***this interruption in your normally scheduled post about losing my virginity (which i'm sure you are all dying to read about) is brought to you by the letter 'W.' which stands for weepy, which is what i have been all damn day.***
this morning i had the view on in the background while i did the morning stalking of all my favorite internet places. rosie and elizabeth were interviewing this adorable 5-year-old boy, who had saved his mother's life. they were at the park when she collapsed, and he called 911 and blah blah whatever.
the point is, it was not a sad story.
but for some reason, i was crying.
i should have taken that as a major clue.
when i clicked through the guide on my t.v. and saw that spike lee's documentary when the levees broke: a requiem in four acts was playing on hbo, i should have decided to watch it some other time.
but i didn't listen to myself.
as i watched the documentary, i saw some footage of a young boy in a red shirt. he was about 4-years-old, and he was crying in a crowd of people outside the new orlean's convention center.
i remember seeing this boy when i watched the news as the aftermath of hurricane katrina actually unfolded. his image has always stayed with me because i've never seen a face that displayed as thorough of a despair and anguish and horror as his little face did that day.
i don't know what happened to that boy, but here he was--trembling lips and streaming tears and snotty nose on my television screen, again.
i remember sitting on my couch for three days straight, after the hurricane hit.
i remember the horror of the first moment that i realized that the white-capped waves i was seeing were rolling through neighborhood streets. i remember seeing houses flooded up to the rooftops--seeing a family waiting for rescue on the top of a roof, after they had broken through from inside the attic as the waters rose, and i remember wondering if the empty rooftops around them represented families who had evacuated, or families who weren't able to break through their rooftops.
i remember seeing an old lady, dead in her wheelchair, abandonded in the sweltering heat with a towel haphazardly placed over her head.
i remember being at work and hearing a man with no soul point to the looting taking place on the television as evidence that these people deserved what they got, that the world would be better off without them.
what i couldn't have known then was just how drastically our government and the other entities we believe will protect us if we need it were going to fail these people.
i didn't know that people who tried to walk out of town, across a highway bridge into a safer area, would be met by a barricade of men with shotguns and forced to turn back into the devastation.
i didn't know that people who had evacuated but left family members behind would get word from search and rescue teams that their houses had been searched and no bodies had been found. i didn't know how they would rejoice in the news that their mother-father-sister-brother had made it out, only to return to the city weeks or months later and find the body of a loved one themselves.
i didn't know about a man who came home from WWII and spent his last $10 to hold a contract for a house in the lower 9th ward, so that he could move his wife and his sons in to a place they could call their own. i didn't know the joy it brought him to be able to do such a thing. i didn't know the joy he felt when he finally paid the house off, after 35 years. he didn't know that when he was 85 a major hurricane would strike and detroy his home. but, when it did? he remained optimistic because he knew he's been paying his insurance on time to the same company for 50 years. he thought he was 'in good hands.' neither of us knew that they would screw him over--that they would refuse to offer him anything more than $600, claiming that they couldn't compensate him for water damage.
i'm not sure how they explained the two big trees that had fallen through his roof.
somewhere in the middle of this documentary, a man said a very important thing.
he said: "this is a signature moment, because we have the chance to see what's wrong with us."
he likened it to walking past a mirror, and catching yourself from an angle you don't like--one which maybe you weren't aware of, but which will always be in the back of your mind from that point on.
i remember sitting on my couch for three days straight, after the hurricane hit--sitting, staring, at the television.
i remember the moments when it became too much and i would get up and pace frantically around my house, circling and circling through the kitchen, into the living room, hands shaking, sitting down and then getting back up to pace some more, unable to keep my mind from reeling, unable to make sense of what was happening, unable to shake the feeling that this wasn't a disaster of nature, but a disaster of man--one that may not have been entirely avoidable, but which certainly could have turned out much better than it did.
i remember calling amber, who was freaking out, too (or, did she call me?) and how there were two or three moments when we said we should just get in the goddamn car and start driving down there to see what we could do.
but we didn't.
i didn't, because i was about to start my final semester of undergrad work and i didn't want to jeopardize that.
i didn't think it would be a good excuse, that i hopped in my car and headed into a disaster area, even though i didn't 'personally' know anyone there.
i didn't think people would understand.
and they wouldn't have understood.
because i'm sure that there are plenty of other people who had panic attacks in their living rooms while watching the news that week. but, in the end, most of us walked away from our t.v.'s when it got to be too much.
i remember very specifically the moment when, after three days, i had to force myself to leave the house because i simply could not sit there and obsess over it anymore.
and now i have my degree, which i haven't done jack-shit with, other than entertain myself on this blog.
and new orleans still hasn't recovered.
and the people who were there when katrina hit may never recover.
and i know i couldn't have changed that,
but i could have tried.
more people could have tried, and then maybe the survivors would have one less weight on their shoulders, because they wouldn't have to think that the rest of the country didn't value their lives.
if we knew that the government wasn't getting it done--and i think we did know that, at least after day 3--we should have done more than bitch about the inadequacy of their intelligence and their costly bureaucratic blunders.
but, we didn't.
i, for one, am looking in the mirror.
i wish i could hold it up in gw's face, or michael chertoff's face, or the face of the people who are still doing everything they can to keep the 9th ward a mess; to discourage the landowners from that devastated community from returning so they can sell the land and create a wealthy, white community.
but i guess i'll have to start with me, with this meager little blog post, by asking you to consider the following quote from a homeowner in the devastated lower 9th ward, who feels that some politicians and business people are trying to swindle him and his neighbors by creating a bureaucratic nightmare for these people as they try to reclaim and rebuild their lives.
"we will end up a small city, primarily white and primarily well-to-do, and i think the rest of the country is ok with that."
i am not ok with that.