Meanwhile, back in the real world…

So. Things in New Orleans are still…grim. They have no end in sight to life without electricity, and in some cases without safe drinking water. If you have $1k or more, and a working vehicle, you can pick up a generator from a home improvement store. Good luck hauling that home and getting it connected. Plus you have to get fuel.

It’s a fascinating prospect to imagine an entire municipality without electric power. Hospitals have generators and emergency power, I believe, but I remember that wasn’t a guarantee beyond the 3rd day of power outage. Hopefully those circumstancecs won’t be duplicated this time because the roads are mostly passable…but even gas stations are out of power so where fuel might be available could be an issue.

Last I heard, there were cooling and recharging centers that had been opened in recreation centers and other public places, and MREs were available at some drive-up sites. People can’t get away from the situation anywhere in the city. It would be interesting to see how far out one had to travel in order to find places not affected by the power outage, but that option is not available to everyone. The reason many people chose not to evacuate during Katrina was because they had no transportation. They were trapped, and the same people are probably trapped now. At least they know everyone is going through it with them.

I’m still flabbergasted by the concept of aerial transmission lines in a municipality. I also can’t quite understand exactly why not just one, but eight transmission lines failed. This sounds like a design flaw at the least, and this sounds like craziness. It reminds me of the levee failures during Katrina – they had not been maintained properly for many years, and everything worked just fine…until it didn’t. Until it really counted and there was no margin for error. And that’s what I wonder about the electrical facilities in New Orleans right now – had the power company been courting disaster for several years and this time, they ran out of luck?

Maybe this is how most of us live, courting disaster and living on the edge so to speak. Sometimes we dance on the edge, do gymnastics on the edge, totter on the edge. When our luck, or skill, or time runs out…it’s a hard fall. In our society, we often press our luck due to lack of financial resources, whether you’re a single financial unit or a major corporation. And…the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The power company in New Orleans is huge, so they fell hard. Unfortunately, they took over a million “little people” with them. That sucks.

It’s hard not to compare Hurricanes Katrina and Ida. They were two entirely different situations, although both resulted in rendering a major city inoperable. Over a million people left to manage however they can, by any means necessary. One might expect to see this in some other country, or some desolate and war-torn environment. It must feel exactly that way in New Orleans right now, like they have just emerged from the fog of war to find life as they knew it a week ago nonexistent. With no end in sight. Suffering with only the remnants of comfort scattered about, but of no use. It’s a very hard stop.

I hope people are being kind. I hope people are working the hardest they can to find a solution for this spectacular failure of the local electrical grid. Actually the grid is probably fine, because it’s idle. There’s nothing getting to it at this moment, because there’s nothing left of the transmission facilities. This is a disaster.

I don’t know enough about how the power company transmission products worked to say they screwed up, or should have done better, but I have to wonder how all eight transmission lines failed. Not just a couple, not just the one that failed because the transmission line fell into the river after the tower holding it collapsed in the high wind. I just have to wonder how and why there was no backup, failsafe, or something to restore even some power somewhere within the boundaries of the city.

Sitting in the dark is frightening. It is the apex of powerlessness, and you realize how small you are. When this has happened to me, I marvel at the silence when there is no hum of lights, or appliance motors running. It is as quiet as a tomb. My mind plays tricks on me as every leaf blowing or wood beam creaking thrusts me into a whirlwind of improbable explanations – mouse? BIG RAT? bats? ghosts. yup, ghosts…ghosts are taking over and I will soon be visited by mournful spirits who are going to remind me of all my past foibles and force me to repent of my evil ways.

Imagination is a wonderful thing, except when it’s not. It amazes me that my imagination is somewhat weaponized against me. I will imagine the worst case scenario whenever i have occasion to be imaginative. Why can’t I imagine some idyllic world where everything is just fine and I am happy and things are great. In technicolor. No drab black and white scenarios. I need munchkins and emerald cities an yellow brick roads, not ogres and crumbling urban facades and potholes.

Today it’s raining here in my little corner of paradise…we’re getting what’s left of the deteriorated hurricane. It’s still uncomfortable warm and humid, although we’re told this is a cool front, meaning we won’t get over 80 degrees today. Big whoop. There’s a good breeze, with a few moderate gusts, but these are still pretty warm. I have done my time in 90 to 100 degree heat, with 90% humidity, so I know this is pleasant comparatively. I definitely feel a great deal of empathy for my New Orleans folks, because as I keep saying, this has no end in sight. Three to four weeks before repairs can be effected is just nuts. Godspeed, my friends.

When you feel as though everything is falling apart, and that you can’t do a damned thing about it, that’s a horrible feeling. You hope it’s temporary, but even an hour in such a state of hopelessness feels like an eternity. As my cousin posted on Facebook earlier…some people have lost everything AGAIN. Be kind. That is all we have – kindness, compassion, tolerance. You can’t tell someone going through such a thing you know how they feel, because if you’re not going through it with them you DON’T know how it feels. Every situation is different, even if the circumstances appear to be similar. When I went through hurricanes and storms that paralyzed things, I was younger, the city was in a different state, I was living differently. So I don’t know how this post-Ida situation feels. But I can empathize, and that is a different story entirely.

People are grieving, is what they are trying to say. We are all grieving, but over different things, some more immediate and some that appear to be more threatening. The situation in New Orleans remains dire, because some people will not make it through the heat and lack of regular meals and isolation. The storm’s direct casualty rate was negligible (as though any person’s death can be truly negligible) but there will be more deaths indirectly caused by the evil spawn of Hurricane Katrina. We have to remember that.

Every time I switch on the lights today, or use hot water, or adjust the air conditioning I need to remember how many people can’t do that right now. New Orleans brings it to mind very acutely, and painfully, but in reality there are millions more people across the globe who are in these dire circumstances every day, and not due to a weather event. We are very privileged, we Americans, even though we have forays into that other world.

There are wildfires in California, and people are losing everything there as well. There are volcanoes erupting in other parts of the world, and people have lost all that is precious and familiar to them, including their families. Afghanistan is a fearsome mess right now, and truthfully has been for more than two decades. People, most notably women and girls, are living in abject terror of the new regime.

These are the cyclones not born entirely of weather but of oppression and intolerance and hatred. Those zones are where civility and empathy and compassion are at the lowest pressure, and that’s where a destructive system forms. That’s the way of it.

I don’t want to be a part of any destructive system any longer, so it would be a good thing if I keep up my internal pressure. That’s pressure of responsibility, of doing the next right thing. That’s pressure of rejecting the easy way because it’s easy, but keeping up the resistance to the darkness. That’s what we’re called on to do, I believe. Do the next right thing, even if it’s the harder thing. Nobody promised me an easy life, but sometimes I get to feeling like it shouldn’t have to be THIS hard.

Maybe it really doesn’t have to be THIS hard, and maybe it’s really not. Perhaps I simply need to change my perspective to realize that it’s not that hard. I am so fortunate to have what I have. I forget that at times, but I believe that’s truth – this could be so much worse. Being a part of the culture of outrage really doesn’t fit me very well, and definitely not over the long term. More importantly, that culture has really shitty music and no sense of humor, so…bleh.

The eye of the storm is beautiful, and peaceful. The winds change direction on the other side. We have to go through hell to get to the peaceful place.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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