Tuesday, September 06, 2005
I'll be honest. Life feels very different right now. It feels different when you drive by the Houston Astrodome five days a week to go to work. And inside your mind you are well aware that they are there. The evacuees. The terrified mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. Kids, so many kids, that fled for their lives from the effects of a hurricane that no one will soon forget. And so...your heart is torn. And you feel numb. And you want to see for yourself. And you say your prayers. And you drive down South Main and make a right turn on McNee street. You slowly drive through the gates of the great Reliant Park, the complex that houses Reliant Stadium (where the Texans play football), Reliant Arena, Reliant Center, and the now famous shelter, the Astrodome. You walk in and you shiver. It looks just like it does on CNN. Yet it doesn't. It feels more real. You smell the water. The after effects of that water that changed so many lives. You see the people. So many black folks. Some walk as if their mind is so far away. You wonder what they are thinking. You want to be friendly and smile, but you don't want to offend anyone. You see so many men. They walk with a swagger; they strut in a way that lets you know they don't want to be there. They are proud. They are strong. They don't want to believe they are displaced, away from their home, maybe disconnected from their families. You can hear it in their voices, you can see it in their eyes. They are hurt. They are mad. Breakfast is being served. Twinkies. Cold cereal. Granola bars. Donuts. Where are the grits? The sausage? I'm from Louisiana. I can't eat this stuff. You nod and laugh. You don't blame them for wanting a hot meal. But they are still thankful, polite. Some want coffee, but there's none to be had. I'm not sure why. The people try to keep up their spirits. If you ask their name, their eyes enlarge, as if they're shocked anyone would care enough to want to know them. Some don't want to talk; they look down, and mumble. But others, they give you a smile, they'll ask how it is to live in Houston. They'll make small talk, but then they move on. To where, I don't know. There are many TV monitors structured throughout the Dome. MTV, the news, all kinds of channels. Some folks are trying to sleep in a facility where the lights never go out. So you see crumpled bodies lying in cots with blankets covering their head. You see a kid now and then (on the 4th floor), but you know most of the kiddies are on the ground level. Just like on TV. You want to tell people to have a nice day, but that sounds so stupid. So meaningless. And you pray for these people. That they won't be there in the Dome for long. You pray that their families will be found. You pray that the peoples' lives will be restored. You pray that they will smile again with genuine joy. You pray this nightmare will soon be over. Because life feels so very different right now.