Or imagine a man standing among the crowd on Canal Street watching the Mardi Gras floats go by. There were thousands of people, but the man remembered one voice, a little boy who called out to the floats: "Throw me something, mister, throw me something, throw me something, mister, throw me something." There were thousands and thousands of screaming voices, but the man remembered that one voice. Each time one of the revelers on the floats would throw something—a doubloon, a string of beads, a plastic horn, or a plastic whistle—someone else would get to the prize before the boy did. Then the man had the luck to catch a red plastic horn, but when he looked for the boy, the boy was not there. Who was that little boy? Where did he go? Why did he leave before he got his treasure? The man heard another voice behind him, a woman's, saying, "You gon' keep that little horn, mister? I got some beads for my little girl, but nothing for my little boy. He sure would like that little red horn."
That was years before Katrina. Two months after the storm, imagine this same man driving down South Claiborne Avenue, where he noticed a little red plastic horn on a pile of debris. He wondered if it could possibly be the same one he had given to the woman. No, no, it could not be. The people on the floats must have thrown thousands of those things since then. But he still wondered. What had happened to the woman? What had happened to her children? Were they alive, scattered all over the country, or were they dead?
There are other stories—true stories—just like these.
New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans, you will come back. But will you be my New Orleans, or the little boy's New Orleans, or the woman's New Orleans, or the Joseph sisters' New Orleans? I doubt it. Katrina and the politicians have made you a different New Orleans forever.