Where I’ve Been Instead

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Today I was scheduled to be in New Orleans, for the grand opening of the newly relocated Family Justice Center there, planned to coincide with the 7 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the five-year anniversary of the creation of a Family Justice Center.  The day was meant to recognize all the work a core group of committed people have done to make a safer city for victims of domestic and sexual violence, and it was going to be a chance for me to meet many of the people I’ll be working with there over the next year.  Instead, New Orleans is preparing for the arrival of Isaac, and I’m on my way home.

This trip was to be the first of many I’ll be making to New Orleans, to work on a U.S. Department of Justice sponsored project to create an effective Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and protocol for the city.  I was looking forward to starting this job, which will undoubtedly be a challenge, as developing an effective SART anywhere is a challenge (think of all the systems you need to get to work together — law enforcement, advocacy, medical, prosecution — each understanding and valuing the others’ roles, and everyone supporting and not blaming and prejudging the victim).  But it will be a challenge in a city of survivors, people who know how to face enormous challenges and keep moving forward.  I expect to learn a lot, even as I’m bringing my own expertise in facilitation and sexual violence response to the table.

I thought about New Orleans all day today as I traveled home.  Instead of waking up in Louisiana, ready to start this new job with a celebration, I woke up to a drizzly Long Island morning.  I took the train with Adrienne into New York to get a bus home, and spent 45 minutes waiting on the corner of 34th and 8th, watching the Manhattan world flowing by.  When I arrived in Boston I had over an hour to wait for my bus to New Hampshire, so I got a sandwich and sat in the sun, thinking about the clouds in New Orleans.

I came home to a safe, dry house, a garden full of ripe tomatoes, and my flower pots on the porch still pumping out blossoms.  It was a day of city images, but certainly not the city images I expected.  I feel blessed, and I’m sending some of those blessings to New Orleans, hoping that Isaac delivers a gentle anniversary.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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