Monday, December 03, 2007

One for Every Person

In my time in New Orleans I have discovered that every person has a Katrina story. These emerge in casual conversations, in taxi rides, and around dinner tables.

I met a woman while setting up job benefits for Phill. When I entered her office, I smelled the red beans and rice she'd had for lunch. She apologized, not that I was offended, but in that way when you don't want to share the details of your life. I was prepared for her to launch into business, but instead she offered me a Katrina story:

"The hospital fed us, all the employees, three meals a day until Spring of '06. It was great as many of us were living in the Sheraton downtown. Knowing we had food . . . Well, you had no choice, no going back for seconds. You just got what they served."

She moved from behind her desk to join me at the small table where I sat. "One of the meals was red beans and rice with a side of greens. Now, I'm a city girl. The closest I ever got to greens was spinach, and that with only lots of dressing. My husband, he's a country boy. Greens are like water to him. Me, hmm. Still I ate them. We didn't have many condiments. We did have lemon juice, and I could stomach the greens with lemon juice."

The woman looked up, rearranged the papers in front of her, and smiled. "I actually like them now. I ordered some in a restaurant the other day."

That is a pleasant Katrina story, full of an organization attempting to function, keeping its employees around to serve those with medical needs, serving food to those who stayed and returned. Still, hearing that story reminds me of the images of dire need and distress in this country. I watched those news images. I remember. Those that were here . . . they tell.


Liz Self said...

I was just talking with my students yesterday the function and importance of personal narratives in history -- how people's own recountings of an incident, though inherently biased, hold a kind of history that the history books can never quite tell. Interesting to see it applied here, too.

elizabeth.thomas said...

That is just how it is down here now - sometimes the stories just come out.