Last week, I had a dream that I was out on my front porch about 10 p.m. There was a steady rain. Just then, a car pulled up to deliver my newspaper. Somehow, I knew why I was getting one about eight hours earlier than usual. They were trying to get the papers out before the hurricane arrived.
End of dream.
So, we have come to August, the 10th one since that fateful August of 2005.
Once we flipped the calendar over from July, it was as if an unstoppable countdown clock had begun, one that won’t turn off until we reach the actual 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall at the end of the month.
Katrina anniversary coverage started months ago, but as they say in showbiz, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” It will crescendo in the weeks ahead, and so will our post-trauma stress. I take my dream as a sign of that.
A former newspaper colleague who was in New Orleans for the storm lives in Tennessee now. She is renting a cabin in the woods for the last weekend of August so she can be away from media treatments of the anniversary.
Others don’t have the luxury of getting away.
Our situation is a little like what happens when a loved one dies. There is the immediate shock and sorrow, which slowly starts to lessen as the loss sinks in. But you know that the funeral still looms ahead of you, the final public goodbye when all the emotions will be dredged up once again.
We know this anniversary is coming and we wait for its arrival with anxiety.
On the bright side, we may not have to go through this again anytime soon. News media treatment of the anniversaries of significant events is pretty predictable. At first, there may be a yearly reminder. After that, the coverage escalates only on “big” anniversaries: 10 years, 20 years, 25.
Once we’re past this particular milestone, we might not see a commemoration like this for another five or 10 years. For a lot of people, that will be a relief.
Even though some are still trying to dig themselves out of whatever problems the storm left them with, Katrina now is easing its way into history. And for the city of New Orleans, the historical significance of Katrina may be bigger than any other event in its lifetime.
Katrina changed the nature of the city and south Louisiana — in politics, commerce, public education and demographics. I think you might have to go back to the Louisiana Purchase to find an occurrence that represents so radical a change in the lives of New Orleanians.
Then, we went from French citizenship to American, and in the intervening years we’d see the French influence wane as American governance took hold.
The Battle of New Orleans, of course, holds a special place in our life story. And the story of New Orleans in the Civil War is important because the Civil War is important in the history of the entire nation.
But I don’t think either of those so fundamentally changed the lives of New Orleanians as much as the Louisiana Purchase and Katrina did. Others may disagree.
With the 10-year anniversary looming ahead of us at the end of the month, maybe it’s best to approach it the way mourners at a good old New Orleans jazz funeral do. Rather than being morose about our losses, we should look joyfully to the future, singing out our happiness at having survived.
Dennis Persica’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.