After the Storm

This is the place where I was living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina arrived. This style of house is called a shotgun because you can stand at the front door and shoot a shotgun straight through it. I evacuated the day before the storm made landfall. We fled west, and the traffic was stopped for miles, and the shitty little car in which I'd gotten a ride broke down by the side of the highway, and the first bands were starting to hit, and a sheriff stopped because no one else would, and when he rolled down his window, I said: "Please don't leave me by the side of the road." It was days before we realized we couldn't return. My best friend bought me a plane ticket and told me to come to her, so I did. It was a couple months in Virginia before I got up the nerve to go back. In Louisiana, I rented a car and drove through the city. It looked like a woman that had been raped. There were dead refrigerators on sidewalks like tombstones. The place had been ravaged. I was there to get what was left. The satellite photos made it look like parts of the roof were missing, and that was right. I stood in the living room and stared up through the slats at the blue sky and wondered at the size of a storm that could tear the hundred year old pecan tree in the backyard, at the base of which I'd buried a lucky horseshoe upright so the luck wouldn't run out, from the ground and toss it like a toothpick. Most of my things were lost to black mold crawling across the walls like lace and the asbestos roof shingles. I took what I could and left. On the drive out, there were boats in yards, and at one point across the lake the bridge was there and then it wasn't. This week was my first time back since then. You can't see it so much--the storm--anymore. It's gotten hidden. I remember what I remember, though. I got my heartbroken in this house. I had a nervous breakdown in this house. I almost killed myself in this house. Today, I had the cab driver wait while I took a few photos. "How long will you be?" he said, as I got out of the car. "Not long," I said. And I wasn't. #neworleans #nola #hurricanekatrina

Last week, I went to the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in New Orleans. It was the first time I'd been back to the city since 2005, when I was pushed out by Hurricane Katrina. I wrote a mini-Instagram essay on it, which I've reposted here.