After Katrina drowned our tree-lined street and washed all our neighbors away, the people of New Orleans were scattered. Phones failed and conventional mail service ceased to exist. But thanks to email, we've been able to stay in touch.
I've been able to keep up with neighbors in other cities and other states. The Diaspora of just my small circle of friends extends from California and Colorado to Arkansas and North Carolina.
This interconnection allows us to not just keep up with the lives of friends and neighbors, but it also helps us share information about rebuilding, insurance and the ins-and-outs of dealing with FEMA.
And perhaps most important but least appreciated, it provides therapy. Everybody has a story to tell, and the simple act of telling one's story provides basic mental therapy in this time of stress and loss.
Just read this story from Alice recently shared with neighborhood Yahoo! Group:
I've been a basket case since the day after Katrina.
On August 29th, I drove down from Maryland. I stayed in Chattanooga to let Katrina pass, then I continued on to Picayune, dodging fallen trees on I-59, and somehow managed to make it through to pick up my Momma. Picayune was the last exit open; I-59 towards Louisiana was barricaded shut.
I got her out of there, and spent the night in Macon, GA, waiting for my brother in law to take her to Florida. We went to a drug store there in Macon, and outside was a little stray kitten, obviously starving. I decided I was going to take the kitten with me.
I was inside the store, buying supplies for the cat, when a clerk came up to me and asked if I was planning on taking the kitten - - because her momma was on her way to pick up the kitten. She asked, "Did I really want it?"
I was starting to reply, "No, not if your momma is going to take it," when I started crying. I'm talking, SOBBING. I couldn't stop. The woman just looked at me like I was mental, and I explained I had just come from the hurricane zone and I think I was just losing it. She understood, and touched my arm, and just let me cry.
At that point, I knew my city was flooded -- we had watched Nagin's press conference the night before on my sister's battery television -- and I seriously thought I might be losing my mind. Maybe it was the thought that the kitten was "one life I could save." I dunno.
I've been acting really loopy at work too, making strange decisions, and making no decisions -- being indecisive.
But I think you put your finger on it. I know my loved ones are alive, and I'm grateful for that, but we have lost much of what my Momma and Daddy worked for in New Orleans.
You can almost feel the relief Alice gets in being able to share her story with everyone on the listserv. And deep down, I think we all share her desire to go on, to continue no matter what comes.
Even after rescuing her mother, Alice feels the need to do more, to reach out even to a helpless cat. She reminds us again that charity and compassion are the highest of virtues, and despite what the talking heads on the TV say, there is no shortage of these virtues in America.
And for me, that's enough therapy for a week or more.