We all need to celebrate each Labor Day extra hard to make up for the one we lost 13 years ago.
That Labor Day fell one week after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. I remember words spoken in front of a television at the bed-and-breakfast in Mansura, Louisiana, where we stayed the first few days. Two women from St. Charles Parish were looking at the horrible scenes of the flooding and the destruction of their homeland. “When I look at that, I want to cry,” one woman told the other. “Me, too,” the other one said. "But I am afraid if I start, I won’t be able to stop.”
On Labor Day afternoon, we had the big idea of buying some fried chicken and potato salad and having a late-afternoon picnic at the retirement community where my mom, aunt and their brother were staying. Sitting on a picnic bench beneath a shady tree seemed like a nice way to get away from the horror that was never too far away from out thoughts. What we hadn’t counted on were the flies, which made the picnic more of a competition to cover food than to relax.
What impressed me most that day was standing on the tiny porch of my aunt's unit. A neighbor, two doors down, an elderly black man, was sitting on his swing and overheard our conversation. “Did I hear you all say that you are from New Orleans?” he interrupted politely. “I’ve seen those scenes on television, and I want you to know you have my deepest sympathy.”
I thanked the man for his comments and then noticed that he had no legs. That was when I realized that compassion has no boundaries. We refugees were now subjects of pity, even from those with lost limbs.
Nothing was going to make that Labor Day right, except for the hope of better Labor Days in the future.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.