The Wake for an Emergency Manager in 2010
by Tricia Knoll

You in your coffin boat, so straight
in one of many starched white uniforms
with shiny buttons, braid, a black
and gold service patch.
Pews filled with co-workers.
I remembered the hard words I said
once and when you forgave me,
you were sweaty and your uniform
wrinkled in summer heat. You smiled
and we were friends again.

Those search and rescue dogs
you trained, tethers to show up
for impossible salvations.
Hugo. Andrew. Oklahoma City.
La Prieta. The floods of ’93.
Taking us to Katrina
to do what we could.

You said back then
fire was the next big threat
for emergency managers.
Wildland fire. Paradise.
You trained people
to work the lines.
You were right.

Your boat stirred ripples of care,
compassion. I think your chest
is breathing; your eyes twitching.
My dead friend. I never see
a corpse and fail to remember
how many lives you tried to save.

PHOTO: Metarie, Louisiana, 8/31/2005, I-10 at Causeway Boulevard. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Aug. 23-31, 2005), this was the last bit of unflooded passable highway out of town, and one of the main evacuation stations for Hurricane Katrina victims. Photo by soccerbum, used by permission.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a tribute to Perry Hopkins, the emergency manager who led the response of Portland, Oregon, to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (2005). I was a responder working under his facilitation. Emergency Managers sometimes do not get the recognition they deserve for coordinating a response under FEMA’s emergency response system. He was my friend.

PHOTO: Perry W. Hopkins (1956-2010).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet retired from work for the City of Portland, Oregon. The Portland locations in the current news are places she knows well. Her poetry collection include Urban Wild (human interactions with wildlife in urban habitat), Ocean’s Laughter (change over time in Manzanita, Oregon), Broadfork Farm (the people and creatures of a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington), and How I Learned To Be White which received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry. Read more of her work at Find her on Amazon and Twitter.