Monday, August 24, 2009

Fourth Year Anniversary of Katrina

Four years ago I was preparing for a weekend jaunt to Cleveland, Ohio. It was to be a short weekend vacation and then I was to wing my way back to my uptown New Orleans home. There is an adage: "Man plans and God laughs." That's probably appropriate here because in three days time my ordered world and plans for the foreseeable all were changed dramatically by the events leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina. I found myself in Cleveland, a refugee looking for a job, shelter and a way home. I wrote about it and that story became the front-page cover of the Cleveland Jewish News the following week. More stories were published and eventually a job offer followed. The last four years have passed slowly and, while I am ensconced again in my hometown of New Orleans, I think about the turbulent time I underwent 48 months ago and what it meant to my life for the nearly two years I lived there. I can honestly say that my life improved in many ways due to the Hurricane Katrina experience. Oh, yes, I lost possessions and much of my home was destroyed. There were many things that can and never will be replaced, but in the long run, these were simply possessions. What matters most to me today are the connections I made in Cleveland: the management I worked for and co-workers I labored with at the CJN, the members of the Jewish community who befriended me there and the people of Cleveland who extended me many courtesies. The experience sharpened my work as a reporter and made my writing seem much more important. That the CJN has experienced a downsizing and like the rest of the industry is in the throes of economic upheaval is unfortunate. It turns out I was working there at the height of its most productive period. I feel honored to have shared that experience with them. There is no doubt that the financial uncertainty there today would have sent me packing to New Orleans eventually, so it is fortuitous I made the decision to move back when I did two years ago. The winters were cold and the snow was difficult to manage for this Southern boy, but the feelings I have for my Cleveland exile are still very warm and I maintain many of those friendships even today. Perhaps I should re-word that adage to read: "Man plans and God provides."

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