Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

I hate when my life gets like this. I seem to be doing fine,

I actually think I’m doing okay and then,

it hits me out of nowhere,

Katrina residual is what I call it.

It happens around the middle of July and lingers on til the end of October.

Yesterday was the 8th year anniversary of the storm.

My neighborhood after Katrina. My house is in that pic.

My neighborhood after Katrina.  Well…after the levees broke.

I was melancholy the entire day…still don’t feel like myself.

This time last year, we were dealing with the ramifications of  Hurricane Issac.

Sweltering heat, no electricity…which means no air conditioning…in the deep south.

It was awful.

100% humidity makes it hard to breathe for someone with upper respiratory issues like me.

No electricity means no lights, not even street lights so, it was dark as shit at night.

No where near Katrina shit but, I hate not having electricity because aside from the obvious,

you then  go through the, “how the hell they have lights down the block and I ain’t got no damned lights ” syndrome.

I guess my mind is in protective mode,

bracing itself to handle whatever comes.

While still handling what’s already happened.

Eight years….feels like yesterday.

 

 

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Part 2.-Driving In The Wilderness

We were heading for Baton Rouge.  I was studying for my BSN at Southern in Baton Rouge at the time and I didn’t want to miss class. We got on  interstate but, got on the wrong side of the contraflow(that’s the weirdest thing to see, traffic heading the same way on both sides of the interstate)…the contraflow for Baton Rouge was on the other side so, we decided to go to Shreveport. A little passed the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway, we hit gridlock. We were sitting there for so long that people starting getting outta their cars and walking around. Here in NOLA (and I mean all surrounding parishes) there’s no such thing as strangers so naturally, we all started talking to one another.  Everyone asking everyone else, “where ya headin’?”  While in gridlock,it started to rain. We saw the feeder bands rolling in.  The hurricane would hit sooner than Monday night.

Instead of heading to Shreveport, contraflow once again flowed us in another direction and we aimed for the closest hotel we could find.

There was none. We stopped for gas, looked for hotels…none.

While driving through different parishes, every time we passed a bridge, they had people on it with signs that said,

“God Bless You,”  “Be Safe”…they were standing in the rain with them.  I began to cry looking at those signs.

We decided to go to Memphis, Tennessee.

By now, we’d already been driving for 12 hours.

It’s 11:30 p.m. and a lot of people were still with us…I guess we were all heading for Tennessee.

I’m behind NavySeal and I’m watching him swerve to the left and then to the right.  He’s getting tired. I found myself swerving as well.

We drove for another 5 hours and finally found a hotel in Memphis.  The hotel was full but, a lady said that she didn’t need one of her rooms and that we could have that one.  The hotel clerk says, she couldn’t just give us her room, she had to do something first, can’t remember what.The nice lady who was going to give us the room got into a big argument with the hotel clerk about it (NOLA people sticking together in a crisis) we told her we’d find some place else and left. A man told us to check a little town in Arkansas not too far from Memphis.

We drove about 30 minutes more. We’d  officially been on the road for 17 long hours before we hit Forrest City, Arkansas.

At 5:00 a.m. Monday morning,we finally had a hotel room. It was the last room available at the hotel.

Totally exhausted, we all went to sleep in this little town in Arkansas.

When we woke up, there was over 1000 people from the greater NOLA area  in the town with us.

My car, which had a leak in the radiator NEVER ran hot…I didn’t have to add water the entire 17 hours on the road.

The first of many miracles.

Part 1-The Exodus.

* the link to Nash Roberts is now working*

We left at the 11th hour. My husband and I had every intention of riding this one out, just like every other storm.  Never in my life had I evacuated before.  We did our outside hurricane preparedness stuff…made sure everything was secure, cut off any tree limbs around the house, taped the windows, etc. We kept watching the news… she still didn’t know which way she wanted to go…it was looking like Florida would be graced with her presence at the time. Then, it seemed like all of a sudden, she was heading here.

Still, we planned to ride it out…that’s what hurricane babies do…we “ride it out.”

I kept having this eerie feeling inside of me though that, I just couldn’t shake. Never had this one before..something just kept gnawing at me saying,

*get out and anything you want to keep bring it upstairs*

Crazy voices in my head just kept repeating that…get out and bring the stuff upstairs.

I didn’t pay it any mind at the time because, I told my husband “three things have to occur for me to really know to get out of dodge;

1)They have to open up The Dome as a shelter of last resort.

2. The Mayor has to do a MANDATORY  evacuation.

3)They have to pull Nash Roberts from the mothballs.

You probably have to be from here to really understand the significance of those three things…especially number 3.

To sum it up quickly, Nash Roberts was a meteorologist for Channel 4 way back in the day. This man could  (with pin-point accuracy), tell you where a hurricane was heading. He’d take his black marker and draw cute little hurricanes tracking the storm…he was rarely, if ever, incorrect.

I like to say…before there was Super Doppler and all that other stuff…there was NASH.

Well, I kept watching the telly and….they opened The Dome.  A little while after that, the mayor issued a mandatory evacuation.

Still, no Nash.

I’m still hearing this voice inside of me telling me to get out and bring stuff upstairs.

I called my brother, The Oracle who lives out-of-state, and tell him, I think we may have to leave..and that they’ve issued a mandatory evacuation.  I also mentioned that, I’m surprised with something that’s supposed to be this serious, they didn’t pull Nash out.

He tells me, he’d just heard that Nash’s neighbors saw him evacuating with his wife…and that most of the neighborhood left after the word got out that Nash was leaving the city.

Nash had never evacuated before, and neither had I.

Ok, God…I hear ya now…pack my things and anything I wanna keep bring it upstairs.

I tell NavySeal what my brother told me and we both agree it’s time to go. The three stars have lined up with the message whirling around in my head.

I tell my father, “dad, we’re gonna leave for this one…I’d rather be safe than sorry. It’ll probably do just like all the others but, we gonna head out… ya coming?”

My father says…he’s gonna stay. I remember him telling me in a joking manner that, he’ll  “go down with the ship.”  Our house didn’t receive any water for Betsy or Camille…he wasn’t leaving.

Sunday morning, August 28th,  we had about 2 hours to pack and leave before we literally end up  trapped in the city. If you aren’t out at a certain time, they start clearing off  interstate and you gonna turn back.

I take every photo of my mom,put them in a shoebox and put it at the highest point in the closet upstairs.  We brought some other things upstairs but, we really didn’t have much time to pack and we thought we’d be back in three days anyway.

Sassy, our beloved Cocker Spaniel, was getting anxious as we were packing. I didn’t want my dad to be totally alone though. We left her with him so he’d have some company.  She had plenty food, we had three tubs filled with water, my dad was stocked up on hurricane supplies such as… food,water, batteries,radio and a gun…just in case.

The house was secure. Our three days worth of clothes were in the car along with our food and water to keep us at bay on our road trip. Game Boys, movies and dvd players to keep the kids entertained.

And plenty of water.  My car had a leak in the radiator at the time and we didn’t know how far she’d go without running hot.  My guess was that, we’d be pulling over every second and we’d be lucky to make it to Baton Rouge.

We also took our laptop computer…which would later prove itself to be…our lifeline regarding all things Katrina.

My kids and I gave my father a kiss and told him we’d see him in about 3 days. My husband gave my dad a hug, shook his hand and told him to be careful.

The neighborhood was quiet. Most of my neighbors had already left and those that were staying were already hunkered down.

NavySeal got into his truck with PurpleKnight, I got into my car with YellowJacket.

He took the lead and I followed.

Sunday, August 28, 2005 @11:30a.m….we left our home in Pontchartrain Park.

New Orleans, Louisiana.

Warm Weather =Worries

The weather is beautiful, it’s going to be 80 degrees today…and humid of course.  But, I feel it creeping up on me already…that damned post traumatic stress thing.  It’s in my every thought lately…I’m looking around trying to figure out what to take, what to leave, where to go if a storm hits east of us, where to go if it hits west of us….where to live if it hits us.  I don’t think you can ever be cured from post traumatic stress…if I moved, it wouldn’t go away.  I’d just be worried about what I’d do if I was stuck in a blizzard, tornado, or earthquake.

Moving away wouldn’t help…and move to  where?  I used to live in San Diego…read the papers today?  Earthquake in Mexico…felt in San Diego.

At least with the hurricanes, I get a warning to get out of dodge.

I know it’s going to get worse once August gets here…August and September are our worst months.

Camille was in August…Betsy was in September….Katrina’s raggedy ass hit in August.

The five years seem to have flown by…just wish the effects of it all would do the same.

Just fly away.

Seems like yesterday….feels like yesterday.  No matter how beautiful the new layout is…I still miss HER.

Damn it…will I ever stop crying?

Home Sweet Home

Today I found myself missing my home. I miss my home.  Although I stay in the house that I was raised in, it is not the same house to me anymore.  Hurricane Katrina washed that away. I miss how the kitchen was still in that 1970’s era with the big spoons on the wall.  I miss the memories that seemed to greet me every single time I walked into a room.  I miss seeing the crayon marks that my kids and my nephews put on the wall.  I miss opening the cabinets and seeing pots that had a name (oh, that’s moms’ red bean pot; no, the gumbo pot is in the back.)  I miss feeling my mother’s spirit.  She died in her bed but, she never left that house. I could feel her everywhere.  I can’t feel her in this house.  Everything is new, even with the same layout it all feels so new, so different.  I know change is a good thing a lot of times (vote for change) but, I don’t like not being able to feel my history.  I didn’t have a bad childhood, for the most part, it was great.  Even with all of that damage, when I walked in I felt like I was home..finally. Ok, the first floor was totally destroyed and the second floor needed a lot of work but, there’s no place like home Toto.  With every worker  that walked out of my house carrying debris, out walked a memory, a story a piece of my family fabric.  My grandfathers chifferobe, my jr and sr prom dress, my MIL doll collection, my brothers’ comic book collection,  my mother’s everything. Just gone, sitting on the curb waiting for FEMA to pick up and dispose of.

These new walls and flooring feel cold to me, they have no memories.  I want my old house back, I want my old home back.  That damned Katrina took away so much more than people know.