Thursday, April 08, 2010

Treme: Looking back

I googled my house again today. My previous house. The one we used to live in. Until 2005.

I zoomed in until I could see the fallen tree in the backyard, and the play gym my daughter loved to climb on, and my white Corolla in the driveway.

None of those things are there anymore. Ruined by floodwater then demolished and carted away by demolition workers, they exist only in memory and in pictures.

Google Earth keeps them fresh for me.

I don't know why I do it, but every now and then I like to google my house to see it again. It makes me feel sad, and regretful, and happy, and proud. All these emotions assault me, they wash over me like the rising tide of flood water certainly flowed over and through my neighborhood.

One of these days I'm going to zoom in on Google Earth, and instead of brown, dead lawns and lifeless streets I'll see vacant lots and greenery. One of these days the numbing, rampant destruction will fade from view. One day, I'll stop being sad about what happened to me, my family, my friends, my city, and my nation when the floodwalls failed.

Or not.

Today, I have a "new" house in Faubourg St. John. I have new furniture and new clothes. I still work at the same place, but I have a new job and a new car. Almost five years later and a lot has changed. I've changed. A lot of that change is good.

But I keep going looking back.

There's a new drama premiering this weekend that takes place New Orleans, and I'm eagerly anticipating it. Because the story starts just a few weeks after Katrina, New Orleans is going to look brown and lifeless--just like those aerial photos of my old house I keep looking at.

I'm hoping "Treme" can get it right. New Orleans took one monumental beating in 2005, some saying the city would not survive. Many souls were lost, but we did not lose our soul. Houses were made unlivable, but we didn't lose our sense of home. The darkest hours this city probably ever saw could not extinguish the light of hope from its citizens.

New Orleans survived. Against all opponents--weather, politics, hatred, apathy and greed just to name a few--we persevered.

It's healthy to look back. We need to know where we've been to understand where we're going. Even after all the ruined houses are demolished or repaired, after all the flood-borne damage and blemishes are removed and Google Earth loads new photos of New Orleans, we will still remember.

But I hope we will remember not only the failures, but the incredible strength of humanity on display in New Orleans in 2005 and since.

That's the story "Treme" needs to tell. That's the story that needs to be told.


sussah said...

Thank you for this wonderful blog post. I hope Google updates its database soon. My sister is visiting, and she hasn't been here since the mid-nineties-- we went to the NOMA sculpture garden yesterday, and the French Quarter Festival today, and she said that New Orleans was spectacular. It is truly amazing. I am curious to see the series Treme, but I want to reserve judgement. best wishes, sp

Clay said...

Our family's home's debris pile (actually one of MANY), preserved forever on Google Street View.

Ray said...

This had me all choked up. I feel you. My new house (hopefully temporary, in the relative sense, like a few more years) is far away in Austin, but I still find myself looking around the old neighborhoods in New Orleans on Google maps.

I didn't lose anything in the flood. I regained my city and my home for a few brief years because of Katrina, before the unnatural disaster of family court dragged me back to Texas, so in some ways my sadness is inverted from yours.

Got a hole in my heart as Jazz Fest approaches, knowing I will miss it, but this too shall pass.

One day we will both be settled in our happy places in New Orleans, not forgetting the past but at least being able to leave the past in the past where it belongs, and enjoying all the good things we have now.

Hold fast.