Saturday, August 10, 2013

Changed By A Storm


(Please remember that I am in the process of moving all my bcpmylife posts' to my new blog, messagefrommimi.blogspot.com

August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.
It has been described as the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history.




Some people say we should give up on New Orleans….one of the largest ports in the US, one of the oldest cities, home to my son and his family….
Don’t say that to me! If San Francisco had a huge earthquake, should we give up on them? No, please don’t say that to me. My pain is still too raw.

What I do know for sure is: New Orleans is in the United States of America. These are our people!
The effects of Hurricane Katrina were devastating and long-lasting. Two years after the storm and parts of the city still have no water or electricity. With four major hospitals still closed, a shortage of physicians, the emergency room is the only option for medical care. I have been told that especially older folks, who are ill, “just aren’t thriving. They have lost their will to live.”

Everyone who lived through Katrina has a story. Life as they knew it is no more. On our last visit there I noted how conversations always include “before the storm” or “after Katrina.” An unwanted timeline for their lives.

One English Literature Professor at the University of New Orleans shared her story: “As the water rose to porch level on my 100 year old, mid-city home, a neighbor and I borrowed a boat and paddled down our street. We passed a dead man thrown over a stop sign, children holding up a “please help us” sign, and a baby slippery with the grease and slime the water had coated him with when he fell in.
On a local radio station, a state senator was announcing that the city was not filling up with water, as had been rumored. “Everything is all right” he told us as the water crept into our houses.”
Our government failed on so many levels. From the Army Corps of Engineers who told everyone the levees would hold to FEMA and their insane attempt to throw money at the tragedy.

Everyone has a story…. I’d like to tell you ours…..Our son, Rob and his wife, Krista, Josh(almost 10) and Matthew(8) are survivors of Hurricane Katrina. They live in the Greater New Orleans area (Mandeville) on the North Shore. The boys are bright, articulate, bundles of energy. They are my best fishing buddies and just talking to them on the phone makes my heart sing! We were fortunate that their family was able to evacuate to our home as the hurricane hit. The boys actually attended school here(Eastwood Elem.) for a few weeks as their Mom and Dad tried to go home, check on damage, friends, empty refrigerators, etc. Krista determined that the hospital where she had worked as a Physical Therapist was flooded and closed. After a few days, she began the search for a new job. Rob worked from our home by every electronic means available. His employer, LSUSM, eventually re-located to Baton Rouge which became a 4 hr. commute daily. June 1st. 2006, they came back to New Orleans.
During the approximate 5 weeks we had the boys with us, as I look back, it was a difficult time, exhausting and stressful, but it was mostly fun. I am so thankful we had them and could hopefully provide some sense of normalcy. I had forgotten how it felt to get in the car pick-up line at school every afternoon. I had forgotten how much 2 growing boys can eat! I had forgotten how tired I could be at the end of the day. We fished a lot. We had many great conversations on the river.

Katrina changed us all. If not physically, emotionally. Without getting into too many details, I have seen way too many people suffering 6 hours from where I live. This includes my family, their friends(many who were NOT on welfare I might add…and my sweet grandsons. I am so thankful for their parents who struggled to create family out of chaos. My heart was warmed as I heard Matthew respond to someone who asked if they had damage during the hurricane? “Well, we were really blessed” he replied. He has heard his Dad say that.

Six months later on our first visit to New Orleans, I was overwhelmed by the scale of the hurricane’s massive devastation. Even after watching countless hours of TV, after hearing Rob talk to friends and co-workers, hearing many personal stories…none of this captured the depth of the storm. The silence was deafening. Most businesses were still closed and the debris was piled everywhere. I felt as if I were in a 3rd world country, not 6 hours from home!

Good people died when the levees broke. Good people lost their homes. Good people had to leave family members when they evacuated. Good people’s homes were looted and they lost everything. Good people had jobs that they tried to go back to…. Good people! And then….. the others, all God’s children….

Lord, have mercy on us all.
(written approximately two years after the storm)