NRO Contibutor and Bench Memos King Ed Whelan e-mails:
I received the e-mail below yesterday from a friend of mine, a good and
brave man from New Orleans. I think it deserves a broader audience, as
it provides a wonderful example to those of us (me, certainly) who too
often respond to trivial adversity with far less grace. We should keep
all New Orleanians, and others afflicted by the hurricane, in our
prayers and do our best to provide them the assistance they need.
I have not been able to reach my friend to request his permission to
post his e-mail (and would not want to bother him with such a trivial
request), so I have made minor changes to preserve his privacy.
“I have often thought of my home, New Orleans, as the future Atlantis.
Rome may well be the Eternal City. New Orleanians have the Ephemeral
“And now, the long deferred worst case scenario has come due. The
is grim indeed. And the suffering that will no doubt be my fellow
citizens’ lot, be it from loss of property, health or life, is enough to
touch the flintiest of hearts. Not to exaggerate the situation, but I
doubtful whether the city will ever be the same again. Without having
seen the damage firsthand-and without knowing whether my home or office
even exist-I can’t imagine that the city will soon recover from such a
blow. Our city appears to be filled with polluted water, and assuming
that it could be drained soon, it seems rather unlikely that we will be
going home within the next month.
“Can you imagine a city of this size being vacated for a month? I can’t
imagine it, but it seems likely that I will live it!
“Imagine losing the following:
* Your home
* Your job
* Your possessions
* Your children’s access to schooling
* Your economy
* Your culture
* Your city
“I bring all of this doom and gloom up to make one key point: I am, in
some key ways, better off now than I was before Katrina came to town.
“You see, for years now I have tried to convince my children of one
The most important things in life are not things.
“I had, of course, intended to emphasize this point from the comfort of a
chaise lounge under the beneficent breeze of a ceiling fan. To my
irritation and dismay, I must now say this without the proverbial pot.
“We shall just have to wait and see whether my philosophy is able to
withstand the rigors of a reality without. Although I shall miss air
conditioning, I have reason to believe that I will pass this test.
“Just this morning my ten-year-old daughter came to me, and with
her voice trembling, asked me “Papa, are we going to be all right?”
“My reply was “Yes, we are going to be just fine. I can lose
everything I have with just a few exceptions, and they are your mother,
you and your sisters.”
“I write these words from the home of a friend in Houston, Texas, with
little to my name. I have, nevertheless, wealth untold.
“To those of you who have attempted to call, it is probable that our
telephones will be out for the foreseeable future-New Orleans doesn’t
an electrical grid right now, so until they can rebuild that we probably
won’t have much in the way of telephone service.
“I’m grateful for the kindness of friends who have taken us in without
“Say a prayer for my city tonight; there are so many others who have lost
the greatest wealth God gives-their own lives. Whether I like it or
my treasure will, for a season, be stored in places where ‘moths and
doth not corrupt.’