Welcome to the Students at the Center (SAC) blog, where teachers, students, graduates, and friends from our school-based writing and digital media program will reflect on our experiences in public education in New Orleans.
We hope you not only learn from but also enjoy this perspective from our daily teaching and learning in classrooms in two different public schools in New Orleans.
Our first selection is from Janay Barconey, who is currently a 12th grade student at McMain Secondary School, which she has attended since 7th grade, with the exception of Fall 2005 when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina forced her to attend school in Texas for a semester.
Her writing reminds us of the importance of schools, particularly to young people experiencing personal and community trauma. Many of our students have thought and written extensively about the nurturing they receive when returning home to schools and communities they know and trust.
by Janay Barconey
New Orleans became dark and empty, when a wind full terror, Katrina, came through our joyful city. After three months passed, I had to go back to the place I called home.
While my mom was driving towards the house, I began pretending to fall asleep, because I didn’t want to see anything terrible. It was bad enough seeing houses sitting in the street and uprooted trees resting in the middle of the street.
I heard on the news, “The 9th Ward is the hardest hit.” “At least 10,000 people are going to die.” “The people are stranded.” “The levees broke.” As these news reports flashed through my mind, I worried that my house may be gone, even my life.
Then we arrived at our house. I popped up like a rabbit out of a hole, and I began searching; I noticed that my house wasn’t any different. We got out the car and walked up the stairs. My mom put her key in the door. My facial expression was of anxiety. I just couldn’t wait until my mom opened the door. I wanted to know all the answers to my questions. Finally, my mom opened it and Poof! Out of nowhere all the news stories came true. Everything in my house was a total loss.
I walked around in the living room, where nothing looked like it was living. I looked at the movement the water made. My sofa wasn’t the way it was. It was turned into the hallway and flipped back like a gymnast. Then the TV was almost into our mantle, but we had left it in front of the opposite window. I started walking towards my room, climbing over the sofa, and I smelt a green perfume coming from the kitchen. I began to gag and cough; the smell was so horrible that it could have been the main character in a horror movie.
I was in my room, with only the light shining through my windows, looking for pictures of my friends and me, but all I saw on the wall was a gray, dark line that was taller than me, and I’m 5’5”. I looked around the room; my computer was lying on the floor like a dead rat with its back to the ceiling. My bed wasn’t moved, but the bedposts were bent and looked like twigs breaking in half. Worst of all was my clothes. All of them were wet and moldy; they even had green perfume like the kitchen. After I saw all of that I left out the house and went in the car and played my game as if nothing happened. I went back for my house, but there wasn’t much to go back to. I realized that I was ready to go to school to find what I didn’t find at home, now just a house.
When I first heard that McMain was re-opening, I jumped like a kangaroo. But there was a different feeling when I walked up those old raggedy steps again. I began to have a flashback about the first time I came to high school, and the same feeling wished its way back. I thought to myself, “nobody that I know will be here.” I felt alone, but I was proved wrong.
I walked through the wide open door that just wanted me to come in, and I saw many of my friends waiting in line to get their schedules. All of my friends didn’t come back, but at least a handful did. Now, my disappointed and alone feeling left, and a rejoicing feeling entered my body. All of my emotions ran like a waterfall; I couldn’t stop, and I couldn’t do anything but be happy.
But every time I step out of McMain’s door, I feel the same way the city feels, dark and empty. I found my home, but it isn’t a city anymore. It is just a place needing some light. And if you are looking like me, you’ll find your little speck of light, even though it’s surrounded by the dark. Having something you needed is better than having nothing that you wanted.
The opinions expressed in Student Stories: A New Orleans Classroom Chronicle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.