Chris Vath had such a privilege. He is part of a family who discovered, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a duffel bag filled with 500 letters his parents (pictured here at their wedding reception) had exchanged during three years of separation during World War II, beginning when his mom was 16 and still in high school and his father was 18 and serving in the U.S. Navy. Although Katrina flooded his childhood home with nine feet of water, the letters inside the bag survived, still legible.
A musician, Chris picked excerpts of those letters, combined them with musical arrangements, and created "The Katrina Letters," an hour-long performance of readings and music. Two girlfriends and I attended a production last night at the New York Encounter, the three-day annual cultural festival hosted by the ecclesiastical group Communion and Liberation.
We talked about what fine writers these teenagers were. We wondered if any teenager today could be gifted with beautiful thoughts from the heart and be able to express their thoughts in such lovely clear writing.
And finally, we talked about what a gift that duffel bag must have been and what a labor of love for the son to sort through the letters, pick out just the right ones, set them to music and offer them to the rest of us, a gift from the past that reminds us of the strength of love. Robert and Jeanne Vath are gone, but their letters and their love remain.
While hundreds of people attended last night's performance at the Manhattan Center, I hope this work will find a still larger audience. "The Katrina Letters" reminds us that love survives everything.