It’s late Wednesday night as we’re putting the finishing touches on this issue, and I can hear the wind howling outside as the outer bands of Hurricane Laura pass through. And fuck, does my heart hurt for all of Southwest Louisiana right now. We’re a region rich with hurricane memory and experience, yet every once in a while a storm rolls through that strains our threshold for painful weather and sets a new bar for catastrophe and sorrow. Laura will make landfall as this issue goes to print; and while we pray for the best, it’s clear that this storm will define a new era in environmental catastrophe. I just heard our beloved weather oracle Margaret Orr talk about the last time a hurricane with 150 mph winds actually hit the coastline—in 1856.
One word that I keep hearing repeated by government officials and newscasters alike is unsurvivable. The storm surge will be unsurvivable. That haunting word, deliberately jarring, resonates. It evokes all the other emergency conditions under which people do not—can not—survive, like the ongoing crisis of police violence. Days before Laura hit, Trayford Pellerin, a 31-year-old Black man, was murdered by police in Lafayette—shot over 10 times. Mourning rituals already complicated by the pandemic, his grieving family now has to contend with this massive storm. Once the winds die down and the water recedes, I hope Trayford Pellerin’s life is not forgotten amidst the storm’s aftermath and rush to recover, that we keep saying his name, even as we continue to take on what feels like an endless onslaught of once-in-a-generation events. Always bracing, never fully recovering.
When hurricanes approach, like many of you I keep the TV on nonstop. While I’ve learned not to focus obsessively on every single storm track update, the constant background noise still penetrates my awareness from time to time. One thing I remember hearing—on WWL I think—was a meteorologist responding to a question about anything in the atmosphere possibly diminishing Laura’s strength. He explained that this hurricane was actually so strong that she was creating her own environment. And that really made me pause—to think about something so big and forceful it makes its own path. I thought about the uprisings against state-sanctioned genocide happening in cities across the country, from Kenosha, Wisconsin to our own Pine Prairie, three hours from New Orleans. Is it too hopeful to think we can amass a force like that, big enough to create our own environment—one that is survivable?
As with every issue, within the pages of this month’s offering we only begin to answer a question like this, whether it’s by telling stories of reclaiming historic, sacred land, or making a connection with our incarcerated friends and family, hopefully dispelling some of their loneliness. As always, thank you for reading, and try to stay dry out there. As hurricane seasons go, we still got a long road ahead.
cover photo of original Lincoln Beach sign by James Cullen
back cover photo by Matthew Seltzer