Isaac: Before the Storm

Many of us were born here. Most of us have been through hurricanes and tropical storms before. Some of us have survived and even thrived since hurricane Katrina hit our shores on August 29, 2005. The Saint’s have won a Super Bowl. The marshlands were flooded with oil. Tourism is at Pre Katrina heights and beyond. We have rebuilt levees and put in massive pumps. Our city is still violent with have well over 100 murders this year and well over 1,100 since Katrina. St. Anna’s Church is growing faster than it has in the past quarter century. We still have a lot of blight and we are still about 200,000 people short of pre Katrina populations. We have more Latinos and fewer African Americans. Poverty remains about the same deep and pervasive. Many home got a nice “make over” after Katrina so we look a little nicer; not quite so worn out (at least in some areas). Most of our music has returned and the Bywater is brimming with artists and musicians like never before. We have even seen an influx, albeit temporary, of bright young activists working to make a change in new ways. Graft is still around but we have a tenacious and dedicated Federal Attorney cleaning things up. The health system is broken and I believe becoming more broken each year. New exciting restaurants have opened and the WWII Museum is expanding and is spectacular. “Bounty Gate” won’t slow our boys the Saints down, not one bit. Some Charter Schools are national models now – some are total disasters. The jury is still out on what churches will survive Katrina and what churches may yet close (innovation and creativity are demanded here). We go about our business like most American’s but at our usual slower more subdued pace and retain our fierce independence and laissez fare attitudes.

Isaac, son of Abraham, father of Esau and Jacob and the longest lived of all the patriarchs at 180 years. Isaac, born as a tropical disturbance off the coast of African traveling thousands of miles as rain and wind finally organized and became a tropical storm. Isaac unlike his names sake was not settled nor organized. Until Sunday August 26th the wandering tempest seemed to want to go to Florida then Alabama, next was Mississippi and now it has settled on New Orleans. Isaac will remain, we are told, a Category 1 hurricane. Back in the day that would mean abundant ‘Hurricane Parties.’ But, since Katrina we don’t do that so much anymore. At mass Sunday the laughter was a little much for the poor jokes told during the sermon. Most people laugh when they are nervous. Sunday we, no small amount of joy, acknowledged that the Saints had won the game Saturday and Drew Breese looked pretty good. But it was in the air. It always is for we who live here. Tension, high grade subsuming tension that finds its place in the far back places of our life; that anxiety that we don’t talk about and try to ignore. Oh it is there it is everywhere but we try to ignore it, coupe with it, then we finally simply deal with it. Even as I write this the storm is maybe a Category 1 or maybe a Category 2. But we deal with it in our individual ways. I pray and hope and keep my wife company.

We closed up the church today. I talked to the staff, dear friends all, wished them well and asked that they take care. Everyone who had been through Katrina admitted, one on one, privately that, “Yes I am afraid but what can we do but deal with it.” We choose to live here. It seems odd, even today I thought, “Why do I put myself through this? Why not just move?” Because it is New Orleans and it is home. New Orleans is more than home it is a state of being and a state of mind. One simply cannot live somewhere else and be happy. So we bought our “D” batteries if you could find them; we got our kerosene for lamps; we have tied down the garbage cans and put away the lawn furniture and now we simply wait. Tension, yes it’s there and hopefully most people have someone to share that tension with. If not, pray, if you do pray. Pray for consolation and acknowledgment that we are not alone – we are in communion with this storm.