In a New York Times article on December 11, 2005, Clifford J. Levy remarks that “it has become almost taboo to discuss any proposal more modest than an immediate and total rebuilding…Suggest that New Orleans needs to consider repopulating only elevated areas, leaving especially flood-prone ones to lie fallow, and you will be shouted down.”
What a daunting dilemma: to rebuild the entire city of New Orleans after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, including re-imagining what used to be poor areas of town so that all who wish to can move back; or only restoring those higher-elevation areas which were less damaged and which have potential for immediate action. If the first solution is chosen, it may take an entire decade, by which time the poor will have decided to remain where they are today instead of returning. If the latter solution is chosen, the poor will be officially relegated to non-citizen and unwanted.
I am Grief Recovery Specialist, we focus on completing the relationship we have with whomever or whatever our loss happens to be, so that we can resume a life of wholeness and celebration. Uncompleted relationships weigh us down and paralyze us from moving on to lives of joy. When we continue to ?hold on to? our losses, we are unable to live freely. The dead must be allowed to die so that the living may be energized to live. Until the dead are ?let go,? they remain ?alive,? and the living are deadened to life, a reversal of what ought to be.
Successful Grief Recovery means giving up the hope for a different or better yesterday. The past has passed; we have only the present and future to consider. We cannot continue to live only in the past if we expect a future that is dynamic and appealing.
New Orleans residents and leadership need to recognize that they need not bring back those dead neighborhoods, that would be a time-and-money-consuming proposition that would not be the most beneficial response to those who used to live there. Nor would it allow the City of New Orleans to move forward to its future with any type of realistic hope.
Rather, a more simple, honest and healing response would be to say to those who fled the city: we are so sorry that we have lost your homes and neighborhoods, but they will not be rebuilt. We wish it could have been different, but reality dictates that we rebuild what is feasible and say goodbye to the other neighborhoods of our beloved city. We wish you well as you continue your new lives wherever you now live. You are always invited back, but please know that there will be no more poor neighborhoods or overcrowded slums to return to; we will do better this time so that we can all be proud of our city.
Perhaps a communal funeral, complete with down-home Bourbon Street wailing, would be an appropriate send-off. Whatever the city decides, its future awaits. Hopefully, New Orleans will be rebuilt so that the New Bourbon Street will once again reverberate with flash and feeling.
You can find Mel Glazer at http://www.yourgriefmatters.com He is a Rabbi, Grief Recovery Specialist and writer. His book “And God Created Hope: How Your Favorite Bible Stories Can Lead You From Mourning To Morning” will be published in Jan. 2007.
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