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.