“Watermark” — musing on the memory of hurricane Katrina
For those of us who live in New Orleans, hurricane Katrina, and the failure of the levees afterward, is a point of time and reference we all recognize as a mark across our lives.
When we returned home after the water receded, we found our homes and buildings wrapped with a line of dark brown stain. The line told a story for each neighborhood, three feet here, eight feet there, the contaminated water leaving a mark as it sat undisturbed for weeks, and felt like a scar when the water receded. The lines were there for months, until they were scrubbed or painted over or simply left to fade away. As I would drive around the city in those months after the storm, the stains were a reminder that the water was gone, but we were indelibly marked by the story.
I don’t know a single person living here during those days who wasn’t marked by that story, some more affected than others. Not all of us lost a loved one, or a home, or belongings, but we all lost deeply. We dealt with depression and stress, financial loss, frustrations and the sadness of seeing many of our friends choose to leave the city in search of a new life. We scattered like the wind the storm brought. We changed, adapted, found new friends, founds a way to make our lives work again and discovered a strength which only those kinds of experiences can teach us.
And now ten years have passed. With time, I thought, the healing would be complete, but I realize those lines, those marks, that story still endures, still haunts us. I still carry my watermark. We all do. It’s wrapped around us, threaded through our hearts, binding us together in a beautiful, sad tangle of story.
The water is gone, but we are forever marked by it.