I get a lot of e-mail. Most of it is very nice, some funny and some from right-wingers who -- go figure -- I seem to have made very angry. But the most gratifying I've ever received has been over the last week or so when a large number of people have written asking me to rerun I Know This Little Boy In New Orleans for the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast.
I wasn't going to do it, but then a person who had actually been trapped at the New Orleans Superdome for four days asked me repost it and that's made me cave.
This column, for which I was fortunate enough to be nominated for an award or two, was written when, a couple of days after the storm, I saw a picture of a young man praying in the Superdome. As the father of a little guy right around this boy's age, and looking at my own son sitting safe and comfortable next to me on the sofa, I was overwhelmed with feelings for a child I did not even know.
The Huffington Post has also urged me to post it here. For those of you who have asked to see it again, here you go -- and I thank the rest of you for indulging the rerun.
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I Know This Little Boy In New Orleans
I know the little boy in this picture.
No, I don't know him personally. But he is roughly the same age as my small son. This boy is beautiful, innocent, vulnerable and probably very scared in this photo.
I know this young boy.
He doesn't like vegetables. He prefers macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and hot dogs. He watches too much television and loves SpongeBob SquarePants and Yu-Gi-Oh. He used to like Pokémon, but thinks it's lame now.
He tries hard to not cry when he scrapes his knee or bumps his head. But sometimes he does and he feels better when his Mommy holds him. He likes to hug his grandparents and be spoiled when he visits them. He gets to stay up later at their house. He likes that.
He hates for people to know it, but he is afraid of the dark and has a nightlight in his room. He sleeps with a stuffed dog, but doesn't want his friends to know.
He can't really match his clothing yet, and has to be nagged to clean his room and do his chores. But he's filled with pride when he accomplishes his work. He knows his family isn't rich, but his bed is warm at night and his parents make sure he always has good meals.
He doesn't like girls yet, even though his parents tell him he someday will.
He knows a big storm came, with lots of water. And he hates where he is now.
He's embarrassed in public bathrooms and doesn't understand why he is now living in such a bad place. He's glad he doesn't wear diapers any longer so his parents don't have to worry about that. He wants to go home.
He loves Mountain Dew and Gatorade but has been so thirsty that water sounds better than anything he's ever had to drink.
He knows his bedroom, with his stuffed animals and Spiderman poster, is gone. It's under water now, which scares him even more. He hasn't yet learned to swim.
He wonders why his Mommy is crying so much and why his Daddy is so angry. He's worried because he knows his grandmother has been lost. He misses her.
He doesn't understand why it's taking so long for anyone to come and help him and why his family has to stay so long in the scary place where the Saints play football.
He doesn't like the dark or the heat or loud noises or yelling - and for days and days in his young life, that is all he has experienced.
I don't know this young man's name. But I know him. He's just like my little boy.
And I know he deserved better. I know he is too young to have been that scared, that thirsty, that hungry, that hot and that confused.
I know he deserved to be rescued as quickly as possible. I hope he was and is now in a place where he is in darkness only because it's time to be tucked in and go to sleep.
And I hope when this sweet little boy, along with my own child, are grown men, they will live in an America where this will never be allowed to happen again.
You can reach Bob Geiger at email@example.com