Tuesday, December 4, 2007
December 2, 2007
Thomy Lafone Elementary
New Orleans, La.
Dear Family and Friends,
The silence is the scariest part.
All but one entrance has been boarded. Shattered glass and bent plywood rest in front of the door I've entered. If I'm caught, is it only and entering?, I wonder. After all, someone else has done the breaking.
My breath is loud. I try to quiet it, there could be people in here. It's funny really, I worry more about the people who may be mad about me getting in here and less about the people who may be living here. People who may have guns.
The walls of Thomy Lafone Elementary School are preserved as they were, Friday, August 26, 2005. Ms. Becknell taught in Room 233. Her lesson plan is still attached to the wall, just under the light switch.
11:30-12:15: Lunch Duty
1:45-2:30: Social Studies
I'd like to find Ms. Becknell. I'd ask her what she's done since she left Room 233.
In another room on the second floor, a news-clipping montage is on the wall. When I read it from a far, I thought someone had put it up as a social, political statement for the post-K wander-iners of Thomy Lafone to read. The headlines, "New Orleans mourns" and "Darkest Day" and "This is a Sad Day in America" were what I saw from a distance.
They were September 11 clippings, there to remind the children of what had happened. Our language, as beautiful as it is, has limits of expression. The words we pull out in tragedies--they're recyclable, no matter how different the scenarios.
As I walk down the circular stairs that so many others have walked with backpacks and pencil pouches, scrunchies and Air Jordans, I get sad. It's an odd, selfish sadness though, about how I'd feel about the elementary school I went to going through what LaFone did.
Do you remember the kid who always picked his nose or the teacher who gave you candy when your spelling test was perfect? These are the memories of Katrina kids are making somewhere else now. Often in multiple places since the Storm.
I walk past a clock that looks like ones I used to visualize skipping forward until the end of the school day. But this isn't a place for fast-forward. If anything, New Orleanians wish they had a two-year-and-some change rewind button.
Even if we wanted to, we couldn't turn the clocks back inside Lafone.
None of them work.