My dearest children,
For the past ten years on August 29th, I have taken this day, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, to reflect on our Katrina story. Growing up here in New Orleans, you will come to learn that everyone has one. And before you dismiss another grown up waxing on about theirs, I hope you will take a moment to listen, really listen, to their tale of a life once lived.
You see, Jane and Charles, we didn’t know that life would change. We didn’t know that we would live in this world of the before and after. In a world where the calendar on which you view your life would somehow start over on 8/29/05. It is a world where your memories no longer reside in the places or on the streets where you made them. They reside solely in your dreams. You can only see them late at night when you are fast asleep and the man in the moon allows you to.
My one great wish is that when I close my eyes and I see our big peach house on Polk and Catina, you could see it too. I wish you could see how full of love that house was. I wish you could see the big pecan tree in the back yard that would leave its nutty treasures scattered at our feet for us to collect. I wish you could see the long narrow side-yard where my dad taught my sister how to pitch an indoor ball with speed and precision. I wish you could see the beautiful dark hardwood floors in the dining room where your Aunt Stephanie and I would put on socks to make our feet sufficiently slippery and play ice skater. Or that you could see the fireplace where we took every important picture that needed to be captured, whether our date was Grandpa for father/daughter dance or some nervous young boy for homecoming. I wish you could see Grandma tucked away behind the bright light of the camcorder that she operated every Christmas morning as we paraded out to see what Santa had left under the tree.
Most of all, little ones, I hope that by listening to someone’s Katrina story you learn that it is not the value of someone’s house that makes it special or priceless or worth saving. In the mind of each and every New Orleanian lives memories just like these. All made within the four walls of the place they called home. And today each of them will remember with sadness that they can’t actually show their children or grandchildren where all of this goodness took place. Today they will remember a life before and a life after Katrina.
What I have come to realize, as time distances us from our pre-Katrina life, is that the post is shaping up to be pretty darn good. As a city, we are more vibrant today than we were ten years ago. We are stronger and more resolved to hold on to the beauty that resides innately in this place and in its people. It is a place full of hope and promise and a people full of a desire for a better tomorrow. It is a place that I am so proud to for you to call your home. While you might only be able to learn of the pre-Katrina New Orleans through our tales of times gone by, I revel in the fact that you are a part of our new life here.
My children, I live with the hope that you will be our new beginning. You will be our new measuring stick. There will be our life before you and our life after.
Today we remember all of those whose lives were lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Their lives are our inspiration to make New Orleans the place they didn’t want to leave.