Thursday, August 29, 2013
Water Under the Bridge
It was Friday night and I had just gotten home from a meeting. I'm sitting on my sofa watching the 10 o'clock news and the meteorologist starts talking about a hurricane. I literally said to myself "hurricane? What hurricane?" Because you see, I'm a news junkie. And I couldn't believe this was the first I was hearing of a hurricane. My 2nd thought was, it couldn't be that bad since this was the 1st I am hearing of it. Fast forward to Saturday morning and this hurricane is major in a big way. The call for evacuation has started. At the time I was working for the state of Louisiana for the Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health issuing vital records. The Director called all employees early Saturday morning and asked us to "volunteer" to move the manual records from the basement where they were stored to higher ground in case flooding became an issue in the Central Business District of Downtown New Orleans. Me and my loyalty both went and moved records from 8am until 8pm Saturday night. By Sunday morning I had to make a decision to leave New Orleans with my four daughters and get to safety. My cousin called me and asked where we were going and offered us to come to Jackson to his mom's ( my aunt) house. So off we went to Jackson. Me, my four girls and my then fiancee'. ( Who I'm no longer with. Thank God. Even though that info has no relevance on this story.) It's ironic how he was having car trouble the Friday night I first heard of the story and my vehicle was not working. So we are traveling in turtle moving traffic in a vehicle that was stopping on us like every hour. Making an already uncomfortable, unbearable trip even more cumbersome and frightening. Not to mention my mother whom at the time was living in Denver, CO. She kept calling with worry. My daughters at the time were ages 10, 8, 5 and 3. They were tired, scared and hungry.
The vehicle couldn't take anymore of the ex-fiancee' stopping and putting river bank water in it to keep it alive. After 2 jumps ( or boost offs as the Mississippians say) it finally quit on us in Hattiesburg, MS. My cousin met us in Hattiesburg and we were forced to leave the vehicle there. We made it in my aunt's house approximately 11:30 pm after leaving New Orleans around 10 in the morning. All I could do was collapse from sheer exhaustion. She had an empty room with a nice pallet on the floor and I promise it was like the Ritz Carlton to me because anything was better than dealing with what was going on outside with the storm coming.
It's Monday, August 29, 2005 and Katrina hit. And oh boy did she hit. She made landfall as a category 3 storm and she tore up some stuff from New Orleans to the Gulf Coast. She destroyed any and everything in her path. And sadly she took many lives with her too. For many left behind she took dignity, strength, peace of mind and frame of mind. When I realized what happened to the city I grew up in, the city I loved so much I was devastated. People; neighbors, friends and even some of my family were stuck on bridges, roof tops, in houses and worse the Superdome and the Convention Center where they were treated like less than human and heinous activities with on. Some so heinous I may start crying if I type it. Katrina left many people broken and shattered. We scattered and were separated from our loved ones. Some boarded buses to neighboring states. I didn't know who was alive and who was not. When I was able to see the news ( my aunt lost power for a week) I saw some of my friends and church members standing in Red Cross lines in other states. For weeks I was glued to my cell phone waiting on texts and calls from people I had yet to hear from. The whole time praying to God that they made it out unscathed. I spent many hours on the phone with friends crying to me because they didn't know where their parents were, or some who didn't know where other close relatives were. It was gut-wrenching to say the least.
Eight years have gone by and I remember the devastation like it was yesterday. It will always remain with me but it won't define me nor has it ever been a crutch to me. There are still some areas in my hometown where you can see visible signs of what occurred there some 8 years ago. The people of New Orleans are steadily rebuilding, replenishing and restoring what was once lost. They called us refugees, savages and looters. But in essence we are survivors, warriors and conquerors.
As for me, moving to Mississippi has been a blessing. I graduated from one of the best colleges in the state in 2009, my oldest daughter is now in college and my other 3 are thriving and doing well and I work for a great Accounting Firm. I've also met wonderful people along the way, including a great guy I'm dating and a great church home. Katrina made me realize what I was capable of. She did for many people. She was a nightmare in the beginning that turned into a blessing in the end.