I dont know if anybody knew this but I happen to be going down to New Orleans with a group from my school, Providence College, in January. This past weekend I went on a retreat with my group. Our focus is not just the post-Katrina issues in New Orleans, but also the social issues of New Orleans that began before Katrina and were exacerbated by the storm as well as other things. My leader read this one letter from “One Dead in the Attic” which is basically a day to day journaling of the months immediately following Katrina by a Times-Picayune columnist named Chris Rose. It is called New Orleans Letter to America. It reminded me so much of the ladies we have helped and of New Orleans, so I thought I’d share it.
New Orleans Letter to America
I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We’re South Louisiana.
We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We’re not much on formalities like that.
And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn’t ask for this and neither did we, so we’re just going to have to make the best of it.
First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.
We’re a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don’t cotton much to outside interference, but we’re not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.
Just don’t get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don’t try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.
We’re not going to listen. We’re stubborn that way.
You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you’d probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.
We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.
But we’ll try not to judge you while we’re in your town.
Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.
Often we don’t make sense. You may wonder why, for instance – if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state – why in God’s name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?
We can’t really explain that. It is what it is.
You’ve probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.
The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.
We are what made this place a national treasure. We’re good people. And don’t be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.
When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.
But don’t pity us. We’re gonna make it. We’re resilient. After all, we’ve been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That’s got to count for something.
OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.
But what the hell.
And one more thing: In our part of the country, we’re used to having visitors. It’s our way of life.
So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.
That is our promise. That is our faith.
— written by Chris Rose, a regular columnist for the The Times-Picayune.
This letter makes me smile, even though it is a tad bit sad. It is so true everything he says. I immediately can picture Miss Dot dancing on the porch after telling her Katrina story, along with every one of the other ladies whom we have helped. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.