I clicked on a link last night to newly released videos of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I hit play and felt my insides freeze. I could only watch a few seconds before I had to look away.
That black cloud of oil gush up left me with a rock in my stomach.
I didn’t live in New Orleans when Katrina brought her wrath on the city, but my family lived here and I watched the news and listened to reports knowing that there was nothing I could do.
I have this same feeling now.
I’ve avoided the news for the most part knowing that there is nothing I can do. I have felt strongly from the beginning that the people of this area will survive. They have already been through so much. I remember the days after Katrina, when buildings were boarded up, when everyone was an amateur contractor, and when we worried about what would become of our beloved city.
New Orleans is an amazing place these days–I’ll tell anyone who will listen about how exciting it is here. There is new blood in the city, but plenty of local flavor as well.
These people will be fine.
But now, I’m worried about the place.
Several times a week I cross the long bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. In the months after Charlie’s birth I remember those moments as slices of peace. The thunk, thunk, thunk of the wheels would lull my newborn to sleep and I could take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of my hometown.
There were always, always Pelicans. Flying majestically next to the bridge, wings spread wide, floating in the air. They inspired me, kept me calm. There were a lot of bad days in the beginning–crossing that bridge I thought about shunt surgery and epilepsy. I cried and thought about my child’s future, my future.
But there were always the pelicans.
When I began painting, I painted pelicans. They reminded me of freedom. Their beautiful image became my own personal Phoenix and I saw them as the symbol of the city too.
The pelicans are gone.
Even the sea gulls are gone.
My symbol is gone. This place is not the same. I’m scared–not for the people, but for the place that I love.
**I want to add a little note here about people being “fine.” The people of Louisiana have hung on through sheer will–even at times when the rest of the nation questioned the value of this area. By fine, I mean that they will survive. This does not mean that they won’t suffer untold hardships. They will and they have. **