I wrote down this quote years ago, because it is probably the closest description I’ve read to what it feels like to look at the destruction of a familiar place following a natural disaster. I grew up spending a lot of time in New Orleans, and after Katrina, I went down there again. And seeing the pictures on TV do not prepare you in the least for seeing it in person. And seeing other peoples’ homes–I drove around half the city before going to my grandmother’s house to see what had happened there–does not prepare you to see a familiar place, familiar belongings, strewn about in an entirely unfamiliar way. It assaults your consciousness. I did not realize just what a deep need humanity has for order, until I lived for six months in a place of profound disorder.
Which is to say I want to hug everyone in Oklahoma right now.
“It’s like a lobotomy, seeing destruction on this scale. Not just the outsize scale, but the mind-numbing density within the scale. The sheer sensory overload of detail and texture. That football field-sized wilderness of junk and rubble that used to be a trade school, you could find entire geographies of ruin within that expanse. Hills, butes, hummocks, valleys and craters, broad flats cut through with twisting gullies, shredded clothes, shoes, papers, mangled furniture, dark oily clumps of decomposing human matter, rebar twisted and raveled like giant spaghetti balls. And then something impossible and ridiculous, an easy chair, a thickly upholstered loveseat, perched at the top of a free-standing spiral staircase that spun off into nowhere. It didn’t make sense. Port-au-Prince was making me stupid.” –Ben Fountain (four months after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010)