Friday, September 02, 2005


An editorial in The New York Times today starts out, “The situation in New Orleans, which had seemed as bad as it could get, became considerably worse yesterday with reports of what seemed like a total breakdown of organized society.” On CNN this morning, the anchor and reporters kept saying things like “I can’t believe this is happening in America.” And its true. I know I, and a lot of my friends, believe we have some critical distance on being Americans--we don’t think of the country or its leaders as infallible, we don’t consciously think being born here gives us some natural superiority or protection. But in the wake of Katrina, I, at least, realize that on some level I do feel shielded from chaos and disaster--from a “breakdown of organized society”--by the fact that I was born into the middle-class in 20th-century America. I had the same realization on September 11. It can’t happen here, but it does.

I would feel presumptuous commenting too much more about the situation, the enormity of which makes it difficult to comprehend. So let me just briefly say I was only in New Orleans once, for Molly’s graduation from Tulane. It was really a wonderful weekend. It was a dual celebration--not only for Molly’s accomplishments but also for our grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. My father and I walked with Florence and Hosmer (the anniversary couple) through the French Quarter, we gathered for drinks in the Ritz Carlton garden, which was filled with some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen, we feasted on beignets and muffulettas, and we watched Molly walk across the stage of the Superdome to receive her diploma. A few months after that trip my grandmother got very sick and she died the next April, so the memories of the weekend have always been especially poignant. Now they are even more so. I’m glad I had that chance to see the city as it was.

No comments: