In Memoriam... One Year Later

On August 29, 2005, thousands of people died. This time one year ago we were watching the images of a beaten and battered Gulf Coast. Places I had been were destroyed. Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, New Orleans, Louisiana. No one thought the damage would be this widespread or still be in place one year later.

You only had to have the television on for a few minutes today to become bombarded with the images of what people from the Gulf have to deal with everyday. The clean-up continues and there is a long road ahead. Let us never forget. You already know I feel the pain of Katrina victims through the lives of my friends and family every single day. I'm obsessed.

Today I spoke to one of those friends from New Orleans about how she feels. She's going through the stages of grief. Last year she was just sad. This year she's more upset. Its hard to watch such a vibrant person go through this. Her parents are going to rebuild even though they know the city will never be what it once was. That's the hardest thing. The New Orleans of her childhood, the Biloxis, the Gulfports, the Pass Christians of so many childhoods, forever decimated.

Throughout the night, as the levees continued to leak water, 75 to 80% of New Orleans was underwater, including the homes and schools of two of my closest friends in college.

That same day, Dr. Kenneth LeVar Riddle, a 2004 Hampton grad from the School of Pharmacy died. Kenny was a wonderful person. He was nice to everyone, spoke, remembered your name, always had a smile and abounding energy. I cried and cried and cried when I found out he died. It was just so unbelievable. I made arrangements to go to his funeral near DC. The church was filled with beautiful young Hamptonians whose lives he'd touched. I have no problem with saying good-bye. I've been doing it since I was six. But this was one of the hardest funerals I've ever had to attend. I almost chickened out the morning of, but Morgan wouldn't let me. I'm glad I went.

Every morning, Kenny did this Daily Profession of Faith.

I am the head and not the tail.
I am the lender and not the borrower.
I am above and not beneath.
I am healed, I am healthy, I am delivered, I am forgiven. I am redeemed. I am restored. I am blessed. I am highly favored. I am prosperous.
I am a MAN of GOD.
I am a friend of GOD.
I am a great MAN of valor and integrity.
I ama spirit being seeking after the likeness of GOD.
I am consistenet in the things of GOD.
I am a changing person in a new place.
I am intelligent and divinely creative.

I will bless them that curse me.
I will pray for them that despitefully use me.
I will love the Lord God with all my heart, all my mind and all my sould.
I will love my neighbor as myself.
I will bless the Lord at all times, and His praises shall continually be in my mouth.
I will walk worthy of my calling, with meekness and lowliness, with longsuffering, forgiving and forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I will honor the Lord with all my substance and the first fruit of all my increase.
I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not to my own understanding.
I will acknowledge Him in all my ways, believing and expecting Him to direct my path.
I will be a good steward of my mind, my body, my spirit, my soul, my territory, my mouth, my gifts, my annointing, my time, and my relationships.
I will walk by faith and not by sight.
I will make my calling and election sure.
I will choose life and speak life.
I will meditate on the word of GOD both day and night.
I will obey the word of GOD.
I will sacrifice for the promise.
I will manifest the word of GOD in my life THIS DAY.
I will be an example of the body of believers in word, conversation, faith, charity, spirit and purity.


His mother and fiancee were the vision of beauty and strength that day. Both of them were able to speak about Kenny. This is an excerpt of the message his mother put on the funeral program about watching him lying in a hospital bed after his car accident, before he died.

"As I watched you lying there in a body that was once so full of life, creativity, imagination, praise, intelligence, dance, humor, oratorical skill, class, style, warmth, care, prophecy and worship... I thought to myself an angelic bus is coming and he's making the decision to leave me... The Lord has been grooming you for this move and I will bow to His will... Kenneth, you'll be glad to know that I'm manning up and staying with it! (smile) God is giving me strength, peace and comfort on a daily basis... We'll part company for a few, but I know we'll meet again."

That is DEEP y'all. That is some kind of strength and faith.

Rest in peace Kenny, and the more than 2, 000 other people who died one year ago, today.


Adei von K said...

damn. so many lives. close and far away. i knew ken from classes in kitrell. i read up on n.o. as much as i can. tjms was there today. he said they are going to march. and then what? sad and mad wrapped into one tiny being that is me. bomb post j

Dreamlover said...

Wow, his mum was sooo strong, how very sad, but I loved the words that he would say everyday.

I have to remember them when I am feeling down.

GreatWhyte said...

Yeah, I remember that I was at my clerkship site when I got the call from a classmate of mine that Kenny died... I can't say that I knew him very, very well, but we did interact occcasionally, and he seemed to be a wonderful person. His mom has faith, and she knows that one day she and her son will be together again - sometimes that's the only thing you have to hold on to, you know? I can definitely identify with that...
Did you see "When the Levees Broke?" I tried to watch last night, but it was just too much for me... I recorded it to watch this weekend (hopefully). So many lives affected and such pain even now - what I saw of the documentary was excellent, though.

CNEL said...

We can only hope that those "discussions about race, class, and government responsibility" that everyone says need to happen, actually happens.

I for one have seen no especially compelling dialogue about any of the above. It feels as if some days we are still walking on eggshells.

It never ceases to amaze me when people are so young, and yet their faith so strong. I think the fact that they made a personal decision, to be a person of faith is what inspires me.

KHALLI 88 said...

Thanks for the post, a much needed read for me today.

So...Wise...Sista said...

You know, it took me several days before I cold actually sit down and watch Katrina unfold on TV. I saw one image the first day, and absolutely turned away. I remember having a lot going on at that time, and just instinctively that I couldn't handle seeing what was going on...and then feeling horrible knowing that the people in New orleans didn't have a choice. No matter how much they were dealing with before the storm...they didn't have the luxury of just turning away.

That same guilt is the reason I haven't watched Spike's film yet.

Jameil said...

stace... i know. its overwhelming. glad you liked the post.

dream... i know. i had to read it to my mom when i got back from the funeral. everything about that day was so moving.

x... it was amazing she had the presence of mind to be able to think like that. that is beautiful. i also didn't get to see when the levees broke. i don't have hbo. i wish i did tho, because i really wanted to see it.

cnel... we are still walking on eggshells because for so many, its still so raw. its been 5 years since 9/11 and still people need time to heal. there's no timetable when dealing with human emotions. some days my friends can speak lucidly about katrina. others they are just a ball of raw emotions on the verge of exploding.

khalli... glad i could help.

wise... i know. some people couldn't stop people. others couldn't look i away. i'm in the latter category. i just had to know everything. every aspect. it was almost like i felt like and still feel like i have to watch it so i can try to feel even a percent of what some people will have to deal with every day of their lives.

Sherlon Christie said...

It is going to take the entire Gulf Coast region at least 5 years to get back to normal (in my opinion) because of the poverty that already existed before the storm.

If this were Miami, or some other major metropolitan area with money...the anniversary would be more on a happier note.

Rell said...

that's real, my heart has been heavy over this for sometime.

Prayers to all those families who lost members during this tragedy.

Ladynay said...


Cluizel said...

Thanks for sharing that!

T Dot said...

Like X, I was at work when I got word about Kenny. I was sitting in shock for a while because it's hard to believe that something like that can actually happen to someone you know who is so full of life and energy. I remember taking solice in the fact that I felt that if anyone could be prepared to move on to Heaven, Kenny was.

Clay said...

great post - that is all i can say

Jameil said...

sp... its gonna take far longer than 5 years. and it will NEVER be "back to normal." there are people who won't ever come back. ever. new orleans will never be the new orleans of our youth.
in some respects its a good thing, but it also takes away part of its charm, what makes new orleans new orleans.

rell... i know...

tdot.. wasn't he fabulous? i had a friend who came in from class one day all excited b/c he liked her shirt. that was the highlight of her week b/c she thought he was sooo cool. when i told him, he was amazed. he didn't even have a clue how many people he touched.

thanks clay.