Nola

July 17, 2020

My Humanities Moment occurred in 2005, the year that hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. I lived in New Orleans pre-and-post Katrina and lost my house to the “Great Deluge.” I helplessly watched 85% of New Orleans proper fill up with water due to the 28 levee breaches throughout the city. The widespread flooding in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities in 2005 caused nearly 1,400 deaths and forced several hundred thousand people from their homes. Americans watching television were shocked by the plight of residents stranded by the flooding: the squalid conditions in the evacuation centers, the lawlessness in the streets of New Orleans, and above all the unsatisfactory response of emergency management officials. Frankly, I didn’t fully appreciate New Orleans until I almost lost her.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents typically evacuated in a haphazard manner, sometimes packing important documents, gassing up the car, or simply seeking refuge in a neighborhood bar to ride out the storm with other strangers. Dealing with hurricanes was a way of life in New Orleans, a rite of passage for a transplant like me. In fact, I didn’t take Hurricane Katrina seriously and only chose to evacuate last minute after a friend cautioned me to “not just walk to the Superdome as a backup plan.” I eventually evacuated to Delaware to be with family and to attend the University of Delaware because Tulane University experienced extensive flooding. While I experienced incredible demonstrations of generosity, I equally encountered numerous insensitive and ignorant people, whom upon hearing I was from New Orleans, rudely questioned why I lived in a “fish bowl.” I distinctly recall one moment in which a stranger suggested that New Orleans be completely bull dozed and its residents be forced to migrate to higher ground. In the eyes of this naysayer, New Orleans didn’t matter. It was in this moment that I finally appreciated New Orleans for all its flaws and that it was a city worth fighting for.