Thursday, September 01, 2005



i have a hard time with tragedies. when the oklahoma city building got bombed, i thought about the children in daycare who died before they had a chance to live and wept. when los angeles erupted in riots and looting after the rodney king verdict my heart sank and i grieved for my country and for my people. i wore black for three days and walked around like a ghost in mourning after september 11, 2001, preoccupied with thoughts of people living a real-life horror movie, falling from the sky, or burning before they could even realize they were drawing their last breath. i realized then, as i was thinking about the families that had plastered thousands of posters of family members around like children on milk cartons, that i can't watch news coverage of such tragedies. when the tsunami hit southeast asia and africa i rationed my news monitoring, knowing i probably couldn't reasonably deal with witnessing the overwhelming volume of destruction left behind.

i have a very limited understanding of what the morning after a disaster is like. two years ago, i huddled with my family in my parents' house waiting for hurricane isabel to stop wailing on our roof. waiting for the unexplained crashing and movement outside our dark house to stop. listening to the news accounts on the battery operated tv and radio. hoping that my apartment was intact and that the roads would be passable. we walked outside the next morning - with no electricity, limited plumbing, no phone except our unchargable cell phones, and talked to our neighbors, some of whom we'd never spoken any more than two words to before the storm had us actually acting like neighbors. a year later, i was trapped in a shopping mall because tropical storm gaston decided to sit on top of my city for hours after work without warning. the roads were impassable, not just because of trees like when isabel came, but also because of the sheer volume of water that literally was dumped on us from the storm. flooding is no joke. so many people were trapped or hurt or lost their cars. an entire low lying neighborhood full of businesses and people was destroyed because of the risen water. they are still cleaning up the damage a year later. i knew i couldn't deal with this level of loss much in a lifetime. i've lived in the mid-atlantic states my whole life. i've never understood how people live on fault lines or in tornado or mudslide or wildfire or hurricane country. a nor'easter, i can deal with. the tail of a weakened hurricane, okay. but all out, full blown, get-out-of-town-cause-we-gonna-die furies of nature? i don't think so. i can't begin to understand the worry and frustration and danger that comes with that territory.


which brings me to hurricane katrina slamming into the gulf coast. what a nightmare. i remember eight years ago, i met a guy from new orleans - wonderful guy who dated a close friend of mine. he told us then that one good storm could wipe the city out. why did i think he was exaggerating? and here i am wondering how his parents are doing - i've met them and they are fine people, who remind me of my own parents. wondering how an old roommate from new orleans and her family are doing. hoping they're okay. that they have shelter and food and a sanitary environment and that they are safe from the looters. i am hoping that unlike most of the people i'm seeing on television, they had the means to get out before the rising water broke the levees, sending a surge of water into the city. i'm hoping they're not homeless. identity less. my ex-roommate's mom has a chronic illness - does she have her meds? will she be okay? a friend i left behind in richmond has family in louisiana and i'm hoping they, and he, are okay... it is so much more real when you have a familiar face to put on the victims and their families. it is so much more scary when you realize it's not comfort these people need first, but survival. health. water. food. sanitation.

it makes you put your problems in a more proper perspective.

it also makes me want a fireproof, waterproof, grab-in-case-of-emergency kit, where i could put some cold hard cash, a cd with all my scanned pictures of my life, all my old diaries and written works, and proof of birth and citizenship. and a few changes of drawls. how can you get housing and a job and start over when you have nothing but the clothes you were wearing when you got plucked off a roof into the helicopter or boat that took you away from your destroyed home?

boy do i appreciate waking up in my room surrounded by my stuff this morning. washing up with clean water. flushing my toilet. having a bowl of cereal to eat. clean clothes to wear. gas in my tank. a job to come to... i am blessed. rich even.

feenin (not like jodeci)

and strangely enough, you know who i was thinking about today? crackheads and junkies.

i was telling a friend at lunch that i feel sorry for the crackheads and junkies. people are attempting to assist diabetics, preemies, and other people with serious medical conditions - as we should be. but i bet nobody is looking out for the drug addicts. this is no nicotine irritability i'm talking about here. i'm talking about dry heaves, and seizures and psychological stuff - withdrawal is no joke. a lot of people can't physically withstand the trauma of every cell in their body crying out for smack. and though it may seem that shelter and sanitary conditions are the most important things to most people, y'all know that crackheads and junkies just need to get high, cause their bodies are turning on them. where are their pushers? their stashes are flooded away. their drug houses are flooded out - they don't even have nowhere to smoke or shoot up. they might be illegal or wrong or whatever you wanna call them for doing drugs... but they are living people with souls, feelings, and families who care about them (albeit from a probable distance).

i think as long as they're alive, they're doing better than dead - well, some of them. i certainly think that the rescue and recovery of whoever needs to be found definitely preempts making sure that the addicts are OK. but i wonder how they've been making it these last few days, and when this is all cleaned up, i wonder how many people will actually have died from drug withdrawal.

i wonder if it is ethical (i didn't say legal) to hook them up with their drug of choice to keep them alive because of humanity and love? or is it ethical to keep them feening and let them die because they chose to buck society's values and the money for their drugs could be spent elsewhere?