Aug. 29, 2007
Meadowbrook Nursing Home
Poem: "Meadowbrook Nursing Home" by Alice N. Persons, from Don't Be A Stranger. © Sheltering Pines Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission.
Meadowbrook Nursing Home
On our last visit, when Lucy was fifteen
And getting creaky herself,
One of the nurses said to me,
"Why don't you take the cat to Mrs. Harris' room
poor thing lost her leg to diabetes last fall
she's ninety, and blind, and no one comes to see her."
The door was open. I asked the tiny woman in the bed
if she would like me to bring Lucy in, and she turned her head
toward us. "Oh, yes, I want to touch her."
"I had a cat called Lily she was so pretty, all white.
She was with me for twenty years, after my husband died too.
She slept with me every night I loved her very much.
It's hard, in here, since I can't get around."
Lucy was settling in on the bed.
"You won't believe it, but I used to love to dance.
I was a fool for it! I even won contests.
I wish I had danced more.
It's funny, what you miss when everything.....is gone."
This last was a murmur. She'd fallen asleep.
I lifted the cat
from the bed, tiptoed out, and drove home.
I tried to do some desk work
but couldn't focus.
I went downstairs, pulled the shades,
put on Tina Turner
and cranked it up loud
and I danced.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It was on this day in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast near New Orleans. Before it reached land, it was the strongest hurricane ever measured in the Gulf of Mexico, with winds of up to 175 miles per hour. But by the time it hit New Orleans on this day, it had lost some of its strength. The wind damage was much worse in parts of Mississippi. Early on, most people thought New Orleans had dodged the bullet.
But two reporters from the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper got a tip that there might be a leak in one of the levees, so they rode bikes out to the levee of the 17th Street canal. They never even made it to the levee. One of the main streets on their route was filled with rushing water, more than seven feet deep, and it was rolling south toward the rest of the city. More than 80 percent of the city was eventually flooded, about 140 square miles, which is seven times the size of Manhattan. The water rose higher than 14 feet in some places.
All communication in the city began to break down. The 911 operators had evacuated, and so people calling 911 just reached an answering machine. Eventually there was no power, no phone service, no cell phones. Many of the police officers in the city abandoned their posts and just tried to save themselves. The local prison was evacuated, and several prisoners escaped. National Guard troops didn't arrive until the fourth day of the disaster.
Many of the journalists at The Times-Picayune slept in their office building the first night after the hurricane, and they realized the following morning that they had to evacuate or they'd be stranded. A total of 240 employees and some family members piled into all the newspaper delivery trucks available, and they drove out of the city.
The staff of The Times-Picayune had to evacuate their building, but the editor Jim Amoss was determined to keep publishing the newspaper even if only on the Internet, so a small group of journalists stayed behind in the city to cover what was going on. By September 1, the newspaper had begun printing the paper again, and they delivered it free to shelters and hotels around the city. On Friday, September 2, reporters brought copies of the newspaper to the Convention Center, where many people had been living for days. Witnesses said that the people at the Convention Center wept at the sight of their hometown newspaper. Reporters then began distributing the paper to refugees and relief workers throughout the city, and residents of the city were overwhelmed by emotion when the newspaper arrived on their doorstep. The Times-Picayune eventually won two Pulitzer Prizes for its Hurricane Katrina coverage, including a gold medal for meritorious public service.
Many books have since been written about the disaster, including The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley, Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horn, and Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Michael Eric Dyson. But one of the most personal books to come out of the disaster is the collection of columns by the Times-Picayune writer Chris Rose, called One Dead in Attic.
It's the birthday of British philosopher John Locke, (books by this author) born in Wrington, Somerset, England (1632). He argued against the divine right of kings, believed in Natural Law and Natural Rights, including the right of property. He believed government exists to protect those rights, and he argued in favor of revolt against tyranny. One of the people who read his book was Thomas Jefferson, and those ideas became the foundation for much of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
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