Community Organizing Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

New Orleans                Flying from the snows of Chicago to the city again I always feel glad to come home.   On I-610 before the Elysian Fields exit I try to convince myself that there are a couple of new street lights in the dark zone that were now glowing in the week since I left.  It’s probably an illusion

The issue of “normalcy” is one that is raised constantly.  I’m not sure how it is defined in these post-Katrina days.  It’s a wish for things to be settled and certain, a wish to be at home again, to see friends, to join the community.  It’s probably a wish that things are the way they were, but will never be again. 

This normalcy thing is real though.

I almost couldn’t find my folks’ house in the dark, because I had become so accustomed to the giant debris pile there that I missed the landmark driving by.  FEMA contractors had finally — it turned out only hours before I arrived — picked up the piles up and down the street.  Except for the tree stumps and blue tarps dotting the block, it almost looked, well, normal.

A week ago on a Sunday night we had counted the number of houses in this area where people had returned.  There had to be lights on.  There had to be a car in the driveway.  Those were the only rules.  We counted 80% on one side of the street and 50% on the other.  Not bad.  Almost, well, normal.

My mother said they had called a meeting of the garden group and to everyone’s surprise there were more than 20 people there, twice the normal attendance.  One woman had driven all the way from Lafayette for the meeting!  People were looking for connections, for information, and for, well, normalcy, I’m afraid.

My dad said the same thing.  His usual retiree group calls 50 a big crowd when they get together.  Suddenly, more than 100 people had indicated they were coming.  People want to know who is back.  Who is alive and well, and who didn’t make it.  They want to know whether New Orleans will be normal again.

As organizers and as people, this is an issue we are going to have to come to understand.

The once large trash pile recently picked up by FEMA contractors.