It’s been abundantly clear to all of us over the last ten months that New Orleans is at extreme risk. The city is still here, but we are fighting for our lives, and the specter of another catastrophic event looms large. We could get hit by a powerful hurricane this year while our defenses, apparently never that great to begin with, are even more vulnerable than before. Even without such a disaster our existence seems marginal at times; we might not go out with a bang but a series of increasingly pathetic whimpers.
Lately I’ve been wondering what it would mean if New Orleans ends up dying. Pardon the grim thought, but all cities die eventually. So what would it mean if New Orleans goes dark?
I believe it would be the first death of a major American city. What would that signify?
A thousand years from now, or a hundred, might historians look back and mark the death of New Orleans as the beginning of the end of the American era?
The whole Katrina debacle is far from over. The failure of the levees and the failure of government to cope effectively with the emergency were harrowing enough, but the real tale of American resilience — or the lack of it — remains to be told.
If we can’t save New Orleans, it doesn’t bode well for the nation. Does it?