Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Long Journey

On this anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I have been thinking. I think there is a phenomenon where a person (family, neighborhood, city, state, country) experiences a tragedy and everyone gathers round. There are casseroles and donation drives and sympathy and love. And then, it dissipates. It is not that our loved ones do not understand that the recovery process is long, it is that for them they need to start to redirect their focus. And so, we are left with less time in which they want to hear, less time they volunteer to help, and in some ways that is really hard because you feel they expect you to be over it but you are not. You are broken still.
And I wonder if that is part of what is going on with Katrina (and even possibly Iraq, but different story). It's not that people don't get it that the areas of the Gulf Coast are still recovering, there are still people who have homes that are literally broken. And, the next concern, as those affected by Hurricane Isabel discovered, is that when the next disaster hits - be it flooding in the midwest or another hurricane - FEMA needs those trailers back. And while those trailers were meant to be temporary, while I'm sure every person who moved into a trailer thought it was just for a few months, the process has turned out to be much harder than expected. I say this not to lay blame with the bureaucracy, while I'm sure there may be some. But at this distance it is easy to suggest that people who have not finished rebuilding, not gotten their lives back together, well, they must not be trying that hard.
They talked on television this morning with Haley Moon, a teen who wrote Tears of Katrina talking about the emotional after effects that she and others went through following Katrina. One of the other teens said she was so relieved to discover she wasn't the only one who felt that way. Teenagers often mask their pain, as do the rest of us. But I think it's also about this phenomenon of thinking you should be happier by now. I remember my father once saying to me that I was in charge of my own happiness. And while that is very true, it did little to assuage my feelings of sadness and insecurity.
So, if I may suggest, hug someone today. Listen to their story. And tell them yours.