I’m living in a surreal world here in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Since August 29, 2005, I’ve been walking around in shock, operating on auto pilot, trapped in a nightmare that won’t allow me to wake up.
This is the Third World, USA. K-Ville. The Nether Regions of America. The landscape doesn’t look familiar any more. I get lost going to check on my sister’s house. We see coyotes, possums and raccoons here in town that used to just live down the road. But the floods pushed them inland; the wetlands receded and some habitat was lost; the many empty houses were perfect places for these animals to hide out in. But then the bull dozers came.
There are blocks of emptiness here and there; sometimes you’ll see a house or two. The suburbs have become rural again. Except for the main drags and a few fortunate neighborhoods, St. Bernard Parish is a sad place to see. And I choose to live here.
I’m hard-headed. I came home because the chldren needed schools, and the schools needed aides. I’m an aide. I came home because when I saw what looked like a post-nuclear landscape, I knew not everyone would be able to come back to clean up the place, but I could. I came back, my Eddie and me, with a tent, a generator and a microwave, and lived in the winter, in the quiet, in the darkness, so that we could begin to clean up the mess Mother Nature left behind when she raged against the man-made levees that tried to subdue her. What we’ve had to go through since the storm is so much worse than the storm itself. FEMA, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and the SBA were apparently modeled to fail by wearing people down to the point that we give up, fail to appeal, give in, go away.
I’m still here. They mailed me a letter saying that they are coming to take my FEMA trailer on May 1, 2009. I have no place to go. Most of my family moved away after the storm, and my dear Eddie who has multiple health problems that forced him to stop working. WE have no place to go.
They wanted us to come back, and then they tortured us. You want me to tell you about the suicides? Or the heart attacks and strokes in 35 and 45 year old men and women? Or the drug overdoses? Or the people who have died of cancer since Katrina? My social life consists of going to funerals, and an occasional cultural event like Jazz Fest or the Crawfish Festival.
The country as a whole is going through its own troubles. But there’s something very different about what happened down here in Southeast Louisiana. It’s something that should not have happened…something that should never happen again.
I’m tired, I’m troubled, I’ll soon be homeless, but I’m still here. That’s who I am.