Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Emotion of Impending Doom

Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.
-Matthew 25:13

I may not be from New Orleans, but I absolutely understand the "I keep waiting for it to be taken away from me" feeling Pistolette describes in her must-read post.

One of the earliest memories I haven't been able to drink away comes from when I was 3 or 4 years old, and having to go into the basement of my parents' house in Birmingham, Alabama because a tornado was nearby. I asked what would happen if it hit, and my parents told me it would destroy our brick house and everything in it. I still have nightmares about the feeling of the carpet on the stairway while my face leaned against the cool wall underneath the rail.

A year or so later we moved to an island off the coast of Georgia. When hurricanes came up, we'd evacuate to the mainland and hunker down in the Federal facility where my father worked. You could watch some waves wash over the seawall and pour salt water down the street to the front of my elementary school. When Hugo came, and everyone had to leave, my mom drove me and my brother around the island with tears in her eyes, just looking at all the things she may never see again.

Hugo turned north, and shredded a future friend's community in South Carolina. I got to hear about it in college when we met.

The first time I drove cut nails, hung insulation, replaced moldy drywall and painted the new was in 2004, after the remnants of Ivan flooded my best friends' house - in Athens, Georgia. And I was just there a few weekends, they had to deal with it for months.

I got to New Orleans in 2006. The most strongly shared cultural trait I had with those who lived here was the "it can all be taken away from me" feeling, in some form of past, present or future tense.

Because it doesn't matter where you live or what can take it away. The only question is how much fantasy do you wrap yourself in to convince yourself you are secure? How much trouble do you make for yourself mitigating risks you have little control over?

Last fall, while attending a funeral for a friend who had lost his fight with cancer, rain soaked a nearby city and flooded hundreds of homes. Two uncontrollable forces, taking. For the next six months, I got to read Facebook updates from friends about their FEMA check, their insurance company, their lost things, their building supplies, their remediation efforts, and finally the finished products.

That city was Atlanta, over 300 feet above sea level.

It can all be taken away, any time any place. We know not the day nor the hour.


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