And here we are again, four years after Gustav took down 25% of the canopy in Baton Rouge and seven years after Katrina flooded New Orleans and killed almost 2,000 people, here we are again with that helpless feeling again of hearing sirens in the distance of fire trucks racing down streets nearby and watching wind and rain out of windows and sliding patio doors, the trees bending unnaturally and limbs flying off and the thump of them hitting the ground and leaves swirling and littering the streets and yards like it is winter and time to rake into piles not brown but green with recent life.
Unlike other recent hurricanes and with winds not quite as high, Isaac is so slow moving that the destruction may be worse in some areas, the winds and flooding water grinding south Louisiana down by its stationary persistence.
In this age of instant communication (before many lose power) there are Facebook posts on supplies gathered, the inevitable lists of alcohol purchased to last for the duration of closed stores, discussions of the impact of cancelled football games (for many hurricanes seem to hit the last week of August), posts from people who once lived here and now expressing concerns from states far away, and one post from a woman in New Jersey who once lived in and still calls New Orleans home, her post letting everyone know that her friend was tired of the woman’s post about her concerns for family and could not understand why people still lived in this part of the country, that friend showing her ignorance by not stopping to think that all parts of the country experience disasters, natural and man-made. Why would anyone want to live in Manhattan, someone responded, when planes sometimes crash into tall buildings?
The woman in New Jersey vented in a long post exactly why south Louisiana—New Orleans in particular—is so special, and, finally, halfway down in her Facebook rant about her friend’s utter lack of understanding and compassion, she hit upon exactly why people stay and endure whatever comes in this part of the country: it is home.No matter if there are hurricanes spinning off deadly tornados or straight-line summer thunderstorms that knock trees down quickly, no matter what forces align and threaten the house occupied, there are pets buried in the backyard and relatives in the cemetery down the road. It is football on the weekends and tailgate parties with good friends that take place near the stadium or in the back yard. It is also a heritage of place given voice by Louisiana writers imparting a sense of family and history—whether that history is ground blood-soaked or merely littered with storm debris. It is simply home, the place of growing up and learning the hard truths of living anywhere.