I Wish I Could Forget

Five years ago today, Hurricane Katrina ravished my homestate of Louisiana. This is one event that I really wished I had not experienced. Cheney and I have reflected over what we were doing 5 years ago today and how Katrina affected our lives.

August 27th: I was shopping in Baton Rouge and stopped at Starbucks for a pick-me-up. The barista asked me what I was doing to prepare for the hurricane that was coming. I was shocked at this question because I had no clue there was one on its way, much less that it was a category 5 and headed for New Orleans. I went ahead and finished up what I was doing and went home. Cheney was playing in a golf tournament that day. Needless to say, neither of us were very concerned.

August 28th: School was cancelled for the next day as a precaution. There was no way out of town even if we tried due to traffic heading out of New Orleans. A normally 45 minute trip took some people 12 hours to get to Baton Rouge. New Orleans was under a mandatory evacuation. We picked up a bit around the yard and hunkered down for the night. We stayed up ALL night watching the news and the latest updates as the storm rolled in to shore.

August 29th: We didn't sleep all night because we were waiting. I was never good at waiting a storm out. Every gust of wind made me think a tornado was headed our way. I finally went to bed early in the morning. We thought things were over, the storm had passed, the levees in New Orleans had held. When we woke up a few hours later, the world had changed and all eyes were on Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The rest of the week passed in a blur. Gas stations were out of gas. Grocery stores diverted supplies to areas harder hit so they appeared empty. A very surreal experience to see empty shelves. School was out for the entire week. Thankfully, our house was on the same power grid as the power company, so we only lost power for 2 hours. Others were not so lucky. My parents lost it for a week. The Baton Rouge area swelled to millions due to the influx of people from NO. People were without power, showers, and food. Evacuees were left to their own devices with only the clothes on their back and what they could carry. The shelter that I worked at welcomed a school bus full of people. Donations of clothing, water, baby supplies, and food poured in, phones rang off the hook, and tears flowed freely.

A week later, our schools opened again and welcomed those students who were displaced from the storm. I received 2 students from the Slidell area: Hayleigh and Saxon. They came with nothing. My students' homes had been turned into shelters for extended family. Zachary's family had 20 people staying with them indefinitely. Many students were well adjusted, but Hayleigh was not. Each morning, we peeled her from her mother as she screamed. She couldn't bear to see something else taken away from her. I could not leave my classroom without Hayleigh because she was afraid I would not come back. Each day was an emotional roller coaster that I wish to forget.

And while there was an outpouring of generosity, there was also an outpouring of ungratefulness. We saw people become animals and disrespect the hospitality of shelters and churches in our area. People taking advantage of the generosity of those willing to help. Cheating the system to get more money, not being able to trust your donations were allocated appropriately.

Even today, when I see pictures and hear stories of those moments, they are bittersweet. Thankfully, there was more good than bad, but still, I would love to forget that moment in time.


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God Bless You ~Ron
just me said…
I walked down memory lane a bit as I read your post. It is hard to believe it has been five years. Just last weeekend I met a lady at the antique store that told me she was from Bernard Parish. She and her family are still trying to rebuild their lives. She said she went back for a visit a few days before and how hard it was for her to come back here and leave her home and family. She said although people have been good to her it is so different and she doesn't feel at home. The thing that got me the most was that she said when she tells some people she came out of Katrina they respond to her as if she were less than they are. Strange isn't it? How human beings can think they are more than someone else because they may have been spared tragedy in their lives. Yet, it could happen to anyone at anytime. Keep on writing. You inspire me.