When everyone at the business luncheon started crying, I was trying to log in to Twitter.
My phone had been giving me a headache the whole lunch-- it seemed that the company Twitter password had changed, and I didn’t know it. I couldn’t load Hoot Suite. I couldn’t log in on the Twitter app. I was trying to live tweet from the French Quarter Business Association luncheon about the Louisiana Bicentennial, to no avail.
What’s the new Twitter password? I texted my colleague.
She texted it back to me. But it hasn’t been working, she said.
I was trying for the umpteenth time to validate the Twitter account when General Honore approached the podium and started speaking.
Do you know who General Honore is? If you’re from New Orleans you do. He’s the guy who stepped in during the darkest moment of Hurricane Katrina and saved the city from an even darker moment.
Mayor Nagin called him that “John Wayne Dude” who “came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving,"
Nagin said this the moment before crying on live, national radio.
Honore started talking about Katrina, about stepping into the city and telling the soldiers to stop pointing their guns at us because we were citizens. About a woman saying that her brother died in Vietnam and that she had hated the military until this day, when the military saved her life.
And right then and there General Honore started crying. A six-foot-something military man was choking back sobs in front a room of seventy business people.
Suddenly, the entire room was sniffling, sobbing, dabbing eyes and blinking back tears. There we were, over six years after Katrina in a New Orleans that had come so far, a city that was so hopeful, so vibrant, so on the verge of something great, and right beneath the surface was that ache of all we had lost, the more potent ache what could have been lost: everything.
I put down my phone. This was important, this room of crying business people on a humid Thursday afternoon in the French Quarter, six years after Katrina.
After the speech a client of my company came up to me. “You were glued to your phone the whole time! I almost sent you this text,” he flailed his phone in front of me. “In fact, I’m going to send it to you right now.” He pressed send and my phone lit up with, Stop looking at your phone and look at Honore!
I protested, reminding him that this was why he had hired me, because I was always glued to my phone, but something inside me knew that I was wrong. Yes, being connected all the time was my job, but it was also my job to know that Twitter, Facebook, this blog that I’m writing on right now— it’s all useless without our own communities, online and offline.
I remember my own Katrina story: the flood waters that miraculously swept right beneath the floor of my parents house, how the floorboards buckled as the moisture pressed beneath, waiting to get in, but somehow remained just shy of flooding the entire house.
I remember my harp at night. How the strings would snap from the ninety-degree heat. My parents thought the sound was gunshots.
This was Katrina: gunshots and everything snapping.
I can share this experience with you and give you a glimpse into who I am, who we all are here in New Orleans, what this city meant to us during Katrina and how much more it means to us now, all because of the internet.
But we all need to disconnect sometimes, maybe right now. Do it. You. Put the phone down, shut down the computer, power off the ipad and relish in the great, moving moments exist all around us, all of the time.
Tell me, how do you unplug? When do you unplug?