Remembering Katrina

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, I sat in my house with water marks on the ceiling and pieces of the roof missing surrounded by the eerie glow of the candlelight because we still didn’t have electricity. Staring out the window at the devastation in a city now governed by martial law as the military Hum-V’s patrolled the streets enforcing the 7:00 pm curfew, all I could think of was that I would never forget.

But as the days turned into weeks that grew into months and the electricity came back on, roads were cleared, school was open again, and life began to resemble a new normal, I began to forget. So, today on this anniversary 7 years after the storm, I remember…

1. I remember how indescribably beautiful the sky looked the night before Katrina arrived. The greens and blues that I had never seen before. And will probably never see again. It was hard to believe something so beautiful could be so destructive at the same time.

2. I remember during the storm as chunks of the roof came off and pieces of my childhood were carried out in the winds that I was losing a part of myself I would never get back. As my partner, Kesi, yelled at me to “get your crazy white ass down from there,” I finally had no choice but to surrender. Surrender to something much bigger and more powerful than myself. I remember that moment of surrender.

3. I remember what it looked like as trees came out of the ground and the earth opened up.

4. I remember walking out of the house when the winds finally stopped blowing and the rain had stopped that it was as if I had stepped into an end of the world movie. It looked like bombs had gone off everywhere as I walked through the debris looking for neighbors whom I’d never met before.

5. I remember waiting in line for almost six hours to get a package of bread, water, and a bag of crackers. As I stood in line, I couldn’t help but think of all the people who had to do the same thing everyday. That it was part of their normal, not part of an aftermath of a natural disaster.

6. I remember the Grenville’s. I’ll always remember the Grenville’s. The Southern family who welcomed us into their family and took care of us in the days following.  Despite what we looked like and despite who we loved.

7. I remember telling my partner it was going to be okay and that her family would be found alive. Trying to sound convincing even though I wasn’t sure I believed it myself.

8. And of course I remember the long awaited phone call after all of those excruciating days that  her family had made it to the Superdome. I will remember the stories the children told from inside the dome. I will remember how the children crawled to the top of their dressers during the nightmares that followed as they hurried to safety from the waters in their sleep.

9. I remember witnessing the duality of mankind that had never been so dramatically apparent. Whatever was inside of a person, came out during the storm. For each tear filled story of a hero who had carried someone on their shoulders through the water was another story of someone who had shot someone else over a bag of ice and a beer.

10. I remember the red spray painted X’s on all of the houses showing that the house had been searched. Coupled with a number. A number that showed how many bodies had been found inside.

11. I remember returning to work at the child and adolescent psychiatric unit which housed many kids who had been abandoned during the storm. I remember the six year old boy who had been found in an alleyway whose ears had been eaten by rats. I remember his smile.

12. I remember the thousands of people from all over the country who came to help and rebuild. Who left their homes and set up a camp to help. Not just for a few days, but months. The people from churches who provided more assistance than most of the government agencies.

13. I remember the laughter that accompanied the shingling of a stranger’s roof. I remember the faces of everyone I worked with that day.

Today I remember.

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12 Responses to Remembering Katrina

  1. Danielle Dedman says:

    I love your stories. Thank you.

  2. Wow. Just wow. Thanks for remembering and sharing with us.

  3. Diane says:

    I didn’t realize you had lived in LA. Or were you in Mississippi?

  4. Jody Grenville says:

    I remember too. It was a surreal time. But we made lifelong friends because of it…

  5. Mama Melch says:

    Such excruciating memories filled with anguish, appreciation, and beauty…thank you so much for sharing your experiences with such beautiful words.

  6. Rach says:

    I’ve lived through quite a few hurricanes here on the east coast of Virginia, but nothing–NOTHING–that could compare to the destructive fury of Katrina. I remember when she blew in and how awful the images were. I can’t imagine actually living THROUGH it.

    Thank you for your powerful and evocative words.

  7. Caitlin says:

    You have seen some heavy things Heather. xoxo

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