This weekend, while visiting New Orleans, I visited a dear friend’s house that had sunk 15 feet deep in water after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was past midnight. Audacious explorers that we were, we climbed the fence of this abandoned, white bungalow and entered what we realized was a 7000 square feet mansion. Our expedition changed from being a goofy adventure to an unexpected realization-a realization of Hurricane Katrina.
As concrete as the house appeared to be standing from the outside, it had reduced to bare poles from the inside. There were thin metallic poles scattered across the endless hallway to indicate an area where a kitchen or bedroom may once have existed. I was in awe of how a perfectly functional home can reduce to nothing with the blink of an eye. As we bravely marched into the dark house, our friend, who the house belonged to, hesitated in moving forward. He half-jokingly said he was scared. In my understanding –he wasn’t scared. He was preventing himself from drowning in the memories that would flash back at him from eight years ago–the time from when this very structure was a beautifully lit home to his beautiful family.
To this day, when I visit my Grandmother’s house, I can visualize my grandparents (both that passed away), sitting in the house. It is next to impossible to dissociate the dwellers from their home and a mass destruction like this takes away far more than just your belongings- it takes away a huge part of your identity. Suddenly the bed, the dining table, the cutlery that you so neatly arranged to embellish your home is non-existent- you have to remind yourself who you are.
Visiting that house was unreal.
The areas that were affected- a lot of it continues to appear deserted–it is rather haunting in fact. But whatever ‘New Orleans’ we see outside of it, whether it be Bourbon Street, French Quarter, Canal Street, the Mississippi River, endless seafood restaurants, dragon flies, cats, street music, art galleries- it is a unique experience. Also, since New Orleans is below sea level, it is mandated that the coffins in the graveyards stand above the ground rather than being dug ‘6 feet under’ such that during heavy rain and floods, the caskets don’t uproot from the ground and float down the streets. Additionally, southern hospitality, overall, was commendable (especially when combined with South-Indian People). These people are strangers in the afternoon and become a part of you by evening.
Looking forward to many more expeditions in New Orleans. (Our secret hosts–thank you. You were awesome)