During the spring quarter of my first year of law school, a bunch of friends and I drove down to New Orleans and spent a week hanging out, eating fried food, and drinking.

One of the places we went, recommended by a friend of a friend, gave away free souvenir pint glasses with every beer you ordered on Wednesdays.  Drawn by the lure of free barware, we spent several hours there, and by the end of the night we each had a set of four glasses to take home with us, in several different designs featuring cartoons, top ten lists, etc.  (What? I was younger then, and more than able to drink four beers without moaning about feeling impossibly full and/or entirely drunk afterward.)


Three years ago today, the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina caused 53 levee breaches in the city of New Orleans.  We all remember the horror that unfolded in the wake of that catastrophe.  I felt particularly drawn to the news accounts of the storm, unable to turn away from the photos of a city so entirely unrecognizable from the vibrant beautiful vacation destination I’d visited just a few months before.

A few days after the storm hit, I was idly drinking some water when I happened to glance down at the glass.  It was one of my souvenir New Orleans pint glasses, which we used all the time but to which I’d never paid any particular attention.   This particular design offered “Tourist Information” and I realized with a start that it was a wrenchingly prescient piece of glassware:

In case you can’t quite make out that second item on the list, it says “If the levee breaks, everyone will die.  No one seems worried about this problem either.”


Today, after working out, I grabbed a glass out of the cabinet to get some water.  It happened to be that same glass, and I remembered again the anguish of three years ago, as I do now every time I use this glass.  It seems macabre, almost, to keep it around, with its casual, jokey prediction that ended up coming partially true, but I want to keep remembering.

And today, on the third anniversary of the day when things in New Orleans got unspeakably bad, the commemorative events have been cut short because the city is once again bracing for a major storm.  Hurricane Gustav is headed for the gulf region, evacuations from New Orleans look likely, and the Mayor of New Orleans is holding press conferences stating that the city is more prepared this time, while the Red Cross is making preparations of its own.

This weekend, John and I will be headed out camping, enjoying the three day weekend and the beautiful late-summer weather we’ve been having.  But in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking of New Orleans and the rest of the gulf region, which are still hurting from that storm three years ago, which haven’t even come close to bouncing back 100%.  And before we go, I’m making a small donation to the Red Cross, hoping that this time it won’t be needed in the gulf region, but recognizing that it very well might.  If you’re so inclined, you can do the same here.