(Soundbite of THIS I BELIEVE)
Unidentified Man: I believe in honor, faith, and service.
Unidentified Woman: I believe that a little outrage...
Unidentified Man #2: I believe in freedom of speech.
Unidentified Woman #2: I believe in empathy.
Unidentified Man #3: I believe in truth.
Unidentified Woman #3: I believe in the ingredients of love.
Unidentified Man #4: This, I believe.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
On Mondays we bring you the series, This I Believe. For more than a year we've been asking for you to participate, and nearly 15,000 of you have sent us your statements of personal conviction.
On the eve of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we hear from listener Mike Miller, who works as a social worker and a bartender in the city of New Orleans.
Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON reporting:
Trauma has a way of crystallizing belief. Right after Katrina, we received hundreds of essays naming beliefs that were confirmed or tested by the storm. It took a year for Mike Miller to write his essay, because it wasn't until then that he fully understood where his belief was grounded.
Here he is with his essay, for THIS I BELIEVE.
Mr. MIKE MILLER (Essay Contributor): (Reading essay submission) I believe in attachment to place. I believe that watermarks fade, tears dry, and lives mend.
A year after the flood the nation is remembering Hurricane Katrina, and some of us, whether labeled displaced, evacuated, or back home, will wonder if we still believe. We will wonder, sitting on our porches, in our barrooms, and in our gutted homes, if we still should believe.
When I left New Orleans, I found myself, like thousands of displaced Gulf Coast residents, living on the generosity of others. People opened their homes to me. In some ways, life was easier. I'd almost forgotten how tough it is to live in New Orleans.
In Chicago I was offered jobs that pay three-times more than anything I could make in New Orleans. I thought about moving - to Seattle, Anchorage, New York, Key West, Tucson, and everywhere in between. But looking at a map spread on a kitchen table in Chicago, I already knew. My home is New Orleans - still.
I moved back into an apartment, uptown, in the Twelfth Ward - on the third floor this time. I'm a little paranoid about flooding. But now, I can really hear the foghorns of the ships on the river. Life in New Orleans is hard nowadays. I work for the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps, and the mental health scene is not good. Depression is rampant. Suicides and substance abuse have been on the rise since Katrina. I'm also back bartending, and mixed in with the grief I can still feel the pulse here. We live the best we can.
It's like the street musician in the Quarter who always says, Man, we're just trying to get back to abnormal.
I believe the soul of this place cannot easily be destroyed by wind and rain. I believe the music here will live and people will continue to dance. I believe in darlin', and baby. I believe in where're ya at, and makin' groceries. I believe in neighborhoods where Mardi Gras Indians sew beaded costumes; kids practice trumpet in the streets; and recipes for okra provide conversation for an entire afternoon.
My family asked me why I wanted to return to New Orleans. Why do you want to live somewhere where garbage is piled up, rents have doubled, there are no jobs, and houses are filled with black mold? Is it safe? Is it healthy? They ask if New Orleans is still worth it. I don't have an answer to satisfy them. I can't really even give myself an answer. I keep hearing Louis Armstrong saying, Man, if you got to ask, you'll never know.
I'm just 26. My clothes can all fit in a backpack. I've got a graduate degree in social work and a 65-pound bulldog. I can move anywhere at all. But I believe in this place. I believe I belong here.
As hard as it is to live in New Orleans now, it's even harder to imagine living anywhere else.
Mr. ALLISON: Mike Miller with his essay for THIS I BELIEVE. When Miller returned to the city after the storm, his only possession he found undamaged was his saxophone.
We are inviting everyone to write for our series. You can find out more at npr.org. Or, you can call, toll free, 888-577-9977.
For THIS I BELIEVE, I'm Jay Allison.
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MONTAGNE: Next Monday, on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, a THIS I BELIEVE essay from Vicky Molazzo(ph), a nurse and entrepreneur who believes in pushing past fear.
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You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.