Last night, I exited the grocery store while D animatedly bemoaned our house’s distinct lack of indoor plant life. “Bring your planter back from work and let’s refresh it with fresh bamboo stalks. What about palms? I want more greenery around.”
Barely audible, I replied, “Ever since Katrina and the flood, I’ve refrained from loading up on plants and overfilling the refrigerator. What if we have to evacuate and stay away for a month or so again this season? The bare minimum of perishables, please.”
Undaunted, D went on, “Everything dies, Maitri, including humans, plants and pets. What about your dad’s garden in Kuwait? It died during the unexpected Iraqi invasion. I’m not going to let my life be dictated by the odds of another Katrina type event occurring here. Besides, the chances are higher that we get hit head-on in which case the whole house goes or that nothing happens. All we’re going to experience this time is another Ivan, if that.”
From his mouth to god’s ears. “Yeah, everything does die, D. But, at least the humans and pets don’t die unless they’re left behind like the garden, houseplants and refrigerator.”
That’s when I lost it. Travelling down beautiful Prytania Avenue, hot, inexplicable tears rolled down my cheeks and my chest heaved and sank, heaved and sank. The same way it did on August 28th 2005 as we headed to Texas and Katrina prepared to make landfall. It hasn’t gone away, has it, that acquired fear of premature impermanence? Now do you know why I seized my independence so vigorously after 1990, mom and dad? To the rest of the world, now are you aware why most New Orleanians still celebrate Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, the Saints and every recent party like there’s no tomorrow? Because New Orleans is unusual and it may not have a tomorrow, so we carpe the bloody diem NOW. Oh, am I wrong? Do I not have faith?
The failure to build New Orleans-area hurricane levees and levee walls as part of an integrated, well-fortified system doomed the region during Katrina and remains the key finding of a revised report released Monday by an investigation team sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers.
… The task force still must complete a chapter on risk that will include one set of detailed maps of the New Orleans area that explain the risk faced by residents and businesses once repairs on the levee system are completed. A second set of maps will outline the reliability of the existing levee system: mainly, its ability to withstand future hurricanes.
Bailing is not an option now, but I’m scared, like everyone’s scared. We have but one life to live, but when that life starts to resemble bits of unrelated movies hastily spliced together, it becomes a hard thing for the mind and heart to reconcile. It’s not easy to just pick up and move, much less “move the city” as some have suggested. Not knowing, however, is the hardest part.