I'll See You Someday
Yesterday, I drove an hour into Houston to attend Mayor Nagin’s “Town Hall” meeting in Houston. Along with a few hundred other people (this place was hard to find!), I listened to the mayor’s optimistic (and occasionally evasive) pep rally and jeered at the somewhat hostile FEMA official.
However, I took away a slightly different message than what I’m reading today in the media. Yes, I heard anger and frustration, but I must have been talking to different people than the NOLA.com reporter(s) - because I also heard some realism. One woman told me quietly that she’s not coming back at all; instead, she’s staying in North Carolina. When I asked her why, she said “It’s going to take too long.”
She’s right. It should be obvious to everyone by now that it’s going to be a very long time – if ever – before some New Orleaneans can return to many areas of the city. Although I can understand the mayor’s desire to instill hope in people, at what point does the pep rally become a reality check?
Nagin spoke of a “new” New Orleans, describing how minimum wages were blown away by Katrina and $9.50 - $20.00 /hr are the norm at Burger King and Sears. There’s work, he pointed out.
Did he hear the soft groan of dissatisfaction? I did, and it was accompanied by quiet whispers. Those aren’t real jobs, people said… and they are right. What future is there in fast food?
I only heard one person – a health care professional – stand up yesterday and ask about professional jobs. She pointed out that her medical facility is gone, and she has no work to which she can return. There was heartfelt agreement all around me.
I know what I’d be doing if my house was rubble in a low-lying area of the city. I’d be settling in for the long haul – whether where the Katrina evacuation blew me, or elsewhere. I wouldn’t give up the dream of going home, but this one chance humans get at life shouldn’t be spent “on hold”.
While waiting, though, I’d be pushing for all I’m worth – at every opportunity – to get Louisiana and New Orleans back up and running. Writing letters, talking to people, making phone calls – all those activities can be done from anywhere on the planet, and they’re much easier to do when not stuck in temporary housing and despair.
When I left yesterday (after two hours), the lines of people waiting for their two minutes at the microphone were still impossibly long, but the questions had become circular. The lady who now lives in North Carolina and I said “goodbye”, and her words followed me up the aisle. “I’ll see you someday in New Orleans.”
Yes indeed. Someday.