New Orleans will come back after the old sidewalks and potholes in the streets have been repaired. Yes, New Orleans will come back after bulldozers have knocked down homes in the Ninth Ward and cleared away all remnants of the people who lived there. New Orleans will come back when streetcars run up and down St. Charles Street, and tourists won't be afraid of getting off anywhere. New Orleans will come back when infrastructure is back in place on streets like Gentilly, when trees and flowers like azaleas and camellias and magnolias are blooming again on Esplanade. New Orleans will come back when you can go to Dooky Chase and order your favorite Creole meal, and later visit Snug Harbor, where the bartender knows exactly how you like your martini. Yes, for some New Orleans will come back.
There will be times when you can cross Bourbon Street in front of traffic, knowing all the time they won't dare hit you because this is the Big Easy, and you can do anything you like. You can walk down Royal Street and look into antique shops, dreaming but never buying. Or you can go to Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait. There will be musicians out on the sidewalk—they may not be the same ones as before Katrina, but there will be music. And there will be the old carriages, driven by old men, with tired old mules, and you can go for a ride in the French Quarter or along the French Market. . . .
Yes, New Orleans will come back after politicians have argued over what part of the city should be rebuilt, and what part of the city should not be rebuilt at all. There will be town meetings, and there will be private citizens screaming at politicians, but in the end New Orleans will be rebuilt. Let us not worry, there will always be a New Orleans.
But I imagine stories of loss, and I wonder.
The Joseph sisters—so we will call them, for this is only a story—used to walk two miles (three kilometers) to church every Sunday in starched white dresses and white hats and white gloves. They walked Indian style on the narrow, broken sidewalk, the older sister in front, the younger one a pace or two behind. Every Sunday they would go to the nine o'clock service. They would come back a couple of hours later, take off their neat white dresses, hats, and gloves, and put on everyday wearing clothes and sit out on the porch. But Katrina changed all that. The older sister was drowned when six feet (two meters) of water came into the house. The other sister was rescued and taken away. Some said she was taken to Houston, some said Detroit. Others said they believed she went to Atlanta, but they weren't sure.