Saints (the 1st biggest employer). It's a horribly stark reality, one that rolls through my mind about once an hour.

Here's what I want to talk about, and please pass this on if you're so inclined. I don't pretend to be able to speak on behalf of the whole city, but I can't help to think that I'm probably not the only one who believe this.

If this worst case scenario happens, I have a few rules I think you need to be clued into.

1. Do NOT say "I told you so."

We know where we live, we know the risks. If San Francisco suffered another horrendous earthquake no one would tell them that they should've known better. If the fault line under Dodger stadium finally lets go, not a single soul would have the audacity to get on the news and tell Los Angeles that they shouldn't have built their city there. So why do people feel compelled to tell us this?

We don't need your patronizing comments. We do not need to be condemned for choosing to live some place with a risk. Iowa flooded this last year and somehow no one jumped on them about living in flood plane. Please afford us the same courtesy. It's the very least you can do.

2. Do NOT tell us that we shouldn't have rebuilt the city post-Katrina.

A lot of people spent a lot of time telling New Orleans not to bother, telling the citizens of New Orleans to abandon. But they didn't, and the city did rise up. If you saw it today (okay, maybe last week), most of the city is fully functional. Depending upon where you are, there are plenty of places that look normal. Where you'd probably never realize that a hurricane had ripped through it.

New Orleans needed to be rebuilt. It is unlike any place I've had privilege of visiting, let alone living. It has traditions, customs, and a personality that cannot possibly be replicated. It is the home, the family roots for thousands of people. What choice did they have? It's not that simple, you can't just tell a million people living in a metropolitan area to pick what's left of their lives and find somewhere else to live. To move away from their roots, their memories, their homes.

3. No matter what happens, do NOT tell us that it could be worse.

I promise you that everyone in New Orleans is aware of that fact and most likely you have no idea what you're talking about. Unless you've driven down the streets and have seen the spray painted X's and the water marks on what used to be a happy community, then I promise you, you don't know how much worse it could be.

We are scared, and by we, sometimes I mean my husband and me, sometimes I mean my coworkers and me, sometimes I mean the city of New Orleans at large. We are scared. We are watchfully waiting and praying that these rules won't be necessary. But if you know someone from New Orleans, or even if you don't, please keep in mind that what we need right now is not your condemnation, it's your support and understanding.

And if you can't offer that, then please don't offer anything at all.


Anonymous said...

I really, really hope that Gustav turns around and spins himself out in the Gulf. But if he doesn't... well, the people of this country will open their arms and wallets, and will help however we can.

Anna in IL

Anonymous said...

Wishing only the best.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and the other residents of the gulf coast. I live on a barrier island in Central Florida-- so I very much understand your feelings. I sometimes think about the fact that my family is one hurricane away from homelessness-- it is scary and sobering. But the bottom line is that there is no "safe" place. My dad thinks I'm crazy for living in an area prone to hurricanes, but then he spends half his year (slight exaggeration) cowering in his Ohio basement, hiding from thunderstorms and tornados. How is that preferable? I try to just enjoy life and deal with the bad things when they happen. And hopefully for you, Gustav will lose power in the gulf or will make landfall somewhere less populated (not that I'm wishing him on someone else, either!). I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you, while I also keep an eye on "Hannah!" Every year, I exhale a big sigh of relief in early November, when the worst of hurricane season is over!

Rikki said...

My sister has been married five times. My brother has been married seven. I am the black sheep of the family, since I have only been divorced once. In our family, we BELIEVE in trying again, no matter what the disaster.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU so much for saying what I've always felt. Now I'm going to copy and paste that to everyone I know. My friends aren't doing the best about support...

Carolyn...Online said...

I liked the way you said all of those things. A little compassion in the face of tragedy is always a good thing.

Daisy, Just Daisy said...

Amen. Imagining a world without NOLA or Tulane (my alma mater) makes me ill.

Thanks for your rules, they are so true.

Anonymous said...

Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans for the first time. Both my husband and I commented that it would have been an incredible shame if the city had not been built. That the world would have been less colorful, less delightful, and less complete for the loss of such an incredible place.

My thoughts fly from California to the gulf coast over the next few days. I hope that the people who have already endured so much loss do not have to face more tragedy.

I hope some cosmic force swoops in an kicks Gustav's ass. Because he looks like the kind of guy that needs a good ass-whoopin'.

Anonymous said...

You think Tulane might close? COmpletely just fold up?

Overflowing Brain said...

I don't know anything for sure about Tulane. I know that their medical school won't reopen and I know that they cannot have a functional university with no population, which is the reality if the city floods again.

I know that the school I've worked at has already informed us that we won't reopen if we take on water and that there are many, many schools in that same position.

I'd bet my chips that if Gustav is Katrina's successor that Tulane is closing. Whether they move upstream or just close altogether, I cannot even begin to guess.

Anonymous said...

The lovely Carolyn directed me to your post and I am going to link to it, if that's ok.

I lived in NOLA post-Katrina. There are not enough words in the English language to explain my love for your city. I worked and lived in the lower 9th and Algiers and your city has forever left a mark on my heart.

I don't think I am going to sleep for 3 days, I am so worried. Thank you for this post and know I am thinking of you and your 'people'.


~*~Snappz~*~ said...

Katie, it's 6 p.m over here in Australia. I'm watching our news and it's saying Gustav looks bad. My heart is breaking for you guys, I can't even imagine how scared you must be. Thank god you're safely out, but now the hard part begins ... The waiting. Thinking of you and hoping that the damage isn't too bad.

Meredith said...

I too live in a Hurricane target city - Miami Beach - so I get it. I REALLY hope this is one of the many hurricanes that deviates from it's predicted happens and happens a lot thank goodness.

If it DOES hit New Orleans? You can only hope that the impending means the Republicans will scramble to help you this time because they know they can't screw up again if they want to win. Probably wishful thinking but it's the only bright side I can come up with and I wanted to say something positive.

I'm glad you got out safely. My fingers are crossed that Gustav doesn't know how to follow directions and gets lost in the Gulf.

Vodka Mom said...

not only do I think you're cool because you're a teacher, and the whole big brain thing, i think you're cool because you have strength. you go girl

Maggie, Dammit said...

This is awesome.

You're awesome.

Be safe.

Ness said...

This is what I like about you, Katie. You aren't afraid to call it as you see it. Not all have that ability. Thank you for the pointers on what not to say. You spoke for many who could not find the words to say what is on their hearts. They are valid points. We get to choose where we live. There is good and bad about everywhere and we make a choice where to stake our claim and go for it. I am praying that 1)the government gives much more help than with Katrina; 2)that loss of life and property and injuries remain low 3)The spirit of NOLA will dust itself off, rise up like the phoenix and rebuild their lives. I am glad you are safe in Nashville and I pray that you and your husband's schools are not affected.

Anonymous said...

I loved New Orleans on visiting some 30 years ago, and welcome some realism from someone with knowledge. I do sincerely hope that the increasing frequency of hurricanes of great strength doesn't wipe out the city for ever but - that is what looks ever more likely -
while Limbaugh and the rest of the greedy rich decide global warming is either non existent or worth it, because it hasn't, and doesn't seem likely to, hit them hard - yet...
greed and the belief in wealth as a selfish goal are the ugly reverse sides of the American dream that need change most I feel.

Steph said...

I'm keeping the city in my prayers. As a NOLA native, now living close to Atlanta, GA, I feel agree 100% with what you said. I have had the opportunity to come home twice since Katrina and have seen with my own eyes 9th Ward and the red Xs and have seen the places of my childhood memories lay in pieces, but I have also seen the amazing courage and hope that is the City of New Orleans. I was in town the first time that the Saints played in the Dome post-Katrina. My grandparents still live in the area and have evacuated also, but NOLA will always be home to my family.


Mr Blume said...

I hope for the best for you, your family, and your friends. I was just in New Orleans, and wish I would have stumbled upon your blog earlier. I would have been happy to buy you a $16 absinthe.

Leslie said...

I'm here from Carolyn. Praying it's ok for you in the end.

I liked what you said.

The only people I want to say "I told you so" to is the government that didn't do MORE for the levee system. New Orleans is a national gem. We need to keep it safer. That IS the job of government. And I'll stay off my soap-box about sucking out all our money to fight the war when there are such huge domestic needs.

Mama Dawg said...

I hope you're OK. I lived through Katrina (we lived in Uptown NOLA) and renovated after the storm, but left last year to higher ground. I couldn't put my little girl through that again.

I'm so glad you posted this.

LiteralDan said...

I think now that Bush and Co. are scared enough to pretend to care about non-wealthy/non-Republicans, they need to build a dome over the city till it can get shored up for good, so it can take many more storms in stride during the next few centuries (can't control nature completely, right?)

Think calling "time out" for a few years will work?