It’s that time of year when remembrance dominates our minds and the media. For some it can be painful and even oppressive, for others it is necessary and therapeutic. But no matter your attitude, it’s virtually inescapable.
Because humans have five fingers on each hand, this anniversary gets special attention, and the remembrance is not a strictly local phenomenon. Across the nation people are being reminded of what happened on the Gulf Coast five years ago.
But down here it’s even more intense. A superficial glance at this morning’s paper reveals no fewer than eleven Katrina-related headlines on the front pages of the various sections, including the Metro, Living and, yes, even the Sports sections. And I’m probably missing a few. I haven’t even looked at the arts and entertainment Lagniappe supplement.
This has been building all week.
If it feels like more than five years to some of us, that’s because disasters apparently make their own time. As with youth and grief and travel and certain psychedelic drugs, time seems to slow down.
This is called time dilation. When everything you take for granted is ripped out from under you, it forces you to slow down and live in the moment.
Those first two weeks after Katrina lasted about two years. The next couple months, another year. I’m not sure exactly how long the following year lasted but it was surely much longer than 365 days. Time has only slowly come to heel.
All in all, I’d say Katrina happened about 15 years ago. Anyone who’s lived through it knows I speak the truth. But because we are ruled by the calendar and not our hearts, five years it is.
A funny thing happened almost exactly halfway through those five ostensible years. We had a baby. I used to think our lives would always be defined in terms of before and after Katrina. But it turns out that having a child has been an even more profoundly transformative experience. In some ways, at least, our post-Katrina era is being eclipsed by the Age of Persephone. We’ve spent two and half years in each.
From this point on the eclipse will just become more complete. I never expected sorrow to be eclipsed by joy like this, but there it is. If I wasn’t a parent, I’d still feel satisfied with our personal recovery. But I wouldn’t feel this clear and definitive break with what came before. It would be a long gradual subsidence rather than this sudden inoculation.
I know my personal experience is just that — personal. Time has not healed all wounds. We still face manifest challenges as a community and as individuals, both here on the Gulf Coast and in the diaspora.
My heart goes out, at this time especially, to all those who are still struggling with Katrina, to those who have been displaced yet still yearn to come home, to those who have not been made whole, to those who still feel the heartbreak and loss.
I hope, in time, you find some measure of peace.
Photo by Gary Martin, licensed under Creative Commons