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Katrina + 5

written Sunday, 8/29/2010

Seems obligatory to try to say something reflective about Katrina, with today marking five years since landfall of “the storm.” However, neither the words nor the inclination is coming easily.

A small but nagging guilt has been prodding me in the days leading up to this “anniversary” for not watching/reading more news coverage rehashing the catastrophe. I’m sure there’ve been many broadcasts profiling how New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast has or has not recovered. Oddly, I do feel comforted to know that media outlets still find this area newsworthy and that people across the country are tuning in to find out how we’re coming along down here. But I haven’t been tuning in myself to the recent resurgence of media coverage.

I think my inattentiveness comes from the fact that five years is simply an arbitrary milestone for a cataclysmic natural disaster. Couples give special attention to anniversaries at five-year marks for symbolic and ceremonial reasons, honoring what are hopefully still recalled as joyous occasions. While I understand the need for somber remembrance as well, I have a hard time emotionally indulging in a Katrina anniversary. And there’s no real Katrina “news” here that couldn’t have been reported several months before or after today.

I genuinely do appreciate the concern of people from elsewhere who have asked me how New Orleans has recovered. But I always have a hard time giving any broad, sweeping generalities when the answer to that question varies so drastically between individual neighborhoods… individual blocks… individual families and people.

I still hear references to “the storm” quite regularly in everyday conversation, from those who lost very little to those who lost almost everything. I still find myself referring to “the storm” quite often even though I have to be considered amongst the more fortunate. Despite the vast spectrum of personal stories, the one generality I can come up with is that everyone with connections to this region was very deeply affected in one way or another.

Sometimes I wish my analytical/anti-sentimental tendencies would yield just a bit more. Part of me wishes I could think of today as something greater than just another day.

I do now love this city and I proudly call it “home,” but like the recovery form the storm, it’s been a slow process in which much room remains for growth. My affections for New Orleans didn’t instantaneously blossom on some random anniversary.

And even though I may not always tune in to the struggles and pains and progress occurring every day around me, I hope the rest of the country doesn’t completely forget or stop caring about the Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, I’m two weeks into my sixth year as a public schoolteacher. I’m enjoying this year’s students. I think this will be an even better year than last year, and I will be an even better teacher. I’ll save further pontifications on that for another time though!