EDITOR’S NOTE: Several weeks ago, a hurricane survivor sent a very well-written, poignant letter to Katrina Connection (see Eclipse of the Heart: Shattered Dreams). It deserved to be published – unedited. It touched the hearts of many others, including myself. Here is a second letter – unedited – and the name says it all (Thank you, Joyce):
I have been seeking work now for 3 months, but we are living in a town of 900 people, and there are very, very few business where one can get employment. My husband has been walking to work, and his paycheck is enough to cover our monthly bills, but not much more than that.
When I said that we had the chance to come down again? It is on the prayer that I get work soon. I have applied for work at every place possible, which isn’t many due to not having a vehicle. So far? I’m not working, and it’s maddening, truly, sitting at home and waiting for something better to happen, for something… period…
We don’t have much, my husband and I… but we have each other. He has waited as I underwent surgery, worried about the tiniest thing going wrong. I have been quiet through bouts of insomnia so that he could rest… and no matter how bad things get… I still have peace in falling asleep next to him, with his arm around me. We’ve been without food for days on end… without a car for over a year now… without power, water, or heat… and still, re-reading what I wrote, our story about Katrina, hurts me more than all of that combined.
It’s hard when you struggle, and fight, and claw at the walls and rocks surrounding you, yet all you get is injuries, and stuck deeper in the pit. When all your dreams hinge on one tiny break… and can be broken on it just the same.
There are days when all I want is another chance, to go back, and change things in my life. To not be so scared, so shy, so worried… there are times when I wish I would’ve made a different decision…
For now, New Orleans lives in my heart. It lives in a dream that gets foggy and begins to fade upon the dawn. The sun rises, and I realize that I’m not in that place, but here, surrounded by cold… where we have electrical problems we can’t afford to fix, plumbing problems that are the same, holes in the floor that need replaced… it breaks me.
Everyday I wake from that dream, and I am broken, battered, and bruised by the events of the day. Every night I fall asleep and smell the flowers again, and hear the sounds… of my home.
One day we’ll be there. It may take us 40 years, but one day we will be home again… It’s the thought at the edge of my mind every day, as I look at rentals in New Orleans, and photographs, and videos… I watch documentaries about the city, Katrina, the history… I listen to the stories, see the people… it consumes me.
Yet, despite my all consuming love of what I consider my home, I am attacked, berated, and dragged down by people who call themselves ‘true New Orleanians,’ those that feel I don’t belong, because of my upbringing, or the inflection I put on certain words. People feel that because I’m a ‘white girl’ that my parents have money, and so should I… that if I considered it my ‘home,’ that I’d have been there already.
People assume things of me, just because I’m white, and don’t speak with a southern drawl.
We have no one, we rely on ourselves… and as anyone that has ever been married, or in their 20s, can tell you… when you have to rely on yourself, it’s a struggle just to breathe sometimes. Moving across the country is a different struggle altogether, it requires time, planning, money…
No matter what anyone says, one day I will live in New Orleans, and I will finally be home, and be able to fall asleep with my husband next to me… and wake up and not have my heart broken. People can attack me verbally, try to break me down… but I know where I belong. They can call me names, assume whatever they wish… but assumptions aren’t true just because someone decided they were.
What is true? I’m 27 years old, as of about a month ago. I’ve had 2 relatively invasive surgeries already in my life. I was lucky enough to meet my soulmate when I was 22, and we were married when I was 23. I don’t know for sure, because of health issues (private), if I’ll be able to have children of my own, but for now I have 2 dogs, and some cats. I have trouble sleeping if my great dane isn’t curled up next to me, as he’s been doing it since he was tiny and could fit between the pillows. My family doesn’t speak to each other unless it involves screaming, and so I moved out right after I graduated. My heart aches everytime I hear certain songs on the radio, and ‘The Notebook’ makes me want to cry because it reminds me of my grandparents. I found out today that my grandmother has a serious health issue, and can’t live on her own anymore, and must move into a nursing home… and it breaks my heart, because I know that it will break her spirit, and that she will pass away soon, and I’ll lose her. Everytime I smell black-eyed-peas I assume I’m going to smell cornbread as well, because my grandfather used to cook those things all the time before he passed away, and had for years. (He was from Arkansas… and I miss him every day.)
Right now, as I write this, I am crying… thinking about loss, and loved ones, and wanting to be home.
I just want something to go ‘right,’ to be ‘easy,’ and to feel like it’s home again. I want to be in a place that feels like sanctuary, where I want to take my clothes out of boxes (finally) and hang pictures on the walls.
I’m not sure what else to say… just that right now, I feel broken, as if the world has misplaced me, and forgotten to care.
If anyone reads this, and it touches you in some way… please feel free to write me, I could use a friend right now.