Here’s a draft I’m submitting to the Data News Weekly (The People’s Paper) for their upcoming Katrina anniversary issue. I think this is about twice as long as what they asked for when they approached me, so this will probably see some serious pruning by the time it hits print.
For the past three years, I have regarded myself as extremely fortunate. That may sound odd coming from someone who had five feet of water in his house. But it’s true. It’s a testimony to just how much widespread misery there is around here that I count myself lucky. And around this time of year, I find myself counting all the reasons why.
I was fortunate to know about Katrina before she hit. I was educated enough to take the threat seriously. We had our own car so we were able to evacuate. We didn’t get stuck in traffic. We found a place to stay, and when we realized we couldn’t return immediately, we were able to bunk down with my in-laws. The community of Bloomington, Indiana, proved to be a very good place to end up, and we were very comfortable there. Never missed a meal. Never missed a night’s sleep.
We didn’t lose any loved ones in the flood. We were worried about some of our neighbors. A couple of older folks passed away in the following months. But we eventually learned that most of our neighbors were all right. However, they were now displaced, flooded out of their homes.
Yet we were able to move back home in short order. Our raised basement meant that our main floor was ten feet off the ground, and relatively undamaged. The roof didn’t blow off either. We only got a hole where the attic fan was ripped away by the winds. Another piece of our good fortune. So we only lost half our possessions, not all of them.
We had flood insurance. What’s more, our insurance company didn’t try to screw us. Meanwhile, friends and neighbors got bogged down in extended legal wrangling with insurers who didn’t want to pay out.
We found a contractor, an old friend whom I knew I could trust. He wasn’t always the most organized or punctual or competent, and the renovation of our house took much longer than expected. But he didn’t screw us either. He got the work done — finally. Meanwhile, friends and neighbors were getting ripped off by unscrupulous contractors.
I didn’t lose my job, but I knew plenty of people who did. My wife’s school did not reopen immediately after Katrina (it was being used as SWAT headquarters) but she found work at another school quickly.
We’ve all been under some stress in these trying times, but we have been less stressed than others. We cherish our physical and mental well-being.
The birth of our daughter this February, our first and only child, sealed the deal. We feel we are fortunate, lucky in fact.
All of this led me to remark recently that we’d made a full and complete recovery. But that’s not quite right.
One thing I’ve learned through the calamity and crisis is that we’re all in this together. We’re all connected. As long as so many of my fellow New Orleanians are still struggling, none of us have truly recovered. We need to work to recognize our underlying unity, find our common interests, and act together. We need an equal opportunity recovery.