For most of our Katrina exile we stayed at a relative’s home in the central Louisiana town of Marksville. One Sunday evening I needed to get a fill-up at the nearest gas station, which was down the highway at the Walmart. There must have been a dozen cars in front of me. This was the way life had changed: uncertainty about the condition of New Orleans; worry about our house in the city; not being at all sure about employment and the future. Instead I was having a Walmart Sunday night. As I waited, I heard someone, who was obviously feeling the same desperation, ask, “is this the apocalypse?” The only counter-argument I could have offered was that the Old Testament would have never written Walmart into the closing scene.
We of New Orleans are now double-wise in experiencing what it is like to have life suddenly make an abrupt turn toward the dark. History has been filled with such incidents. Fortunately, we can rest assured that there will be no volcano flooding us with lava; no warring Huns attacking our village; no Nazi rockets crashing through the night as they did over Britain during World War II.
With hurricanes we know when they are coming, and we know when they have left. Viruses leave no calling card, but at least our homes still stand, and most of us can sleep in our own beds. For all of the above we tend to blame government for not responding fast enough; but for none of the above could it ever respond as fast as needed.
Despite all of its hurt, the long recovery from Katrina made us into a better, more repaired city. Like an old house whose cracks in the wall were left for later, Katrina made us finally want to make tomorrow come today. For the virus, there is still a lot to learn, but from what we will discover, we can better defend the village in the future.
We hope that somewhere in the cosmos’ order of things there is now a prohibition against any group of people having to suffer through more than two traumatic life-changing natural events in a lifetime. If so, we can feel the satisfaction that we have survived. And we can at least learn to better appreciate the times when they are good.
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.