There are many who do not like to look back on the day Katrina hit and forever changed the course of our lives. I understand and sympathize with those people, but I don’t mind sharing my own. For me, it is a form of therapy to share my experiences and I am always willing to listen to the experiences of others.
10 years ago my husband and I were newlyweds, hunkered down in our house in Mandeville with our 3 dogs, ready to ride out the storm. I can’t count how many people, in the days after, who asked why we didn’t evacuate. The reason is simple; I had to work day before. When I left for work that morning the storm was a category 3, and while I was working at Hibernia bank, where I assisted hoards of people in clearing out their bank accounts in a panic, the storm strengthened considerably. By the time I left work that evening, I was sitting on less than a quarter tank of gas and there was no more to be found. We decided that staying in our house was safer than being stranded on the side of the road in a car that had run out of gas. So we stayed.
The day of the storm, we sat in our living room behind our boarded up windows and listened to the storm make the roof creak and blow our chimney off into the woods behind our house. We heard trees fall and prayed that one of them wouldn’t fall through our house. In the end, we were lucky with the damage we faced. Some of our very near neighbors, not so much. We had a hole in the roof, a down tree, a broken water pipe, and a flattened fence.
When the storm was over, we found a single radio station broadcasting and listened in horror as people called in, desperate and begging for help. When it seemed safe, we went outside to walk the neighborhood and see what we might do to help. We found most of the neighbors outside with chainsaws, hand saws, brooms and anything else they could use to clear the one road in and out of our neighborhood to the main highway. It was such an amazing show of community effort. We met and worked along side neighbors we never even knew we had before that day.
The day after the storm, faced with weeks or months without power or running water, we drove on fumes to the nearest gas station that actually had gas (more than an hour away) and drove a car loaded with full gas cans back home so we could fuel up the car that was big enough to take us and our dogs to a safer place for a while. We made it to my husband’s extended family in Baton Rouge who were able (they thought, but that’s a story for another day) to tell us where his parents had gone and we decided to follow, grateful to have a place to go. I called my Mom in California from a payphone somewhere in Texas to finally let her know that I was OK, and cried relieved tears with her over the phone. The next day, after over 24 hours on the road, we arrived in Denver.
We ended up relocating to Colorado, and lived there for a little over 4 years. Both of our children were born there, and we made a home there. But there was always something calling us back here and shortly after our second daughter was born, we came back. We are home now, and stronger than ever.
The word that comes to mind over and over again as I look back is “lucky”. We were lucky not to have more damage to our home; not like the people down the street with the tree through the middle of their house, not like my Dad and step mom who lost their house and everything in it. We were lucky to have a safe place to go afterwards. We were lucky to find so many who were willing to help us transition into life in another place. We were lucky that our family all survived. Lucky that Katrina didn’t break us and it didn’t break the city we love.