The waterline is seen on the Rex den as the King of Carnival begins his ride on Mardi Gras Day. It was a glorious day. We needed it. We costumed, saw all our friends, delighted in a brief distraction from the chaos and madness of recovery. We marched to the Mississippi River with the Society of St. Ann, and openly wept as The Storyville Stompers played "I'll Fly Away," and "Down By The River Side." It was, as always, catharic. At the end of the day, I rode down to the Lower Ninth Ward, and found T. Tate cleaning out his home on Egania Street. The dusk mask he wore became his own Mardi Gras mask. It put everything into perspective.
UPDATE: Febraury 15, 2006. I still wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I manage to drift back to sleep, but usually I continue to toss and turn until the radio comes on at six. We're no longer front page news. With the exception of NPR, NBC, and the New York Times, it doesn't seem like anyone cares about us anymore. People from around the country think life in New Orleans has gotten back to normal. Define normal. Sure, a lot of restaurants have re-opened, they just announced the first-ever corporate sponsored Jazz Fest, and Carnival is in full swing. There is an army of journalists coming down for Mardi Gras, which happens to coincide with the six month anniversary of Katrina's landfall. But they will go away next week, and we'll be forgotten again until Jazz Fest, and the start of hurricane season, and then the first anniversary. We still don't have a landline, delivery of the mail is sporatic, they only pick up the garbage once a week, and the recycling? Never mind. We just got our first utility bill in five months, our backyard is still a shambles, and 80 percent of the city is still devastated. Less than a mile away in the Lower Ninth Ward, there has been no debris clean up, and the infamous barge still remains near the breach of the Industrial Canal. While the Corp of Engineers is working to repair the levee, there are no FEMA trailers, no rebuilding, no residents returning. The city won't allow them to come back. They are still scattered across the state and the country. The longer they stay gone, the less likely it is they will return. Meanwhile, there are scores of young, idealistic kids working with Common Ground to help folks gut their houses and prevent the city from bull-dozing others. They give me some hope. But then the president devotes less than two minutes to this tragedy in his state of the union address. We'll still get some national attention: the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras, the first Jazz Fest, the beginning of hurricane season, the first anniversary. But where will we be then? A therapist friend says the worst time will come at 18 months. That's not for another year. It is harder and harder for me to make it though each day now knowing that the world has forgotten about us. And we have a house and jobs and reasons for being. Yet every day I meet people who lost everything. Where will we be in a year?
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