8/28/17 NEW ORLEANS by The Very Rev. Bill Terry+: As we all hunker down awaiting the rain my wife and I sat on our porch after tonight’s evening news. Almost in tears we mourned the losses of the folks in Texas. Perhaps we are mourning the loss even before they can or have the space to mourn. For so many they are simply surviving moment to moment. Yet again, and perhaps I am wrong, the poor seem hardest hit. But, as we know, disasters of this type are equal opportunity disaster’s. Rising water does not discriminate on economic location. So, today my first and immediate response to the unfolding story that will mark Houston and beyond for the next decade was from a dear friend and parishioner. I feel compelled to share it. Perhaps it may resonate with you.
FROM A PARISHIONER: I KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE HAVING FLASHBACKS, BUT IT SEEM SO REAL. BARELY CROSSING THE TWIN SPAN BEFORE IT DISAPPEARED, SLEEPING IN A TRUCK STOP WITH MY FAMILY. WATER STARTED RISING, WIND BLOWING SO HARD, PATHFINDER WAS ROCKING FROM SIDE TO SIDE. I PRAYED SO HARD THAT DAY ASKING THE LORD TO PLEASE NOT LET THIS TRUCK FLIP OVER, PLEASE DON’T LET THE WATER RISE ANY HIGHER, PLEASE SPARE MY FAMILY.
FROM THE PRIEST TO THE PARISHIONER: And it was so. Your family was spared. You returned like so many of us to this insanity that we call home. We live in this insane place because we cannot live LIFE anywhere else it would seem. We are a very odd tribe that litters, we shoot each other, and we complain about most everything and do little or nothing about the object of our complaints. Why? It isn’t because we don’t care. We live life passionately in New Orleans. We mix religion with revelry like a person mixes a cocktail. For all of our neglect we cook, we meet, we gather, we party, we know life and death are parts of the same one act play. And so it seems, some of our prayers are answered and some not. For all of the failures of our city I believe that in some ways we are a better city after Katrina than before. Our outrage at the lack of city services and good education is kind of new to us. It’s a post Katrina thing. There is so much more after Katrina that more than one blog could fill the pages.
But when it rains, when the tropical weather systems form, even off the coast of Africa; when our city officials and local media warns us to prepare for yet again another hurricane season, even the best of us often turn the TV off and pretend that nothing is there because it is so hard to hear the rain. When we are warned by a present threat, when we see video of our Houston brothers and sisters sitting in four or eight feet of water, it is so hard to hear the rain and see the pain. It all comes tumbling back.
Those of us that are Katrina folk, even the most well-adjusted and mature of us, I believe, suffer a generational PTSD which is manifested and comes roaring back for some when it rains hard, for others when we see images of flooding, for even more folk when the season and the media attention simply rolls around each year, and for even others during anniversaries. Yet, where else can we live and still call it home? It’s not just the gumbo and great food, it is not just Mardi Gras, Indians, street dancing and parades, it is our broken streets, our developed humor in the face of all things dark and terrible, it is our passion and it uniquely comes together in this most damnably and blessed of cities that we call home.
Have a double of shot of bourbon or like me eat some meatloaf (comfort food) and turn off the TV. I hope to see you next Sunday…we will still be here.
A POST SCRIPT: As a matter of clinical and just good sense it is NOT advisable to seek out “bourbon” or your favorite drug, booze, or other narcotic substance. Honestly it just doesn’t work out well. Best case you wake up hung over and the rain is still coming and worst case is that you end up dealing with addiction issues and still have to deal with the stress. The greatest soother that I used during the post trauma period was meatloaf and talking a lot to good friends.
Soon, and very soon, we will start responding to our friends in Texas as a church community. Jumping the gun and being reactionary isn’t helpful. Being there in six months, a year, five years is helpful. As we well know this is going to be a very long period for Texas and Texans. Like us they have grit like us the really want people to care … because they matter.
8/29/17 NEW ORLEANS: IT IS A DREADFUL DAY. It is both a dreadful day and thankful day. The rain is coming slowly almost a soothing sound were it not a reminder. During early summer I delight in napping and reading on such days. But today is not like such days. It is a thankful day and a dreadful day.
A dear dear friend of mine was at mass yesterday. She was ashen. She and her husband were caught in the flooding in Katrina. Wading about in waist deep water. Going to Houston then back to New Orleans. Like too many she has watched and watched the reports coming out of Houston and the weather reports. She seems to be ignoring what the weather is really doing. I worry about her today. She went out and bought an ax yesterday. For those that don’t know so many of us bought axes after Katrina and placed them in our attics. Why? So that we can cut our way out of the roof to sit on the roof tops. There is a time to buy an ax just as there is a time buy a smoke detector, fire extinguisher, and yes batteries for your lanterns. But her response was irrational from a rational being. Such is the PTSD that is thrust upon us. The streaming images of Houston and the deep interior pain that it causes us to feel again. Their coming pain is our pain.
This anniversary will go largely unnoticed in the world that is so busy and so caught up in itself. This anniversary will be a touchstone to what will come in Texas. If there is any place that will understand and indeed weep as they weep it is our city and our region. The folks outside of Baton Rouge in places like Denham Springs will weep as they weep. They too will have PTSD because it is raining.
Yet, even as I write a bit of blue sky is punctuating the dark clouds. I know it will rain more today. I do not believe that we will much flood. Yet, I am remembering. I know that next spring the alarms will go out to prepare for another Hurricane Season. But that blue sky is peeking out of dark clouds and shedding a bit of light. I know that at some point next summer a system will form with a name or number. Invest is a new name for us and it allows us to become more anxious a bit earlier. But there is that piece of blue sky peeking out that may just be our salvation. I suppose the Biblical philosopher who said:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Now, I believe, it is a time to hope and it will soon be a time to build up. We can get through today and even tomorrow for we live in the here and now and whatever may come our Lord is with us and in turn, as it would seem, we are with each other. A last piece of advice: if you feel alone call me, call your intimate friend, pray and open yourself to the presence of God. Just do not be alone it is unnecessary. Fall will soon arrive and with it a new season and yes, the rain will stop.