To my neighbors near and far,
Disaster is not a foreign concept, but neither is resiliency or recovery ...
If only devastation were a foreign concept. My heart weeps for the residents in Louisiana and now across our nation experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Ida. I experienced the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in St. Bernard Parish 16 years ago. In the wake of 2020’s aggressive hurricane season, the midst of the COVID pandemic and now the present devastation of Hurricane Ida, I feel deep loss. In Hurricane Ida’s path, I have been blessed, but in anticipation of Ida’s landfall, like many, I relived the anxiety, fear and sorrows of Hurricane Katrina. I strongly empathize with those in the wake of that disaster today.
“Though devastation is not new to us, thankfully, resiliency and recovery are not new either."
Though devastation is not new to us, thankfully, resiliency and recovery are not new either. 16 years ago, I sat numb to the experiences flashing before my eyes, but today St. Bernard Parish is one of the fastest growing parishes in the state. 16 years ago, I had to look for a school to relocate to and attend, but today the St. Bernard’s school system is rebuilt to be better than it was before, and we celebrate academic, artistic and athletic successes every year. We are living proof that not only can recovery occur, but a community and a person can come back better, stronger and thrive.
Love your neighbors near and far, similar and different
So this is why I am writing to you now. To those not affected by the storms, the many storms we are weathering right now, I ask you to be kind. I ask Americans and people everywhere to unite for the sake of those around you, to reflect and then act in a way that is full of concern and love for your neighbors who are both near and far, both similar and different and remember that we are only strong when we stand together.
“I know you may feel isolated and defeated, floating on an island of physical and emotional wreckage. . . You are not alone.”
And, to those seeking to rebuild their lives from Hurricane Ida, COVID crisis, previous disasters and so many other plights of danger or sadness, I want to encourage you. I know you may feel isolated and defeated, floating on an island of physical and emotional wreckage. I ask you not to give up. Do not succumb to the devastation around you. You are not alone, your cause and your plight are not forgotten. I represent thousands who are ready to stand with you and work alongside you, and we are proof that restoration is possible.
I have been so fortunate to know kindness from my family, friends and complete strangers. I pray that others will know this kindness today and for many days to come.
Though this moment may seem dark, may you be courageous in your hope for tomorrow,
Annelise Cassar Tedesco
Hurricane Katrina Survivor
St. Bernard Parish Public School Teacher
Louisiana Teacher of the Year, 2022