On Sunday, it will be five years since Hurricane Katrina hit and devastated a large part of the Gulf region – including, especially notable for me, my city – New Orleans. And because of that, a lot of people and organizations have been doing things to acknowledge the 5 year anniversary. The sound of five years tends to seem like it should be a benchmark, a time that we should reflect on what happened and see where things are progressing forward. So you have your Spike Lee documentary, PBS specials, MSNBC specials, CNN specials, and articles written galore – and I wasn’t going to pile onto that mass of commemorative musing, but in the end, I decided to write a quick something on it (which if you read the blog and/or you know me in real life, you know that quick is relative anyway… but I promise it won’t be as depressing as this post I did a few years back).
Anyway, the first thing you should know is that I don’t typically like to talk about that time, which is especially difficult when you meet new people, say where you’re from and the typical reaction is one of immediate concern. I get that – and appreciate it, but as someone who can be too introspective sometimes, it’s sometimes better for me just not to venture into the conversation at all. I get really emotional about it and it’s not pretty. I do NOT cry pretty – like at all. I cry like someone who tries to hold in her tears until she can’t anymore and the tears come gushing out in big ugly crying fits… because, well that’s exactly what happens to me. BUT as much as I love that city and I am thankful for everything God has done in these five years and what He did to keep my family safe during that time, I figured I would be remiss not to say anything.
So here goes.
August 29th will always be a day that I never forget. I had just moved back to DC less than 2 weeks before to start grad school and in the days before August 29th, I’d spent my time getting my schedule together, unpacking my apartment and convincing my family that I understood we’d never left for a hurricane before, but this time seemed like as good as any to get the hell out of dodge. The problem was that my dad wanted to take my mom, my sisters, and my grandparents (my mom’s parents) to Northern LA where my dad was from and his parents still lived; but my grandmother didn’t want to leave her house and without her agreeing to leave, my grandfather wouldn’t leave and thus my mom wouldn’t leave (and neither my sisters)… so I was tasked with convincing a 70 year old woman that she needed to go. Thank God I did. I didn’t realize it then, but it was just one of the miracles that God would perform during this trying time.
With that, my family left – went up to Northern LA and called me on August 28th to let me know they made it safely and they’d be watching the news just like me. Even though I hadn’t heard from all of my friends and all of my other family members, I knew the core was safe, so I could breathe kinda. Except that I didnt breathe. I watched CNN nonstop… never turning my TV off at home (or turning the channel), reading cnn.com on the train, and watching CNN on the TVs on Georgetown’s campus – I literally mean nonstop. It was not a good thing, but I couldn’t not watch it – I couldn’t not know what was going on. And for a brief moment it really looked like everything would be fine. The storm had miraculously turned and now wasn’t going to hit New Orleans dead on (another miracle!) and I remember thinking, “whew, that was a close one.” And then… while watching CNN, I saw everything fall apart in an instant.
Water kept gushing through the city and they reported that some of the levees had broken. My God – I knew then it was not going to be good. Growing up there, you always knew (and we would always say in casual conversation), we’re fine here – until something happens to one of those levees… and then it’s bad business. At that point, the storm was still heading north, I couldn’t get in touch with my family, my friends – basically anyone with a 504 area code, you weren’t reaching them.
And days and days went by with no word on if any neighborhoods had been spared… all you saw was water, and all I could think about was how it was all gone, and I couldn’t even talk to my mom to see how they were doing. I was a wreck – not a crying wreck, but an out of it, constant TV watching, no one could get me to talk about anything wreck. Eventually, my mom was finally able to get through to me and slowly, I started hearing from other friends and family and while I definitely know people who were stuck in the storm and went through some terrifying experiences, I am one of the most blessed people to be able to say I don’t know anyone who died in the storm.
That is not to say that I don’t know people who died because of the storm, because I do. I know people who couldn’t handle the aftermath of that time. I know people who, even though they are technically alive, are almost dead inside – still, because of what happened. But on the other hand, I know sooo many people who triumphed after Katrina – who looked at their destroyed homes, cried for a moment and then got to work. I know people who are still struggling to make it back, but they’re making progress so that’s what counts. I know people who went through so much during that time, but they’re standing and I look at them as some of the strongest people that I know.
These people are who I think of when I think of the anniversary of Katrina. I think of the miracle of some of their lives. I think about how God blessed my family and made it so that a foundation repair that we did the year before saved our home. When my parents went back after the storm – the only things wrong were some broken concrete in the driveway and a blown down fence. Our house stood strong in that storm, even while the very house next to us crumbled to the ground. You can’t tell me that’s not God’s favor and blessing.
So on this *quick note* (lol) on the anniversary of August 29th, I’m trying not to think of the bad things that happened 5 years ago. I don’t want to think about the depression I went into at that time or how hard it was when I went home for Thanksgiving and had to call my friends one-by-one and tell them all that their homes were destroyed or how hard it was to hear my baby sister crying after every storm for years. No – I want to think about the things that God did to help us through all of this. I want to thank God for helping me through all of this, as well as the people He put in my life who were there to help as well. At that time, I had to be strong for my family – but there were people up here who were strong for me. Some of them are still in my life now and some of them aren’t, but every single one of them were God’s blessings – and that’s what I’ll think about on Sunday – and hopefully there will be no big ugly tears that come flowing down because of it.