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Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina: What I’m Feeling

I’ve not been able to write much lately. Believe it or not, I’ve been too busy to write. And, I’ve not been real sure what to write about. I have so many people to thank, but I think it’s best to do that in a personal note or in person rather than a blog. So many people have been so wonderful.

Maybe if I take the time to sort out my feelings this way I can somehow feel better. Not that I feel bad, I’m reminded every day at how blessed my family is. I just feel sort of, well—like an alien in a strange land.

My family and I are currently living in a small town in TN. I lovingly refer to it as Rooster Poot. My family here and elsewhere has been tremendously supportive. My kids just started school today and they seem like they will adjust well. My biggest concern is my 15 year old son who will seem like a foreign exchange student in his new High School!

Here goes:
1.I’m angry. I’m angry at hearing stories about how horrible the black folks from New Orleans are and how they are destroying the towns into which they have fled. I’m angry at all the images of suffering that I see. Angry at all public officials, angry at my friends who stayed in NO and contributed to the need for a massive relief effort. Angry that those who really needed to be evacuated weren’t. Angry that people can’t understand why folks now really don’t want to be evacuated. Angry that I can’t go back to my home. Angry that the New Orleans public schools, already a disaster will probably never recover. Angry that I’m forced to use dial-up internet service. Angry that I don’t have access to the files on my laptop that has locked up on me!

2. I feel guilty. I feel guilty that my house has very little damage. I feel guilty that I live in a neighborhood that has been constantly protected by police. I feel guilty that my wife and I have two incomes coming in. I feel guilty that I never had to stay in a shelter. I feel guilty that some times we feel as if we’re on vacation. I feel guilty that I failed to see how important it is to be an environmental activist and how it relates to the poor. I feel guilty that I failed to fight for federal money to help make my city safe. I feel guilty that I haven’t raised hell about the loss of wetlands. I feel guilty that I’ve considered not going back to Louisiana.

3. I feel self-righteous. I feel self-righteous because I see how materialistic most folks are and how it hinders them from caring for others. I feel self-righteous because I see so many people making excuses about why they shouldn’t help those who need it and blaming the victims for their plight. I feel self-righteous because I followed the mayor’s advice and left town in order to protect my family. Self-righteous because I was not disobedient, stubborn, selfish, or stupid enough to stay behind and have to be rescued and waste valuable insufficient resources on myself rather than having them used on those who really could not evacuate. Yes, you have “incredible stories” that sound a whole lot cooler than mine, but I’m having a very difficult time not wanting to slap you when I hear them.

These are a few of the emotions that I feel. However, the primary emotions are thankfulness and confusion. Thanks for listening and offering your help and prayers!


At 11:50 AM, Blogger Editor B said...

Amen. I'm feeling all that too.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Becky said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this Howie -- it's articulate and powerful.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger D.R. said...

Great post. I am glad to see someone communicate what I know many, many of my friends at Seminary are feeling. I feel a bit guilty that I graduated and left the city before this happened and that now I am not in a position that I can help those affected as much as I would like. Thanks again for giving us a unique perspective that many need to hear.

Glad to hear definitively that your house is alright. And as far as the public school system is concerned, maybe this will actually warrant a wholesale renovation of the entire system.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Greek Shadow said...

Glad to hear you're safe and your house has been spared. Your feeling seem very normal and if I were in your position would most likely feel the same way.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Michael Homan said...

I'm not sure why you would want to slap anyone who stayed behind. I stayed behind, and didn't take up anyone else's resources. And even if I did so what, I've been paying taxes for years and if that means the government needs to put me on a bus and evacuate me from toxic flood waters, then I'm OK with that. Only the buses never came, at least not until Saturday, and I was gone Saturday morning. And if I were still there I'd be fine, as I had plenty of food and water, and the people in the neighborhood were all working together. In many ways I would feel better if I had stayed, as right now I could be helping to clean up the city. I heard one bar on Bourbon street never closed, which makes me feel proud. Instead I'm far away from home, even in Yankee country, which ought to make a Southern Boy such as yerself feel downright coontater plum sack o' peas. Gooooollllllyyyyyy!

At 7:04 PM, Blogger sandy said...

I would like to address just one of your statements. You said you felt guilty for not fighting for federal funds to make your city safer.

It has been reported that Louisiana recieved more federal funds for the Army Core of Engineers than any other state and instead of using it on the levees, your Governor used it to dredge and deepen some pet port. Check it out before you jump down my throat please.

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous shayno said...

nice to see you posting , emotions run high at times like this and i'm glad i got to read some of yours.

i hope you chise to go back to NO, and clean up and help to make the city an even better place than it was.

i spent a week in NO a long time ago and i loved it. it was almost as beautiful as San Francisco, and the people were a lot nicer. i stayed across the river in Old Algiers and visited a lovely Methodist church were i nearly choked on the baby in my piece of king cake.

howie, i'm really just glad and thankful that you and your family are safe. my daughters and i continue to pray nightly for the displaced and grieving from this tragedy and we continually thank God that daddy's friend is ok.


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