Today is the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the city is gearing up for an evacuation because of Hurricane Gustav. This is my last good day to bike as I’ll be heading out of town tomorrow. I spent the day packing intermittently, but mostly riding around, watching as others make plans and talk anxiously about what’s to come. My good friend S. pointed out that this is a city with PTSD, and with that comes panic and fear, flashbacks and frayed nerves. I saw lots of things today–people like me getting supplies for their pets, folks stocking up on water from Wal*Mart, out-of-towners sipping daiquiris, here for Southern Decadence and LSU’s season opener against Appalachian State. Every one of us was doing one thing while also doing another–keeping an eye on news about the storm.
The Convention Center was a different story. Here it was all business as the National Guard moves in to provide security in the event of evacuation. J. pointed out to me that there’s something odd here when the collective memory of Katrina is of crime and violence. Not that of a government unprepared, but of a desperate citizenry. The National Guard is here, prisoners have been evacuated, and now we all wait to see what to do next. Everything seems better organized than it looked in 2005. There will be no “shelter of last resort,” though. And this worries me. I worry that the city is dealing with the inevitability of people left in town by refusing help and preparing to shoot. We will have to wait and see what happens, but I’ll do that from Texas.