Southeast Louisiana may have escaped the worst of Hurricane Harvey, but we'll never shake the memory of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That's why so many Louisianans have rushed to repay the debt we owe Houston. In times of greatest need, we all depend on the kindness of strangers. And neighbors.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, Houston will need even more help. In addition to our dollars, we must offer hope and comfort where we can. In that spirit, I'm reprinting portions of a column I wrote last year — almost exactly a year ago, in fact — as an open letter to flood victims in Louisiana. The lessons we learned from Katrina still apply.
This time the letter goes to our neighbors in Houston:
Recovery happens from the ground up. The federal government moves slowly, even in times of crisis. The best way to start the recovery is by working locally with the folks you know — friends, neighbors, local associations, even local government.
It's a marathon, not a sprint. As much as you'd like to get back home now, rebuilding an entire community, or even one home, takes time. It takes even longer to do it right. It's worth the time and the effort.
This tragedy also is an opportunity — to rebuild better, smarter, stronger. New Orleans did it in fits and starts after Katrina, with a lot of pain, but we did it. No doubt you will do it faster and, hopefully, even better. I say this to offer hope, not to minimize Harvey's human toll in any way.
Make new connections, because everything happens for a reason. One of the amazing things that happened to me again and again after Katrina was meeting people one day and realizing a day or two later that they were exactly the people I needed to contact for help with a particular problem — or that I could somehow help them with a problem. I still have a pocket-sized notebook filled with their names and contact information. Many of them have become lifelong friends.
The kids are gonna be all right. We parents tend to fall apart, but for our kids (once they get past the initial shock and sense of loss) this is one grand adventure. They will grow in ways that you never foresaw. Nurture them as you always do, but know that they are much more resilient than we are. Let them inspire you.
Take time to laugh, cry, celebrate and live in Texas. Many people thought New Orleanians were crazy when we decided to hold Mardi Gras in 2006, but it made perfect sense to us. It's who we are. So don't let go of your festivals, traditions and touchstones. Do whatever makes you feel "normal" again.
Crisis tends to bring out the best in good people and the worst in bad people. You are the good guys, Houston. We're here for you because we'll never forget that you were there for us. Don't lose hope, and God bless.