As we come up on the two-year anniversary of the storm, I find myself at a bit of a loss for words. It's not so much that I'm healed, or that anything is back to normal. I guess in a way, I am discovering what thousands of people with some dread medical condition have already realized for years: I don't want to let this tragedy define me.
Back in November I caught up my old friend Tim Stanton (the drummer for the band "the UGLISTICK"). Tim and I sort of lost touch after Heather and I moved to New Orleans some 6 years ago, and I finally managed to track him down (through a series of phone calls to mutual friends and a hawklike eye on the local entertainment listings). After the obligatory hugs and greetings that reuniting with a long lost friend requires came the inevitable questions of "How have you been?! What's been happening?!"
How have I been? ... What's been happening? ... Seemingly innocuous questions, but for those of us living through the reconstruction of the Coast, these two questions could take days to answer.
But, I believe I answered him something like this.
"You know, moved to New Orleans, made some connections, got some gigs, moved to Waveland, yadda, yadda, yadda, now I'm living in Bay St. Louis."
I yadda yadda'd over the entire time since the storm. The heartache, the shock, the loss, the grieving, the daily struggles, the lines at the Red Cross distribution points, the trials and tribulations of insurance adjusters and FEMA. The snafus of flood zones, elevations, blueprints, meetings, donation distribution, all of it ... yadda, yadda, yadda.
I think I've come to understand how someone can be a quiet Jewish man down the street who never talks about his childhood in World War II Germany (not that the situations are the same by any means). After a while, you don't want to let a tragedy define you. To be alive and function as a human you can't dwell on misfortune forever. Sometime the healing process happens whether you want it to or not.
I certainly wouldn't want to walk down the street 20 years from now and hear people say "That's Steve Harper. ... He lost his house in Katrina."
As far as anniversaries go, I'm much more excited by Heather's birthday we celebrated last week. I'm much more excited about a 20-year reunion with my band from college "The Aboriginals" that my friend Tim Stanton is putting together for me. I'm much more excited about my band "Heather and the Monkey King" and our tour dates in Europe next summer (on the anniversary of our tour dates in Spain from this year). Two years since the storm doesn't really mean that much, I guess.
The kids in my school are pretty much like kids now. I hear about it when they move into houses and out of their trailers. True, life here on the Coast is still far from normal. Heather and I seem to talk about whether we should stay or go nearly every week (and she says she thinks about it every day.). I certainly do understand the appeal of living someplace where destruction and hardship are not daily occurrences (but flooding, fires and tragedies of late have proven that no place on Earth is free from peril.) One never knows what the future holds.
However, I feel that no matter where we wind up, and no matter what happens to us in the future, we won't let tragedy define us.
P.S. As I was writing this piece, I got a phone call from my old friend John Leon, a musician from Austin Texas. I had lost touch with him before we moved to New Orleans. (In fact, Heather and I met at his wedding!) He, too, asked me to fill him in on the past years. ... Yadda, yadda, yadda.
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