A friend who left New Orleans before Katrina and has not yet returned sent me an email and asked how things are. She seemed to want guidance on whether to return. Here was my response:
I’m doing well, and it’s good to hear from you. I don’t know what to say about New Orleans, other than what I’ve been saying on my blog. It’s promising and exciting, and frustrating and depressing. There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of dead-ends. There’s a lot of new construction, and a lot of debris piles and discarded appliances. … Hopefully, you’ll come back. But I don’t know if you should. It’s a hard question. Obviously, not everyone has the same answer.
I want everyone to come back, everyone, that is, that wants to work to make this city better. We all want you back and we hope you can find your way. If you can’t find a place to live then keep looking, but don’t wait for the politicians. A lot of you won’t come back and that’s a shame, but we understand. You found a better opportunity, or you are pissed off at how things were, or how you think things are going to be. That’s fine.
If we weren’t so busy here fixing things up and getting excited over stupid things like when a traffic light gets repaired we’d probably make time to mourn your loss. But for those of us who live here, New Orleans is now about triage, about conserving resources, focusing on little gains, and hoping they signal a path that will take us (sometime in the, as yet, unseeable future) towards bigger gains. If you want to tell people how much you want to return to the city then feel free. If you want to wait for someone to offer you a job then, by all means, take your time and weigh your options.
Maybe it’s because I speak spanish, but I hear a lot of new voices in New Orleans that came here for no other reason than because they heard rumors that jobs were plentiful (rumors which are mostly true if you work in a low pay job). These voices talk eagerly, passing around information about where to live and how to find work. The voices sound cheerful and optimistic, and they don’t seem to be waiting for any government annoucements to be issued before they start to act.
I realize that these are not the voices of former residents, but still, for some reason, those voices are music to my ears.