My Flood of Tears

Shame for my city, shame for my country

New Orleans, the City that Care Forgot, has stood out more and more from the rest of the country in past years because of the number of people who don’t leave it, who stay generation after generation. You could say that’s because they are kept down, or because they’ve put down roots—that’s what keeps the city what it is, a little out of the mainstream of time.

Now we who dance and drink and play together forgot to stand up when it counted. We were waiting for the big storm, and we knew our city was full of people who had no cars, who were living in the same old camelbacks and shotgun shacks for a hundred years in the poorest part of town, and we didn’t send buses and we didn’t send vans and we didn’t stop our family SUVs on the way out of town to let in a single mother and her child.

One Mardi Gras at sunset, I was sitting stoned on the riverbank by the Quarter in a torn-up butterfly costume, and an old black man rolled up to me right out of Morgan Freeman central casting. He was singing, “I’ve got PE-can Pra-LEENS and sweet potato Pi-eye!” I bought a palm-sized pie and engaged him in a conversation about the nature of the universe, and instead of laughing he told me sweetly, liltingly, “You want to know what I think? Now it APPEARS, we are all SEParate from each OTHer. But that’s an ilLUsion. That’s just time, messing with you. It’s just a sign of how FEARfully we are made.”

September 1, 2005: Kimi Seymour, 27, along Interstate 10 in New Orleans
photo: Irwin Thompson/AFP/Getty Images
September 1, 2005: Kimi Seymour, 27, along Interstate 10 in New Orleans

I hope he’s right.

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