Column: A city lost but not gone

The campus was virtually empty at 11 a.m. on Labor Day Monday.

Everyone must have been sleeping in after a heavy night of partying, but for some reason, I was awake, roaming Foggy Bottom. I had spent the past week endlessly watching 24-hour cable news, but instead of turning on CNN, I had to get out. I felt depressed – as if I had sunk to a new low – truly an unfamiliar emotional territory

The jarring aerial video footage of my city flooded with water was shocking, yet surreal. Scenes of thousands of refugees without homes, bloated bodies floating in the waterways of New Orleans that used to be heavily populated streets and roving bands of thugs looting businesses and residences was killing me inside. I still had so many questions – I didn’t know the condition of my own home, my friends’ and families’ homes, or whether or not I could even go home in the foreseeable future. It’s just all so messed up.

I found myself at 2000 Penn, where I bought a breakfast sandwich from ABP and a copy of The New York Times. On the front page was a picture of a man inside a house, waist-deep in water, shouting out in a desperate search for any survivors from the flood. My stomach began to feel sick as I read that the man had discovered an elderly couple in their 80s drowned together in their bedroom – filled with water. I was trying to take this all in at once – the shock of the event had left me, and the reality that life as I once knew it back home was suddenly changed forever. And so I cried. Tears dripped off my nose and wet the pages of The Times as I forced myself to keep reading.

When the tragic tsunami hit Southeast Asia last year, we (the American aid) were there in two days. When an American city – my city – was destroyed by a hurricane and massive floods that followed, the aid did not arrive for four days. How could the government screw up so badly? A bureaucratic meltdown, perhaps? We knew for years that such a tragedy could occur, and in all honesty, I’m not that surprised that it did happen. So where was the plan?

I am one of the lucky ones. I know that my family is safe, and that my neighborhood in uptown New Orleans, close to Tulane University, remains unflooded. Like the New Orleans delicacy known as gumbo, a soup filled with a mix of seafood, meat and vegetables, the Big Easy had its own eclectic mix of ingredients – people of all varieties, a culture known for its music and party atmosphere, and a deep history that gives each and every New Orleanian a profound sense of pride.

As we wait for an official death toll, which is expected to be in the thousands, I try to comfort myself by imagining a bright future for our city amid all the chaos. We will be back with a vengeance, and I hope we will be able to once again say as we often do in N’awlins, laizzes les bon ton roulez.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in journalism and music, is a Hatchet arts contributing editor.

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