Sunday, September 11, 2005

Two Weeks After Evacuation

Dear family and friends,

Just a quickie tonight, so I can get to bed earlyish.

There was a wonderful story in today’s Baton Rouge Advocate about a
woman whose 49-day-old child, Calli, died in New Orleans Children’s
Hospital from a congenital heart condition before Katrina hit. The
hurricane caused the child’s burial to be delayed until this Wednesday.
Her mother had been unable to face going through Calli’s things, but
when she heard about women in one of the shelters needing nappies and
wipes, she made herself go through all the things and then gathered up
the nappies and some clothes and took them to the shelter.

There are so many small braveries going on, and so many more, small and
large, which occurred in New Orleans just after Katrina. I think for
every image and report of violence we heard so much about there were
probably several dozen instances of courage and heroism. All those
people who waved the helicopters or boats away from their roofs saying
“Someone down that way needs you more”. Those so-called looters who went
and grabbed food and water out of stores to feed people stranded outside
the Convention Center. Singer Charmaine Neville, a member of a famous
New Orleans singing family, who rounded up a group of her stranded
neighbours, smashed into a store and got them food so “no-one else but
me would be accused of looting” and then broke into a city bus, loaded
it up with her neighbours, and taught herself to drive the bus as she
delivered them out of the city.

Lillie is up in Tallulah tonight, visiting her sister Jane. Helen
Prejean has returned from her latest speaking tour. She raised a lot of
money for the Death Penalty Discourse Center to help us get
reestablished. She talked to public defenders in Florida, and students
and parishioners and a diverse bunch of people in several states. She
sold a lot of copies of her latest book, The Death of Innocents; those
funds are one of the main ways we get money to fund our
anti-death-penalty work. I have no idea how she keeps up her schedule,
especially at time like this. She manages to channel her energy so well
into her work.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that yesterday Lillie and I received our
first snail mail addressed to our new (very temporary) abode. We both
received beautiful cards from our friends Maura and Allen in New
Hampshire. Mine has the most magnificent photo of an hibiscus I’ve ever
seen with a Maya Angelou quote: “I can be change by what happens to me.
I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Maura and Allen offered us a huge gift: they said that, when we are
allowed to return to our house, they would like to fly down from New
Hampshire and accompany us.

The thought of returning home fills me with dread. And I feel
particularly for people like Laurie, one of Lillie’s sisters, who will
return to a house containing dead pets.

The mail, by the way, is in as bad a state as the phone system. We
receive newly posted mail, but nothing that was in the mailstream at the
time of the hurricane. The post office has ceased delivery to a bunch of
zip code areas including ours and a statement on its site says it is
still trying to figure out how on earth to deal with this old mail (not
quite in those words). We keep on thinking of things that are stuck
somewhere in that mail (or perhaps mouldering in the New Orleans Post
Office). A t-shirt I’d ordered; some CDs; an order of bread from (which I fervently hope they do not manage to deliver to
us after all this time).


Rose Vines