My grandfather, last heard from valiantly waiting for the Red Cross to whisk him away to safety, is unaccounted for. The only house I’ve ever truly called home is about to be submerged under 24 feet of water. People, countless childhood photos, valued cultural treasures, all wait to be washed away in a torrent of destruction. I won’t even begin to try and list all of the people, places and things I personally would mourn. Entire cultures may vanish instantly. Sadly, you can’t honestly believe that they’d rebuild the city the way it exists today (save the Cabildo, Jackson Square, and a few other obvious landmarks). But, like the Ursuline nuns of yore, the people of Southeastern Louisiana will remain strong.
If my grandfather does not make it, will I remain as strong?
Before she died, my grandmother used to speak all the time of “the next Betsy,” and how it would destroy the city. She spoke with bile and hatred of the US Army Corps of Engineers, and their blowing of the levee to “save” New Orleans, when all it did was submerge her house under 5 feet of water needlessly. She gave me a copy of Rising Tide, and forced me to read it cover to cover. I, too, now become ill when I think of the Industrial Canal, that stinking man-made river I used to cross twice daily to and from school. I remember hunkering down for hurricanes, taping windows, stockpiling resources, sitting with family and praying for the storm to pass uneventfully, occasionally escaping northward to safety, but never was I faced with a threat so terrible as this one. I empathise with the survivors of Betsy who remain today, people who know full well what Katrina may mean to the Mississippi Delta.
And I have to give training to call centre staff here in Malaysia this week.
Lord, grant me the strength…