Today’s the Fourth Anniversary of Katrina. And four years ago today, I was driving on a hot Interstate somewhere in between Houston and San Antonio, disconnected from the news and hoping that landfall had left my home standing.
Four years ago today, I was checking into a hotel in San Antonio with my husband, son, 2 dogs and 2 cats. The news that night was kind to New Orleans, we even saw the guy from La Madeline’s delivering pastries in the Quarter so they wouldn’t go bad. No electricity, but no flooding either. Yet.
We couldn’t get any news about our town North of New Orleans, and that worried me. But eventually my husband got in touch with the Parish President and he said things were bad, not as bad as New Orleans, but under control.
Four years ago today, I didn’t know if my house was standing. I didn’t know if my father-in-law was alive (he stayed). I didn’t know if my neighbors were ok, many of whom stayed.
Four years ago today, I couldn’t call anyone on my cell phone, even my husband who was sitting across the hotel room from me on the opposite bed.
Four years ago today, I went to bed thinking Katrina might not have been that bad.
When I woke up the next morning, we checked the news briefly, early and then kept it off….it was better for kids not to hear the constant coverage, even though it was killing me. I was a news addict for cripes sake.
We headed out to do the touristy thing in San Antonio. The Riverwalk was fantastic, we had lunch down there at a fun little Mexican restaurant and decided to take the boat tour.
On the boat, the driver asked everyone where they were from. Not thinking, I said “New Orleans”
The crowd gasped, “Ooooh”
I knew right then, whatever it was, it was NOT good.
The people clamored, they wanted to know what we knew and if we were ok. I had to ask. I had to know what they knew. And then I heard it…
“The looting in New Orleans, complete chaos, a social meltdown of biblical proportions”
I was so ashamed.
We headed back to the hotel immediately. I had a knot in my stomach. I turned the news on. And soaked it all in.
The levees broke. The National Guard was called in. People were being rescued from their rooftops. People were dehydrated and dying on the overpasses. Nagin was in hiding.
For days, I searched the Internet for any information on my neighborhood. I finally found someone in a forum who had been in my subdivision. The area took about a 60% hit from Katrina, about 60% of the homes had our big, beautiful pine trees sticking out of them. Roads were impassible at first but residents were clearing them gradually. And residents were arming themselves and manning the guard gates so no one could loot our homes.
Then my husband finally got through to the State Police, a friend of his that worked there said he’d go check our home. I was on pins and needles. It was the longest twenty minutes of our ordeal. The devastation I had seen and heard of was unbelievable. Firstbourne, who was 4 years old at the time, kept asking me if his stuffed animals were ok. I didn’t know how to answer him. And I didn’t want to know on some level.
“It’s ok…ok. Just one branch. Ok.” Was all I heard him say. One side of a very climactic conversation, it was all I needed to hear.
My home was spared. Who knows how come. All my neighbors sustained major roof/home damage, but by the grace of God, we had only one branch poking through our roof. All of our 15 plus pines stood tall. It was only the beginning, but at least we had a home to return to. I was so grateful.
As the days wore on, we learned the fates of many were not so fortunate. We did not have electricity for weeks. Cable…hah, months without internet and tv. When we finally returned home, we got real intimate with our DVD player, let’s say. Minor inconveniences. Lots of lessons learned. (There was much good in the months after Katrina, but that’ll have to be for another post. This one is already too long as it is.)
The traffic was horrendous. When school finally started, a trip that used to take me 10 minutes to get my son to school, took almost an hour. Our area absorbed a large number of New Orleans residents, as did Baton Rouge and all the surrounding areas. These are small inconveniences. And we learned to have more patience than we ever thought possible.
One year ago today, we relived the experience by having to evacuate for Hurricane Gustav. We had panic in our hearts. We had learned some valuable lessons. And we were more prepared…frightened…but prepared.
Today, I am grateful I didn’t have to watch the weather channel or the news, but I got to enjoy the day with family and friends and watched some football!