It’s sinking in, finally. Buried under the muck of Katrina’s passage is an icon of 18th, 19th and 20th century America, the “Big Easy,” never to be quite so big, nor quite so easy again.
As people around the world scrambled to help the survivors, we mourned that loss. We screamed, “No!” when told it might be too expensive to restore the charming relic on the Mississippi delta to its former glory. Denial and anger are everywhere, and they must give way, eventually, to acceptance.
Former residents of the city are attuned to this grief. Metro-Blogging :: New Orleans‘ blogger Richard assesses the similarity to the five stages of coping with grief, from “Shock: Complete change of life in twelve little hours? Yeah, that counts as shock in my book…” to:
Anger: Tonight on Fox News (why it was on, I don’t know), a bunch of clean-shaven crackers were discussing the whole disaster relief thing for New Orleans, and from the get-go, the tone was one of, “Why should we help these people out when they knew this could happen? Why should we help people who choose to live in dangerous places?” At which point I was screaming at the television…
Acceptance: Yeah, right…. We’ll talk in a couple of months.
At Dan Washburn’s Shanghai, Dan quotes from a friend’s letter that arrived to tell him his friend was safe:
We’re all alive though, and we all know where everyone is, which is huge. The houses, the possessions, all that stuff is just stuff. New Orleans won’t ever be the same—certainly not in the way that I’ve known it. But I can think about all of that later.
Craig Giesecke is another at Metro-Blogging :: New Orleans, who writes about the frustration of paperwork in the wake of his loss, a business. “What I don’t understand is all the whining from homeowners who are griping they’re not covered for a flood. This is spelled out pretty clearly in the list of exclusions you get when you receive your policy.”
But that’s not kind of loss we are all coping with. Jeff at Rigorous Intuition gropes for an analogy to the loss of a city, and turns to Bob Dylan:
…we’ve come to this almost inconceivable moment, when dogs pick at uncollected corpses in the streets of a murdered American city… what’s really needed is a proper allegory. Something like Bob Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous… “What nourishes gods? The smell of fear. The gods get fat on fear. These gods left before the Bible was written….” And isn’t that what this feels like? That the ancient gods are back, and their priests are in the high places.
God was on Laura’s mind at DomeBlog, too, where she is “Blogging the evacuees at the Reliant Astrodome and George R. Brown Convention Center.” Jody Collins, 46, lost his home, two trucks, a boat, and his lawn care business. “Basically what I feared in life was losing everything I had,” Laura reports Collins saying. “Now I don’t have to worry about it anymore because it is all gone…”
The Heritage Preservation Organization lists lost buildings, although their first focus is “lowering water levels, evacuating people, removing debris, clearing roads, and retrieving corpses.” For preservationists, the hurricane dealt a series of irretrivable losses.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (2001 CAP awardee) sustained major damage… A dislodged casino barge crushed part of an addition designed by Frank Gehry and the Pleasant Reed House, a museum of African-American history, was destroyed except for the chimney… While the city’s most famous historic areas—the French Quarter, the Garden District and the Warehouse District—were spared from the deluge caused by Hurricane Katrina, groups fear that several less-well-known historic areas received significant storm damage, from both wind and flooding. Now they fear they will be bulldozed…
At Bene Diction, the anger triggered by floods during monsoons in India during late July and early August is noted. “10 days after monsoons and record rainfall devastated parts of India, people are turning to blogs and text messages to help themselves out. There is a great deal of anger in Mumbai (Bombay) as infrastructures and government fail.”
And speaking of anger, in a provocative piece, “Who Lost New Orleans?,” Pat Buchanan points out that “Books are yet being written on how Kimmel and Short, the commanders at Pearl, were scapegoated. Had we not broken the Japanese code? Did not FDR know by decoded intercepts the night of Dec. 6 that Tokyo had terminated talks and this meant war? Why was Gen. Marshall horseback riding the morning of Dec. 7, as aides frantically searched for him to alert Pearl?”
If the language from the last two seems familiar, it is because the undirected anger that arrives in the wake of immense loss must find a target. We are all grieving.