Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Doctor Daisy has a wonderful post on trauma theory.

I wanted to respond to it earlier, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to say. I still don't know. I want to say something probably for the same reason Dr. D. did. I'm very close to the subject of Katrina and trauma. My head is full of images of TrinaTrauma that I'm only just now starting to realize are not going to go away.

I have nothing smart to say about this.

All I have is the observation that I've now reached a stage where I want to say something.

At first I wanted to simply get out the information about what had happened or was happening. Beyond that I didn't know what I had to say.

I belong to a writing group, and most of the people in the group have said the same thing. They just aren't able to write in a creative way about Katrina yet. They might write in an informative way, but anything else falls into the realm of "nope, nope, not that, not yet."

Even now, I think the main reason I want to say something about the Trina is to abate my fear that people are forgetting. If I could take every single one of you by the hand and lead you through what I've seen and continue to witness in Hancock County, I would do it. If you could see for yourselves, you couldn't forget, and you couldn't not care, and you couldn't fail to want to do something to help.

So I'm going to give myself permission to blog about what it's been like to see absolutely nothing left in places where my memories used to live, what it's been like to watch my 74-year-old parents living in a gutted out house, what it's been like to learn how to use a hammer for the sake of total strangers who lived through the storm by swimming and climbing trees and hauling their grandmothers onto rooftops and their babies and puppies into boats.

Forgive me if I can't explain what it has to do with teaching composition.


sharon said...

But this has everything to do with composition at the community college. When students walk into our classrooms, there are some who are in the middle of responding to traumatic events in their lives. They are struggling with all the "regular" issues in a composition class, as well as this difficult state of needing to express ideas but being paralyzed by experiences that won't allow them to write.

As I read your post I kept thinking about conversations I've had with students who are trying to redefine themselves when their world has changed so dramatically. You have reconfirmed for me that writing and thinking are connected to each other in powerful ways.

Rosa G. said...

I think that you have needed to get through the immediate part of the disaster to write about it--to get some distance from it, and to take care of what needed to be taken care of first, like your parents and so forth.
I agree with Sharon about your "reconfirming " the power of writing and thinking. Given your interest in area history, your writing here is part of developing the community's memory of Katrina.


metablogger said...

Having just cried through my entire presentation at the Computers and Writing conference this week, I know what your students are going through! I've been having all sorts of delayed responses to the loss of everything familiar about my home of New Orleans, and still wonder if my parents are asjusting to living in Picayune on a full-time basis [it had been a weekend house]. We need to keep writing and to keep talking about it. The more others know about how the storm has completely changed EVERYTHING and continues to do so, the less they will reduce the storm to an event that happened last year.

Sharon Gerald said...

I lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. Obviously, I had a lot of traumatized students then, and I do remember that it was the next year before they really wanted to write about how they felt. Writing does have restorative power, and we can't very well teach it without being aware of the psychological ties.

So I agree with all of you. I especially agree with you, metablogger (Daisy?), that the need to just keep the story alive has become urgent. Even here in Hattiesburg there are many people who just want to go on with their lives and not think about how bad things are right down the road. But this is not going to go away if we close our eyes. The only hope the Gulf Coast has is if people don't forget how big the problem is.

metablogger said...

Yep, it's me, Daisy. I meant to write that before since my Blogger profile is from way back but i keep it so to be able to leave comments!

If you haven't gotten it yet, I recommend _Trauma and the Teaching of Writing_ which is an edited collected by Shane Borrowman. It's a good read, although so far some of the essays have left me wanting more. Perhaps we should propose our own Katrina-related collection???The students' experiences of having lost so much as well as those incoming students who had to begin their college careers at a different school would keep the narrative alive. I'll email you about this idea later this week.

Sharon Gerald said...

Thanks for the book rec, Daisy. I'll put it on my Amazon wish list today. Better yet, I'll ask the school library to order it. I'm burning up all of my book buying money on gas to go back and forth to the coast right now.

I think a student Katrina collection is a great idea. I worked on cleaning out a house the other day that belonged to woman who was a teacher at the school in Pearlington. Since they've now closed that school, she's had to move, along with all of her students to a school in another town. It would be interesting to get the teacher and student stories from elementary on up to college. It seems too that there ought to be a way to use something like that as a fund-raiser for relief efforts. We should investigate this.

metablogger said...

Sorry I didn't reply to this sooner--I was out of town and then moving apts., and now leaving town again! We definitely need to start an email conversation about this idea! I thought from one of your posts that you would be out of town for a longer period rather than the repeated volunteer trips. Silly me...

More soon!