*Fair warning – long a%* post ahead*
So, last year, on August 28 – it was a Sunday evening I believe – I was watching the news and heard about this storm that was supposed to hit the Gulf Coast on the 29th. Katrina.
Well, I didn’t pay much attention until the newscaster said that perhaps we in the Jackson metro area would lose power for a couple of hours (we’re about 3.5 hours north of the coast). I’d just put Lovegirl in the bed and I decided to run to the store (W_l*Mart) to get Lovegirl some formula. She was 11 months old and I’d just weaned her and was new to keeping the right amount of formula in the house. Anyhoo, all we had was the liquid stuff (has to be refrigerated) and I decided I’d get some powder so that if the power went out my child would have something to drink.
So I went downstairs and mentioned to Smoochy that I was going to run to the store – did he need anything? He didn’t, so off I went. Well, to my surprise, there was no freaking formula on the shelves. I (stupidly) thought it was just because it was a weekend night and the stockers hadn’t re-stocked the shelves. So I bought a few more bottles of the liquid stuff, figuring at least she’d have something for the few hours we might be powerless. I also decided to pick up some more water, a few snacks and a couple of flashlights. I noticed – but somehow still kind of ignored – that there were a lot of folks in the store picking up the same type items.
I finally got checked out and decided to buy gas – I was on a 1/2 tank, and I generally fill up when I get to that point. Gas station #1 – no gas. Gas station #2 – no gas. Gas station #3 – we have a winner. I filled up and headed home. I had no idea what we were in for – as a family, as a state, as a nation.
Monday morning, I got up and went to work. Of course, no one was working. Everyone had a television or radio on and was monitoring the storm. I called my Mom in California and my brother in Houston and told them some kind of big storm was coming, and that I would be in touch. That I’d decided to go home at 11:30 regardless of whether or not we were “officially” released from work. At around 11:15, they told us all to go home and to check the internet in the morning to determine whether or not we needed to report to work. School was canceled Sunday night, so Smoochy and Lovegirl were already home chilling. I stopped by a restaurant and picked up something to eat because I’d finally (kind of) figured out that something was going on and it might be our last hot meal for a while. As soon as I got home, the skies opened up.
It rained. And rained. And rained. And the wind blew. And the tree limbs swayed. And I, who grew up in California and have always been fascinated by storms, stayed up very late watching the amazing storm that Katrina was. It was hypnotically beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much water come out of the sky in such a period of time. I prayed that the trees would stand the storm and that we wouldn’t end up with a hole in our roof. I think the lights had gone out at around 5 that evening. We decided to camp downstairs. It was August in Mississippi after all, and we had no power – no air.
When we got up on Tuesday morning, we surveyed the damage and were happy to discover that we really didn’t have any. There were a few trees down in the neighborhood, but on our little circle, everyone had fared relatively well. We could hear the chainsaws and smell the gasoline but that was it. Smoochy remarked that he was surprised that we still didn’t have any power.
Around noon I finally decided to sit in the car and listen to the radio. Most stations were off the air, but our NPR affiliate somehow had power and was broadcasting. We wouldn’t have power for days. Emergency workers were tapped. The storm had been devastating on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. People were being urged to take care of their neighbors, to pool resources. Keep in mind, we had no power. While the rest of the country was watching the devastation ocurring in New Orleans, we just knew that we were without electricity. We had no idea the scope of things.
I’d been trying to call my family in California and Texas all day, but no phone lines were working, and I couldn’t get a line out. I finally got through late that night using Smoochy’s phone and my Mom’s voice was cracking and she said she was just glad to hear from me. I told her that we were fine. She said she thought she’d call some family friends in Lake Village, AR to see if we could stay with them if we needed to. I was like, whatever, we’ll be fine. Smoochy decided later on that evening that Lovegirl and I would indeed drive to AR and stay there in comfort until the power came back on. He didn’t want us there. Among rumors of looting, lawlessness, and extended power outages.
We left our home – very much against my will – on Wednesday morning and got to Lake Village 3 hours later. When I turned on the television, I was sick.
Mothers, babies, grown men. Begging, crying, pleading. Bodies floating. I really couldn’t watch it. I just held Lovegirl and cried. Cried to God, thanking him that it wasn’t us. That we’d just been a little inconvenienced. Cried to God for those who it was. I could not imagine being stranded – in a house, on a rooftop, on a freeway overpass – with my child, my baby. I thought my heart would break in two. After the first few hours in AR, I didn’t turn the TV on again until Saturday when Smoochy called and told us we could come back home – we had electricity again.
We were – and are – blessed. All we lost were a few days together. A couple hundred dollars worth of groceries. A few hours out of our lives because of the gasoline shortage.
As the day of Katrina’s anniversary neared and every news program began to air their specials, I started thinking about Katrina’s profound effect on people’s lives. I cried again. It still hurts. And we didn’t lose anything really. Some people’s lives will never resemble what they were 366 days ago. Never. And in a country this wealth, this resourceful, this great – politics aside – that is a damn shame.
I remember. I remember the panic I felt when I couldn’t get a phone line out to talk to my loved ones. I remember Lovegirl’s innocence and the innocence so many children lost that day. I remember worshipping in the “white” church around the corner for the first time (and being nervous about it) because I was scared to drive across town to the church I usually attend because I didn’t know when we’d have gasoline again. I remember this metro area coming together to help people who had nothing. I remember kindness. I remember smiles. I remember thinking that God is always, always in control, no matter how bad things are. I remember an evacuee in church in clothes that clearly were not his own smiling and being thankful that he had his life and his family had theirs. I remember GB telling Brownie that he was doing a great job. I remember the joy I felt when a former coworker finally responded to my email and let me know that she and her husband and two babies were okay – they’d just relocated to NO.
So today, if only for a moment or two, remember the devastation that ocurred. The people’s whose lives were changed forever. The people who lost their lives. Take a look around you. Be thankful for what you have. For who you love. Remember and help take care of those who cannot, for whatever reason, take care of themselves.