To: My City

By Keva Carr

Photo: Keva Carr, left, Maria Hernandez, center, and Rodneka Shelbia, right, participants in Students at the Center.

All my life I lived in New Orleans. Now my memories are all washed away, floating with the dead bodies that couldn’t ride out Katrina.

Then came [Hurricane] Rita saying, “Kick them while they’re down.”

From Aug. 28 on, while sitting at my little desk in Sabine Hall at Northwestern State University, my eyes were glued to the news every minute I could get. Every second I could get away to watch it, I did. I sat there moving my lips over and over, and they were starting to make a song:

“It always went past us; it always went past us.”

But my broken record of a song couldn’t repair my house or the other hundreds that went under all over the world. I’ve been sheltered all my life, and spoiled, never had to ask for anything. I could call on my aunt, grandmother, or mom, and they’d be anywhere I needed them at the drop of a hat. But now what was I to do? They were miles away, trying to fight off something that they couldn’t stop. There was a point where I did not know whether they were OK or not. I spent lots of time calling my mother’s cell, only to receive her voicemail over and over again. As I watched the news, my eyes became a waterfall, and the waterfall wouldn’t stop. It just got full until it made several individual puddles of waterfalls on my small desk. I saw that New Orleans residents had nothing, nothing but their lives. And as we were exploited on NBC, CNN, etc., I saw that they were fighting for that. How could a heart be so cold? How could a soul be so black? How can someone see people in need of help and just do nothing? I stared so hard at the television as if I could change it. As though I was the president and with my hard staring eyes I could change everything.

I rubbed my hands together, and I started to write this. One thing was going through my head, and it was the thought of this piece reaching thousands of people. Everyone’s saying that all the things we have lost are material. They can be replaced. We should be thankful for our lives. We should, and I am, but it’s still going to be so hard after so much we have worked for.

New Orleans helped make this girl you see before you. This summer, when we moved to Chalmette, in St. Bernard Parish, I thought I’d never look back. Well, I didn’t want to. I was tired of seeing the same old crooked things on my block, and I was ready for our move.

Why am I looking back now? Well, when a friend is in trouble, you do not turn your back on her. But in my case it’s a city. A city that has given me laughter and tears. New Orleans has given me my education. I’m not saying that my city meant nothing to me before. It’s just that I treasure it more now than ever. Because desperate times call for desperate measures. Because my city needs me. It needs my prayers, my hope, my words, and my strength. My city can recover, and so will the people in it. New Orleans was more than a city; it was my home.

So to New Orleans I say, “Hold your head up. Although the people of my city may ask why, don’t lose hope. Although you might say, What is there to believe in? hold your head up for your family, your children, and believe in you.”

To: My City
I love you, and you

Keva Carr graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in May 2005. She is a sophomore at Northwestern Louisiana University. Keva, who took her first Students at the Center class at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in New Orleans, has won statewide writing awards, participated in writing exchanges with students in New Mexico and New Jersey, and co-facilitated writing workshops for teachers in Greenville, S.C., and New Orleans.