I’m writing an essay about my experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans, and I thought I’d give you all a taste of the first few paragraphs. My hidden agenda: perhaps the comments will help motivate and inspire me to keeping on plugging along with the writing.

How can I characterize my love for a place that I only came to know after its destruction? It is a strange kind of attachment, one that comes out of witnessing devastation and, later, sometimes, resilience.

I am not from New Orleans, nor do I have any familial connection to the place or to any place in the southern United States for that matter, but the days I’ve spent in that city have left more of an impact on me than my time spent in any other place. I am compelled to recount my experiences as if to justify or earn my love, as if my guilt about being yet another white Northerner who fell in love with New Orleans too late can be undone with sufficient stories indicating my connection to the city and its surroundings. We’ve been through quite a bit together, though this city never needed me, never even knew me until it was undone by storm and flood and injustice. My love for this place is the other side of the coin of heartbreak, and sometimes the line between the two isn’t so clear.

1 Comment

  1. I think a lot of white northerners or outsiders felt the way you did. I remember gutting houses on the bayou a year and a half after Katrina, and working in an Emergency Communities shelter that was feeding locals and providing many other amenities. The experience of helping and “connecting” with the place was beautiful yet tragic; I considered its similarities to what missionaries or humanitarian workers in Africa may feel. A sense of helping the other can be a powerful transformation of the self. But I was only there for a week. I wonder how the volunteers who spent months there felt about being outsiders as time went by.

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