In the months leading up to this summer’s 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, readers across the nation will be getting a weekly report on what it’s been like to live in New Orleans during the past decade after the storm.
Last week, freelance writer Wayne Curtis, who moved to the Crescent City shortly after the city was destroyed, began his series of essays about his life in New Orleans. New essays will be posted each Thursday until the storm’s 10-year mark on Aug. 29. They appear in the online edition of The American Scholar, a lively journal of arts and letters published by Phi Beta Kappa. Readers can check out the Curtis column at theamericanscholar.org.
In his column debut, Curtis writes a love letter to the city — all welcome sentiments for those of us who also have a deep affection for New Orleans.
“Our decision to move to New Orleans from New England took root well before Katrina,” Curtis recalls. “The very short version is that my wife had grown tired of the Maine winter, and I had grown tired of listening to her complain about the Maine winter. (She has a longer, more complicated version.) I had come to New Orleans on a research project in early 2005 and found it appealing for a multitude of reasons, mostly having to do with a persistent feeling that I was born in the wrong century and possibly the wrong country. I visited again two weeks before the storm and explored some neighborhoods and looked at some houses for sale. ... Eight days after I returned north, I watched from afar as the flood nearly drowned the city.”
In spite of the disaster, Curtis decided to move to New Orleans, anyway.
“When we arrived with a moving van,” adds Curtis, strangers in our neighborhood hugged us when they learned we were moving in instead of moving out. It was nice to feel that we were part of the solution. But in the years since, we’ve started to feel as if we’ve become part of a broader problem — of being outsiders who’ve showed up and, wittingly or not, have begun to change the city’s historic character and temperament.”
In New Orleans, as Curtis will surely remind readers in his future columns, nothing is really ever simple. It’s part of the city’s charm — and its enduring struggle.
We’re glad that a talented writer like Curtis is giving the rest of the country a street-level view of New Orleans in this landmark year of the city’s history. We look forward to hearing what he has to say.