Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Memorial Day

Happy Katrina Day, everyone! Since everyone else is piling on the anniversary memories, I suppose we might as well, too...except of course that we weren't there, so there's not a lot to reflect on. Instead, here's some pictures I took in May, 2006, on the first post-Katrina Memorial Day. A group of Ninth Ward residents gathered for a memorial service at spot where the levee broke. A sister of the Neville Brothers (I can't remember her first name) was on hand to sing something - probably "Amazing Grace" - after the reading of the names of everyone who died. The list took more than 20 minutes, and as it was an absurdly hot morning, I kept inching closer to her hoping to get a little shade from her umbrella. Suddenly, the names of two people she knew were read off - people she had been trying to reach and was unaware had been killed. She was absolutely stricken. It amazed me that eight months after the flood someone could be learning of a death for the first time, but that's how dysfunctional the place had become. I don't recall that she ever did sing.

At the end of the reading, this being more or less a church service, everyone marched up to the newly-reconstructed levee wall (recently gracing the cover of TIME under the word "pathetic"), laid their hands on it, sang a couple of hymns and beseeched the Almighty to give it strength.

As flood-protection plans go, it was frankly no worse than anything FEMA and the Corps of Engineers had come up with.

Then, New Orleans still being New Orleans, a brass band struck up a festive second line, and everybody sang and clapped and marched through the Lower Ninth over to an emergency shelter, and ate a lot of stuff that was really, really bad for them.

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