Thursday, September 01, 2005

Can you hear me now?

I hate to admit it but it is certainly true that I like most Americans have become through media overload desensitized to many problems, issues and horrors. Following what was probably the largest natural disaster in the United States in the past century I felt very little. I was neither particularly sad nor compelled to reach out. I felt removed from the images and the situation that although it is just hundreds of miles away from me has been framed to some degree like it was a whole world away. I felt no connection to these people, many of whom are people of color just like me.

Then I heard voices. The first was of one of my best friends from high school. After graduating college in 2002 he moved to New Orleans to participate in the Teach for America program and remained there until earlier this summer when he took a position at a school in nearby Texas. He called me last night. My beloved friend was emotionally drained. He was fearful. He sought comfort that not even I could give him.

He was so worried about friends he had not heard from, friends he knew couldn’t evacuate the city and more than anything his former students from one of the poorest sections of New Orleans. They lived in housing projects that the city never particularly looked after. He doubted they looked out for the residents once again. As he told stories, as he watched the news while on the phone with me he gave life to the dead. I saw water. He saw what was once up under it. I saw random people. He saw people that he knew. I saw jobs lost. He pointed out the building submerged beneath the water where he once worked.

Today, I heard another voice. It was the voice of one of my fraternity brothers. For the past week he has been trying to locate his dearest friend. They spoke right before Katrina touched land and since then he has been calling and calling to no avail in hopes that he will connect and touch his friend soon.

I can hear now. I can see now. I can feel now.

The Superdome proved not to be exceptionally super. Thousands who flocked there seeking shelter from a storm are now living in near refugee camp conditions. Gone now in Mississippi and Louisiana are the pictures, heirlooms, histories, homes and loved ones of many. All irreplaceable.

This morning I pray. I know that God can hear me.