Friday, August 11, 2006
Eden, Nine Months On
Where are we now?
Too much to write all at once, so just the basics. My mom and little brother wintered in the love and care of the Bennett family, of Elizabeth and Kenny and Mr. Jack, and daughters Toni Marie and Kailie, and all the huge-hearted people in Swansboro, North Carolina. About four months ago my mom had to return to Pearlington in order to keep her job, which had been held for her through the Herculean efforts of her boss and friend Mr. Simpson.
That's not the only reason she had to return, though. As the rest of the country inevitably turned its eyes from the Gulf and its suffering, she felt more and more isolated each day. A lone little bottle of Katrina mud floating in a sea of tranquility. Misery truly does love company, and she felt the need to go back and blend into the misery and grinding survival of the Gulf, with people who truly knew what she was feeling, thankful for the salvation that was the Bennett family, and strengthened by the time she had had to recuperate and clear her mind.
Strengthened for the fight, she could join with her neighbors and family in rebuilding her homeland. Refusing to give in, refusing to surrender. So for the past four months she and my little brother have been living in a FEMA trailer on her property. It's not nearly as nice as the place the Bennett's donated, but it's good enough for more than 100,000 other survivors. Successive streams of volunteers have trickled through Pearlington, helping her and her neighbors in amazing ways, which I'll go into later.
And where have I been? Why I have neglected this story, even as so much happens, and so much need remains? I ask myself these things every day, and have only a jumble of half answers and excuses.
There hasn't been a single day since the storm hit that it hasn't been on my mind. Not a day goes by that I don't worry about my family, and my hometown, and its despairing future, and what I can do to insulate them from it.
I needed to focus on my career, to keep it on track, to make sure I have enough money to be counted in modern America. I knew I'd have a few months to do this while my family was safe in North Carolina, and hurricane season had yet to start. You saw those images one year ago just as I did. You saw poor people drowning in my poor city. You saw working class people having everything taken away in a single day, all along the Gulf. Each dollar I sweat for is one more chance at survival for my family. Each dollar I sweat for makes my family count a little more. How much is enough in this new America? I don't know. How much was enough in Gilded Age America? Because that's where we're headed, and I don't want us left behind again. So I've been hustling.
But it was more than that. I was overloaded. I felt like I couldn't do enough, there wasn't enough time in the day to show all of the pictures, and tell all of the stories. I'm a perfectionist, and if I can't do something justice I don't want to do it at all. I don't want to let it down, I don't want to sully its power. I feel like I couldn't do it all at once, and since I switched the comments into a moderated format to prevent increasing abuse from partisans, I felt like I didn't want to do it at all.
But I didn't quit. I continue to donate my photographs to aid organizations working in the Gulf. I continue to raise donations for relief. I applied for (and unfortunately did not get) a Soros Foundation grant to continue the documentation in the Gulf.
And I'm still not quitting. I'll be back down next week to photograph more, to help in the rebuilding, to donate my work to relief, and just to visit with my family. My heart is there, it's always been.
And always will be.
Posted by clayton cubitt at 11:43 PM