20090305

New Orleans Says Goodbye to the National Guard

The National Guard is pulling out of New Orleans. To be honest I forgot they were there. I thought after all the people displaced by Katrina had been relocated, there job was done. Whenever a documentary aired, they were seldom in the picture. I wonder if their leaving will be a threat to civil stability. Somehow I doubt it. I am saddened each time I see the "ugly" side of New Orleans being overshadowed by the revelry of the main attractions centered around the French Quarters. I know the plan is to bring the city back to what it was before the catastrophic storm. But, in reality that can't be until the devastation of the hub where the majority of citizens lived is resolved. I wonder sometimes what life is like for those who have relocated. I wonder if life for them is far better or if they feel like an alien in a foreign land. I think of the dwelling places they were forced to leave behind; not because of eviction notices; but because no one in power had swift and sound decisions for what to do after the task of painting X's on the mildewed remains of the homes was completed. I think of the "nameless" bodies floating in the water after the storm. I'm reminded of how treacherous the heat is after a hurricane. And I wonder what President Obama's decision to pull the troops out really means. Am I supposed to now forget that 2005 happened and "move on" like our military is being forced to do? Am I to pretend that the soldiers pulling out of New Orleans is a sign that things are back to normal and business is as usual? I know there are times when the word "normal" simply has to be redefined. I know that for those who have relocated, normal is what life requires of them on any given day. But I can't forget the abandoned homes. I can't forget the people who, against all odds, and far from pristine conditions, stayed behind to make what was left of their homes, livable again. I'm reminded of the homes that simply should have been burned down because that would have been the simplest palette for restructuring something unsalvageable. I think about the billions that was promised the city. And I wonder if they got it; and, who exactly are the "they?" I think about the days before the storm, and the thousands of people left behind to fin for themselves (pun intended). In essence they were left behind to die; but, miraculously lived. I wonder what it was like to float to the rafters of a home and on to the rooftop, with only the light of pitch-black darkness. And it all becomes too difficult to imagine. And I'm reminded that somehow in all the after-math of this controlled chaos, the mayor was re-elected to work another day. And so today the news that the National Guard is pulling up stakes leaves me filled with questions that no one seems to have answers to. I really do believe the solution to the problem of abandoned homes is to have a controlled burn , street by street, of homes that are uninhabitable. I think crews should be at-the-ready to haul any remaining debris to landfills across America. I think for each home destroyed, $80K should be spent to rebuild a new one in its place. I know there's a risk of another storm coming through and blowing them down again. But that's no more risky than giving money to big banks, for CEOs to take mistresses on extravagant "working" vacations. New Orleans will reinvent itself over time. By God's grace all big cities do. But there are a lot of unanswered questions. In fact, enough to fill a book. All the documentaries that I've watched seem to show a city stuck in time, making slow strides to make up for lost time. I was glad to see the resilience of the people as they celebrated Fat Tuesday. And still I had to wonder what percentage of those faces were missing because they were too far from "home" to join in the celebration. We have a new President with a very full plate. I wonder if he has concrete plans for making it possible for the original New Orleaneans to return home. In the years to come it will be interesting to see how history writes the "ending" to the Katrina saga. Today I perceive it as a lot of displaced people holding, like air, the promises of a city restored. It is good that celebrities use "face" value to keep a focused light on this once very real; and yet, tourist-rich American attraction. I end with this lingering memory. For weeks, Katrina evacuees called a big domed-building in Houston home. Clothes, food, and a safe place to sleep were their haven. And then football 's opening season was literally hours away. And with the season's coming in, the evacuees and all their "distractions" had to go out. And just like that; in the middle of the night, chartered buses took them to the poorest edges of the city and gave them "new" housing. And like a blight that could ruin something white they were removed far from. When Hurricane Ike caused damage to the Reliant Energy building in 2008, preventing the season-opening game from being played there, my thoughts rewound to 2005 when the "welcome mat" was pulled up, and just like that, "guests" had to find a new place to ponder their next plan of action. But somehow, amidst all the wondering and recalling what was, ultimately all that really matters, futuristically speaking, is what shall be.