Tragedy and light from Katrina to Yolanda

The author. Photo by Ariana Allensworth

The author. Photo by Ariana Allensworth

By Renee Rises

On Sunday, November 10th I sat quietly as news reports flashed images of the Filipinos in Tacloban City. “Haiyan,” “Yolanda,” “Typhoon,” “10,000,” “washed up bodies,” “looters may be shot,” “I will shoot if they step foot on my property,” “families are still searching,” and other words repetitively popped in my mind and my personal newsfeed.

I watched Facebook posts grow in solace as Filipino Americans across the country wrote their prayers for the Philippines. I read article after article about the loss, pain, suffering, hope and disappointment and I couldn’t get one thing off my mind, Hurricane Katrina.

After the storm hit in 2005, I spent a total of one month in the 9th ward cleaning, rebuilding, gutting and feeding the people and volunteers of the area. I listened to Dolores, an older woman whose home was destroyed. I heard her find hope in the people who surrounded and supported her.

But I also listened to her growing distrust of the government’s actions, the isolation she felt once the storm hit, the lies she was told, the lies she had to live out on her own without a home. I remembered the darkness in the 9th ward. I remember the quiet, the stillness.

In books I have read that this place, the 9th ward, was one of the liveliest, most colorful and loud and vibrant cities in the world. An area that once was a hustling, bustling culture now lived in the sorrow of washed-up homes and the absence of the people who once inhabited this very special place.

I remember hearing the stories of mothers attempting to hold on to refrigerator doors as rafts, with a child sitting on it. I heard of those same mothers letting go, leaving the child to survive. I heard many stories during my time in New Orleans and I couldn’t shake it off. I kept thinking about the people in New Orleans who died, survived and attempted to rebuild the city, and I couldn’t shake off thinking that something even more catastrophic hit my people.

More than 10,000 people lost? More than 10, 000 spirits taken from this earth. More than 10, 000 lives, people who share with me a face, a name, a home to call my own, The Philippines.

A good friend of mine, Tina Cocadiz, shared that she wants us to find light and not focus on this being a tragedy, rather focus on how we can rebuild and create power for further progression. It was the first time I thought to disassociate the word “tragedy” from this moment in the history of the Filipino people. While it is easier said than done, I heard something in her words that transcended the pain, something more hopeful and is necessary to acknowledge in this time of dire need.

I pray for you more and more each day, the Philippines.

My thoughts and love are with you now more than ever.
The Philippines is growing inside all of our hearts.

I urge everyone to take this moment in our history very seriously. To give what you can. To organize who you can. To pray more deeply. To live more courageously. To dream more widely. To offer your humanity kindly.

Continue to read here.

Renee Rises is the pseudonym for an actress, writer and educator. She taught for five years at MS 331 also known as The Bronx School of Young Leaders.

red line

One Comment

  1. […] spoken word, “Nanay, Tatay, Anak” recreates an episode in the young life of producer-director Renee Rises. The story is an attempt by the family to understand the secrets that live within themselves, the […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: