Reflections About My Family's Experiences, Then and Now, With Hurricane Katrina As We Approach The 16th Anniversary.
"Have you heard anything
from David or about where he may be?" I, with incognito frantic feelings inside
and not wanting to upset my mommy, asked my mother a few times that afternoon
on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, about my brother.
"No," Mommy said; and went on to note "I'm sure he evacuated with some others from his apartment complex on Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans East."
Mom and Dad had come up to Red Stick on the previous Saturday with my sister, Helen, and her children from the Lakeview area of New Orleans after a very arduous traffic jam of evacuees from the surrounding Crescent City area.
My sister noted that on the almost 8 hour+ ride from NO to BR, my frail and elderly daddy couldn't understand why traffic was so slow, as he would constantly note, "Why isn't the car in front of us moving?"
We all had hunkered down the day before in our Red Stick home that infamous date of August 29th, when Hurricane Katrina came bustling through Louisiana, ferociously dismantling levees in the New Orleans area and bursting into Mississippi.
Dale, my brother-in-law, came up to stay with us after the storm had cleared and thankfully before the levee breeches filled the entire Lakeview area, where he and Helen had lived, as well as most of the Greater New Orleans region.
So as time went on and we were all glued to the television and radio seeing the awful pics of many parts of our beloved hometown of N'Awlins covered deep in water—with some folks waiting desperately at the Superdome or atop their homes hoping for someone to rescue them—we still didn't know what was the status of David.
We certainly joined others from all churches and faith communities many times in praying for those who had died from the storm and who were dealing with untold miseries with the displacement caused by Katrina, and we made financial and in-kind donations whenever possible.
WWL 870 AM was a real great link to what was going on in The Big Easy, so I was constantly listening to the DJs. At one point, concerned folks were able to call in to the radio shows, such as Bob Delgarno and Garland Robinette, where one could make a shout-out describing missing loved ones to see if anyone may know their where-a-bouts—so I did that a few times but didn't get any responses.
Cell phones were still not in full use by everyone, including my brother, so that was not possible.
There were times that I just wanted to drive the 75+ miles from Red Stick to the Big Easy just to do some of my own searching for David and bring basic necessities for him and others that I may see along the way, but that was discouraged and actually noted as breaking the law.
Finally, I somehow got word per the Red Cross or some other agency that David was in Donaldsonville at the Shekinah Glory Church Shelter! It was so great to hear his voice on the phone late in September 2005 and eventually to go and meet with him!
David had apparently not been able to catch the van ride from his apartment complex and stayed there till September 20 (his birthday!), when he was able to see National Guardsmen in the area, and they opened up the locked in building that he was in!
Thankfully, David had stocked up well on basic necessities, including water, peanut butter, etc., and braved all that time in the high rise building alone without running water or electricity—and in the heat of late August and early September!
What a joy it was when David could join us, especially Mommy and Daddy, in Red Stick with the whole family for a reunion.
I pray for all those who lost loved ones and who were forever displaced from our beloved New Orleans. I constantly meet co-workers, patients, etc. who may have lived in the Crescent City and now have settled elsewhere like Baton Rouge.
We lost both of our parents in 2006; Mommy in June and Daddy in October. While both parents certainly had health issues they had been dealing with, they, like many others, I believe, were very deeply traumatized and affected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually by the storm.
The city and adjacent communities have certainly made an incredible resurrection from that terrible storm of 2005 as we now reflect on things 16 years later.
The vast VA "Project Legacy" Health System that was built in the Mid-City section of New Orleans, and including many square blocks, was another great sign of the ongoing recovery that has taken place over these past 16 years...and I've been blessed these past 9+ years to work at the VA in Baton Rouge per home care.
I also would like to thank the "Women of the Storm," especially Anne Milling, whom I knew through some Zen classes at Loyola University.
Anne and many untold
others certainly helped to ADVOCATE for the rebuilding of our beloved
'Yatsville and helping all to deal with such a difficult "human condition."
How neat that The Advocate is now the biggest selling printed publication in New Orleans and has incorporated The Times-Picayune, which I used to be blessed to write a "Grey Matters" column for when I worked at the N.O. Council on Aging in the late 80s!
It was so cool how that The Advocate helped many New Orleans print and broadcast media and their staffing in need of help right after the Katrina storm!