This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. You are bound to know that because the media won't let you forget.
Some of you diligently share the pieces that resonate with you. Some of you respectfully nod to your Southern friends and check in to see how we're faring. And some of you get unexpectedly rebuked for your efforts.
Don't mind us.
For countless reasons, for countless people, the countless stories and editorials in the media have become simply too much. The criticisms are, frankly, countless:
The stories are too pandering, the stories are too optimistic, the stories are too opportunistic, the stories focus on the wrong things, the stories focus too brightly on the one thing that still hurts, the stories are too true. It's still too fresh. It's still too soon. You aren't remembering it the way we want you to remember it. You can't win.
Whatever reason you can think of for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast locals to cringe, someone else is grumbling the exact opposite. And you are all right.
We're still too close to it.
But that's no reason for you to turn away. That's no reason for you to become complacent. Because this is not about us. For me, it stopped being about us a long time ago.
So don't mind us. Because you could be us.
Every time you spend time and energy remembering Katrina, you are one moment closer to remembering that a natural disaster could happen to you. You are one moment closer to being prepared. You are one moment closer to taking action to help someone else be prepared. Or to dig them out when they aren't.
Writing and talking about Hurricane Katrina has always been about helping you connect with something that seems so utterly alien to our more or less comfortable lives. And it has worked. From my work alone, I see hundreds and thousands of people see themselves in my story. That is, in part, because I've always been mindful that the details of my story aren't as important as the feelings.
I give you as few opportunities as possible to dismiss my experience as unique and instead focus on the raw emotion of loss, grief, and hope. Replace "hurricane" with fire, flood, earthquake, or tornado and there you are. There you are.
Nothing could have stopped what happened on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A hurricane hit here. Wiped us off the map for a minute. Many things could have stopped what happened in New Orleans. The government failed there. Buried them in sorrow.
So what if we don't feel like talking about it? So what if we look at you askance when you forget about the Mississippi Gulf Coast? So what if you misrepresent what happened in New Orleans? So what?
You're still talking about it. Even if we aren't. That's fine. Good can come from that. Surely we're generous enough to see that.
What about me? Personally? Although my last post was about Katrina, I honestly don't talk about it unless I have to. That last post was in March and in support of a cause designed to shine light on your causes. I haven't written since then because I've been busy building.
I'm opening a writing studio in downtown Gulfport (!!!), two blocks from the beach. It's part of Wonder and Company's first retail location (!!!), a whimsical gift shop designed to delight and spark imagination and wonder. A fantastical gift shop with writing classes. On the beach. I love it. I can see the water from my windows and it makes me do nothing but smile.
I'm scared but not of the water. Not of the wind. If anything, I'm scared of flying too close to the sun because, y'all, this is glorious. This is so freaking much fun! You are seeing me mid-leap.
Because this is what life is about. I refuse to stop trying to live it to bursting. So that means I'm busy. Get busy living or get busy dying, right?
Don't mind us. We'll be fine. Most days we already are. We're working on it. You do your work and let's meet on the other side.
• • •
Read more from my Hurricane Katrina series:
Victor Vito: "Just get in the car. Get out. Don't bother packing so much stuff this time. Nothing ever happens."
Hierarchy of Suffering: "The ghosts of the dead walk the streets of the Gulf Coast. Their presence is always there, reminding us that it could be worse. We could be dead. Bullshit."
Loads of Hope: "I can write a million times, 'We lost everything.' It is only when I share the picture above that it seems to sink in."