The Refugees Next Door
September 1, 2005
I just learned that there are a bunch of Katrina refugees staying at the Hampton Inn next to the Green Hills Mall. That’s less than a mile from my house. Seven kids, two moms, a grandmother, two chihuahuas, and a bird named Roman. I want to take them a casserole or something–any ideas? They think they’ll be here for a month. Here’s the story on the Bodin family.
When the tsunami hit Indonesia last year, it seemed like a bad dream: a faraway, desperate situation that was hard to understand. Heartbreaking, yet remote. I had to get my globe to find the affected islands. Katrina is different. New Orleans is where everybody has celebrated something–Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazzfest, a quick weekend getaway. Everybody has a story about New Orleans. We spent our tenth wedding anniversary there, our first visit to the city but certainly not our last, we promised ourselves.
It’s just not that far away. This nightmare, this unbelievable series of events, is right down the road, seven hours by car. I can’t stop watching the coverage, even though I know I should stop. It is as desperate a situation as anybody could imagine; Hollywood wouldn’t even conjure a disaster as abject as this. The worst is yet to come, too.
I hope everybody will find a way to support the relief efforts. If you’ve never been to New Orleans, it was the most foreign-feeling place in the whole country. It was unique and wild and full of life. Maybe, in years to come, it will return. But to look at the pictures today, it’s hard to imagine the day when you will be able to hop a streetcar and take a ride down a leafy boulevard, feeling a bit too full from the shrimp etoufee you had for a late lunch.