Saturday, October 2, 2010

why does the rain choose me? can I wrap myself up in it?

It started with a mention on Miss Jameson's journal. The pictures were scattershot, but deeply moving. Then Edward picked it up. He only ran one picture, but it was stunning. And then, of course, my attention wandered to Duchess Gabrielle's coverage of the events that beset her beloved New Toulouse. (There's actually more than one entry, but that one has a lot of links to a lot more pictures, if you weren't there on the ground to observe it.)

Of course, my mind cannot divorce Hurricane Adolphe striking New Toulouse from Hurricane Katrina's devastation in New Orleans, but I've been trying to think about this objectively. In 2005, at the height of the destruction, Second Life became an alternate temporary home for those with portable equipment. It was a waystop for those with accounts to connect with each other. Communities were formed, some of which persist to this day. Groups were formed, some merely to duplicate the efforts online in keeping track of the living and the dead. (While I wasn't an avatar in SL yet, I did utilize several web sources to discover whether my brother, a long-time resident of New Orleans, was living or dead. It took three weeks to confirm the latter, and it was individual people posting what they knew, over any governmental branch, that finally confirmed his death.)

How'ver, taking a longer view of things, Katrina wreaked havoc; it was utter and total destruction, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. People, including me, are still haunted by the events, the lack of governmental help, the inchoate horror and tragedy of the unburied dead, of alligators swimming in living rooms, of mold and rot taking hold on nearly every structure...and that's in New Orleans alone. Farther up the coast, miles and miles of Mississippi were reduced to kindling and splinters. In all affected states, it was not at all uncommon to see spray paint adorning walls saying "ALL DEAD HERE". And then the fires started...

But here we are, five years later. New Orleans is--slowly, torturously--coming back into its own. The diaspora of former residents has affected nearly every state, bringing Cajun culture, for lack of a better term, a much wider audience than it had before. And Second Life is still embracing that culture.

Put another layer on this: five years later, we can have a virtual disaster on the grid. And we can survive it. There is a strong school of thought in therapy that with some damaging events, the only thing that diminishes their power is the application, weeks, months or even years later, of positive versions of the same events. This overlay of positive over negative chips away at the former fear and terror, makes the mind and heart understand that they are safe, that the phobic core event has passed.

Then, healing can begin.

Five years later, New Toulouse gets hit by a hurricane. And people band together to get each other to safety. New Toulouse is not destroyed. New Orleans, in reflection, is saved.

New Orleans, in reality, wasn't; but there were enough people determined, their own hearts breaking, to stay and help it recover however it could. It's been hard, grueling, unrewarding work--but if any small portion of that resulted in the hurricane scenario in New Toulouse, then it was worth it. Because people have not forgotten. And people can still be helped.

That's the best tribute I can think of. Here's to everyone who fell, and the grand old lady herself: may she ever be remembered. Let this virtual recreation sing its way to those in need still, with the reminder that balance can be, will be restored, with time and care.

Five years later, a hurricane hits a city. Virtual or not, there will always be that chime of recognition. This time, no one lost their lives. Flooding is returning to normal; people who live in New Toulouse are putting their lives and their prims back in order. Destruction becomes rebirth.

And healing continues.


Gabrielle Riel said...

The decision to "stage" Hurricane Adolphe in New Toulouse was not an easy one, but I think we achieved our goal, which was to have a community-wide (and even Steamlands-wide) adventure event in order to experience something shared as a community.

Residents approached me not long after I purchased NT almost 18 months ago, asking if we could have a hurricane. I said then that it was something I would definitely consider, but that I would wait until the time was right.

I started the planning and communications for the hurricane about 8 weeks ago. We discussed it at our community meetings. I made it clear that I wanted the event to be something we could all enjoy as an adventure, but I asked residents to tell me if they had any problems or concerns with it. I have a LOT of NOLA natives in NT, some of whom suffered greatly in Katrina. I tried very, very hard to let everyone know that I wanted to do the event respectfully and with as much sensitivity as possible.

I also decided to track RL tropical storms and hurricanes during the weeks leading up to the event to ensure that a RL hurricane would not be hitting at the same time I had Adolphe scheduled. If that had happened, I was going to cancel the event. But it did not.

It was definitely a fine line to walk, but as I am quite used to the tightrope, I went with it. I really wanted to give residents the opportunity to have an unusual adventure, to create and tell stories within it and to have fun with it! People rose to the occasion and really got into it. Amber had the inspired idea to add Zombies to the mix, and that really worked well.

The "Hurricane Adolphe" event ended up being a success far beyond what I had hoped. Residents came together in a way that they hadn't before. Lots of people from the Steamlands came in to visit and enjoy the adventure, and for the first time in my *entire* one complained about it. That stunned me, as I am used to negative feedback from some people on every single thing that I do in SL. It was amazing and refreshing.

We will have more adventures in NT, although we will not have another hurricane until this time next year. The spirits of the residents of New Toulouse are very much like those of the people of NOLA, and I try to *always* honor the actual world community on which we are based.

Emilly Orr said...


I got that distinct feeling from the entries and the pictures. It adds that one more layer of conscious empowerment to things, that this was a community-wide commitment to suffer a hurricane...and survive it. I am wholly unsurprised that NOLA natives would be drawn to New Toulouse; it reflects the best of their past, and speaks to their future.