Sunday, August 29, 2010

Katrina Remembered

When I think of the year and a half I lived in Louisiana, I most often think about the people I came to know and love. So when Hurricane Katrina hit, I felt sick--literally sick--with worry. And then in the aftermath of the storm, power lines were down and getting through by phone was a pipe dream. And of course, the little community I spent the majority of my time in was right in the path of the storm.

The only information I could find were pictures of the forest I had once spent so much time in, laying like matchsticks along the river.

"The Pearl River floodplain forests sustained 120-mph winds during Katrina that sheared off the tops of towering cypress and tupelo trees and decimated some areas. The state estimates that it lost 719 million board feet of timber valued at approximately $335 million dollars -- and that loss may be permanent." (FOXNews)
And I can't even begin to tell you about the panic I felt when after more than a week I still hadn't tracked down many of my friends. Even pulling up every press contact I could find and cashing in on every favor I possibly could, I still didn't have the peace of mind I needed.

The best I could do was get in contact with a good friend of mine just outside of Baton Rouge, whose husband was from the West Bank and still had family in that area.
"One night we had as many as 25 people in our house. Wherever they dropped, that's where they laid...There's a feeling of helplessness in the air. The people just feel so devastated...It's just like a bad dream, a really bad dream." (Tina Coleman) 
It was months before I finally reconnect with many of my old friends in Pearl River. A tree had crushed the roof of one woman's house--a tarp was placed over the hole and the bedroom door was kept closed until workers could make the repair almost a year later. Another woman had just received her nursing degree, which was being put to good use with people taking shelter in FEMA housing at the local trailer park. And several other families had moved on with no plans to return. Although my heart goes out to the loved ones of the nearly 2,000 people who lost their lives during Katrina, I felt blessed knowing my friends were safe.

I hope to go back to Pearl River someday. It probably won't be the same small town I remember where everyone knew everyone else and no one had private business. Disasters and tragedy have a way of changing people. I know it changed me.

If you wish to help with disaster recovery projects, consider giving to the Red Cross or Make It Right.

1 comment:

  1. I remember you writing in the Notebook about your worry over friends in Louisiana, but I couldn't recall if you were able to get ahold of them. I'm glad to see that you were and that they were okay even if they lost almost everything. I hope that you are one day able to go back and visit them too. Love you, chica!