There’s a mandatory evacuation ordered for the Westbank tomorrow beginning at 8am, extending to the Eastbank (i.e., the City of New Orleans) at noon. At least for now, projections call for landfall Monday afternoon somewhere around Morgan City, putting our city in the most dangerous northeast quadrant of a Category Four hurricane. We are under a 10pm curfew (a shame, since it’s a lovely evening, all the neighbors are out and it would be a great night for one of our periodic street parties).
This “mandatory” thing means, essentially, you’re on your own if you stay. No one is going to come drag you out of your house at gunpoint and throw you on a bus to Boise. What it means is, in the most serious parental tones, “don’t come crying to us when your walls collapse, your roof flies off to Alexandria and you’re climbing a phone pole to get away from the rapidly rising Gulf of Mexico. We warned you, you freaking idiot.” Some officials also back this up by telling people to leave the names of their next of kin with police so they can be contacted. It’s kinda the ultimate in constabulary cut-direct.
Four of our employees have already left town. A fifth might leave tonight. The worst I can accuse them of is having good sense. We know that tonight might well be our last “normal” night for, oh, God knows when. By “normal,” I mean a night in our own home, with air conditioning and full power, secure in the knowledge that we can sleep until we get up at a reasonable time tomorrow and go in to work and do what we do.
Read the last sentence again. Its operable words are “in our own home.” Everything else is pretty much expendable. We have spent much of today discussing this, in various forms or another, between the staff at work and our own family and close friends and good neighbors. No matter what the particulars for each individual, this is what it comes down to — that despite the uncertainty, the dangers, the hassles, the lack of personal comfort and the very real peril to our own very lives — we are staying because we fear that if we leave we will be prevented from completing our work. We came back after Katrina to rebuild — and we are seriously pissed off that despite all we have done, another storm and all its contingent officials, rules, bullshitters, Naginizers, FEMAtropes, post-storm looters, selfish thugs and other assorted trip-up devices are going to be thrown in our way.
A hell of a lot of us have managed to wrest a living and a life out of what was left at the end of 2005. We’ve managed to do it with the help of family, friends, neighbors and, in a lot of cases, mysterious folks who just seemed to want to help. Note that I didn’t mention “government” in there. We’ve done it despite our government(s). And it’s not done yet. It likely will never be “done.”
Now we have to deal with this latest threat. We have put too much into what we have (personally, professionally, physically) to simply sit in a motel room someplace and watch it all get washed away again. We wouldn’t be “in our own home.” I agree that to stay is a type of madness. But it’s preferable to the madness we felt in our Being Away the last time.