It’s been ten years since the unforgettable devastation known as Katrina came ashore. Ten years since families were displaced, homes were destroyed, lives were lost. Such a long time ago, but yet not so very long ago. And although I’ve read many different accounts of the tragedy, every new one that comes along immediately catches my eye.
In this newest telling, we are given an insider’s view of what one family encountered in the days leading up to the hurricane as well as their recovery process. This family is somewhat different from what most of us know from television accounts. They’re white, middle class (at least) and living comfortably. Mom is a nurse and dad is a surgeon. Kids one and two are enrolled in private school. They have a nice home in a nice neighborhood. And most importantly, they have the means to evacuate as Katrina bears down on the city.
I’ll admit, I had to sit on this one for a bit after finishing it. I knew that I wanted to write a review, but I wasn’t quite sure in which direction I wanted to go. The author does provide a very real, honest account of her family’s experiences. However, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for someone whose home escaped mostly intact while so many lost everything they owned. And how does a tree in a pool and rotten food compare with the loss of a loved one?
But the more I reflected on it, the more I appreciated this unique perspective on the Karlin family’s experience. Because who am I to determine what an authentic story is? And I give the author much credit for never minimizing the horror of what others went through. In fact, at several points throughout the story she makes a point of noting that so many others had it so much worse than her family did.
Mostly, I admire the hope and passion for New Orleans that is woven throughout this book. The author makes it clear that there’s no love lost for those who were in power ten years ago. Powerful people who, by the way, dropped the ball in a very big way. She also makes it very clear why she and her family made the decision to return to a city that many felt wasn’t deserving of rebuilding efforts. To quote a well-known phrase: “I’m not a native of New Orleans. Although I wasn’t born here, I got here as fast as I could.”
Buy It Now: Below the Water Line: Getting Out, Going Back, and Moving Forward in the Decade After Hurricane Katrina