How can it be? One year ago today the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast and changed our country. After 9/11, we watched a country come together in horror, patriotism, sadness and anger. When Katrina hit (soon to be followed by Hurricane Rita), we were in disbelief at the devastation and then at the lack of action by FEMA. But what we did see were thousands of people--mere citizens--giving of themselves and doing what they could to help their Southern neighbors. Some opened their homes to extended family members, friends or even strangers. Donations poured in, trucks were driven down ... all while the government stood around wondering what to do. I know I will never forget the people I saw on TV as they stood on their rooftops, waiting and waiting in 100-degree weather to be rescued from the flooding. And how was it that the government said they couldn't get through to help people, but the media was all over the place?
In December, I visited New Orleans because I had to. My family didn't want me to go; my husband didn't either, but he knew I had to. I talked to people about their city, their losses and their hopes and fears for the future. I helped with some cemetery clean-up work. I met more people whose goodness and love for the city outshined the devastation I saw. I heard the anger in some residents' voices as they questioned why folks were running around with cameras like it was a tourist attraction when they were still being told that they wouldn't have electricity for weeks or months.
The first time I visited New Orleans in 2003, I fell in love with the city. I felt the seduction of the sounds and smells and feel of it. It changed me with its romance and made me a romantic. When I came back after Katrina in 2005, it changed me again. I saw devastation and war zones--where nature took out its aggression on houses and trees and anything else in its path. But most importantly I saw determination in people's eyes who had lost so much. Not only were they intent on surviving and bringing their beloved home back, they were determined that the good times they've been so well known for would continue. While they may not have had much left, they would certainly find what they needed to make you one hell of a meal because you are their guest and that's one of the many things they are known for. Southern hospitality even in the wake of two hurricanes.
Those of you who know me know how much I love this city. I have great admiration for the city and her people. It's not just the amazing cemeteries, the oyster po' boys, the music, ghost tours, beignets and cafe au laits (which are more than enough on any given day to get me going!), it's the people. It's the history. The attitude. The everything. No matter what you know about New Orleans, it's always going to surprise you somehow.
Today I received an e-mail from MoveOn.org, a great progressive movement site that is all about what is right and just. I've been on their mailing list for a few years now. Today they sent out an e-mail promoting a new book produced by the ACORN group, which is working to protect evacuees' rights and rebuild New Orleans right. The book is called "It Takes A Nation: How Strangers Became Family." According to the e-mail, the book features "amazing and moving first-person interviews with Katrina evacuees and the donors who took them in, and evocative photos of the folks involved and the aftermath of the flood." Illinois Senator Barack Obama wrote the forward. If you buy it through them for $20 (it retails for $25), ALL of the proceeds will go directly to ACORN. Not a bad deal. Of course, I'm ordering a copy today.
More information on MoveOn.org and "It Takes A Nation: How Strangers Became Family."
I also sent ACORN an offer for free advertising space to promote their program to help the families of New Orleans. They are doing some fine work, and I'd like to help continue that.
I'd also like your opinions. They have a "Spread the Word" area on their site with things you can do to help out. One of which is "Adopt a House" in New Orleans. What you do is have a fundraiser, bake sale, etc., to raise money to donate to them. For $2,500, a group can "Adopt a House." That is how much it costs to gut a single house--covering the cost of tools and protective gear used by volunteers and displaced residents, permits, and insurance. More than 300 volunteers a month come to New Orleans to help rebuild (volunteers, not paid people). ACORN is currently able to gut five homes a day. That is amazing.
While I am way pregnant and won't be able to go to New Orleans for quite a while, I still want to help out. This is where you come in. What do you think about having a "virtual bake sale"? For a donation, a person can purchase a "virtual baked good" (ex. a "cookie" for $5, "brownie" for $10, "piece of pie" for $15, etc.). The person would receive a graphic of the virtual baked good for his or her site, e-mail, etc., and all the money would go to "Adopt a House."
That is my proposal and I would love to hear what people think about it. Would anyone be interested in such a fundraiser?
You can send me a response to this post, or e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You know how much I love to hear from people!
Thanks for reading!