I once worked with a woman from Germany who told me, unapologetically, that she was “just sick to death of hearing about the Holocaust.” And these days, I hear on a regular basis that many people are “just sick to death of hearing about Katrina.”
These two events aren’t analogous, but my response in both cases is the same: “I understand, but it’s important to never forget what happened.”
This month marks three years since the August 2005 issue of New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles –– featuring kitchens, baths and local food writers –– went to press. No one could know that the next issue to hit newsstands wouldn’t be out until September 2006 and that the “homes and lifestyles” of this city would never be quite the same.
A recent study by the University of New Orleans found that 62 percent of homes in flooded areas had been or were being rebuilt. I found this news encouraging. But the study’s director, Peter Yaukey, brought me back to earth with his take on the situation in the Times-Picayune: “The renovations are accelerating. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would’ve come back if you’d told me that three years after the storm, only 62 percent of the flood zone would’ve been renovated.”
Only 62 percent. I guess it’s not very impressive on its own. Given the magnitude of the destruction, however: Hooray! 62 percent!
This issue, fittingly enough, represents New Orleans as it is now, seesawing between acknowledging what we’ve lost and rejoicing in what we’ve regained and what we still are.
The Ultimate Resource Directory shows that the city is certainly open for business, with hundreds of stores represented. Last Indulgence celebrates the fact that White Linen and Dirty Linen nights are occurring at the beginning of this month, just as they have for years. And the houses we’re featuring are the same types of classy, gorgeous homes that have always graced these pages.
And yet, Katrina is always with us these days, informing our decisions, limiting our choices. The owners of the Mississippi vacation home gave up their vision of a beach home following the storm, opting instead for a home on tranquil Bayou Arcadia.
Homeowners Rick Duplantier and Rob Clemenz had to knock their Lakeview home down and rebuild it from the ground up after more than 7 feet of water destroyed it, and homeowners George and Dianne Dimitri saw 40 years of memories washed away from their home in Lakewood South.
All of them look on the bright side. All of them say their homes now are what they’ve always wanted. All of them love New Orleans with the crazy fervor we recognize in ourselves. But deep down, all of them wish like hell that Katrina had never happened.
So this month, as the mainstream media mark the anniversary by dredging up images from Katrina and doing follow-up stories about how far we’ve come and how far we have to go, feel free to change the channel if you’re “just sick to death” of hearing about it. But understand that changing the channel won’t change the situation. Understand that we can’t escape Katrina, that we live it every day. Mark the anniversary in your own way, but mark it somehow.
And keep your fingers crossed that our next issue will be out as scheduled.