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written Sunday, 9/7/2008
Three years ago my first New Orleans apartment was burglarized, and
I lost several thousand dollars worth of stuff. A few weeks later I completed
the first week of my new teaching career. Not yet having a cable or internet
hookup, that Friday evening was the first time I heard the name “Hurricane
A couple weeks ago I heard the name “Hurricane Gustav” for
the first time. We hoped and prayed for it to swerve off its projected
path towards New Orleans and harmlessly dissipate somewhere else, but
it just kept barreling straight at us.
As Gustav neared, Mayor Nagin billed it to be the “mother of all storms.” In the days that followed much property was indeed damaged or destroyed, and the hurricane tragically proved deadly. Many aspects of the recent events did feel like déjà vu, but for myself and most of New Orleans, this was no Katrina. The intensity of the storm dropped just before landfall and swerved slightly to the west of New Orleans. We were spared from the worst.
Even the preceding burglary felt mercifully tame compared to last time.
Whereas three years ago I knew I had been watched and targeted while moving
into an unfamiliar neighborhood, this time felt like just a random break-in
by a desperate crackhead. My less-portable valuables were left untouched,
and even though the burglar left the back door ajar, my kitties stayed
inside unharmed. In fact, I bet they nuzzled up against him as he rifled
through my stuff (Seriously, I bet they did).
Driving back into NOLA Wednesday night, much of the city appeared not much different than we had left it. Police and some National Guardsmen patrolled the streets before, during, and after the immediate threat rather than the reactive post-Katrina deployment of thousands (?) of Guardsmen toting assault rifles through the streets. Gustav left isolated damage versus Katrina’s widespread destruction and chaos. Gustav claimed just over 100 lives rather than Katrina’s 1800+ fatalities.
My apartment is fine. My friends are fine. My school suffered only minor damage. Nat and Joan are still at the hospital in Jackson, and I’m wishing him a quick and healthy return.
This was no Katrina.
The man who burglarized my apartment had subsequently tried to pry his way into my neighbor’s apartment. He was spotted by another neighbor and arrested shortly thereafter. Yesterday, one week and one hurricane after the crime, yet another neighbor around the corner from me found the stolen goods under his house. He called the police who then returned the laptop, camera, and undershirts to me – perfectly dry, I should add. I owe a debt of gratitude to the good citizens who live around me.
The trials of the past week served to remind me that life doesn’t suck as much as it sometimes appears to on the surface.
Now let’s see what lesson Hurricane Ike brings us this coming week.