Like everyone else in and around New Orleans and the country, I’ve spent some time the last few days thinking about Hurricane Katrina and the events that surrounded the disaster, which was 5 years ago, tomorrow – August 29, 2005.
At this time, 5 years ago, I was 8 months pregnant with Hayden … huge and miserable, more than ready to meet my little boy and super excited about my upcoming baby shower. I was a designer for Digital Scrapbook Place and an assistant to a real estate appraiser who lived in Treme. Wade was in his 2nd to last semester at Tulane for his MBA and we were living with my parents while he finished his degree.
My whole life, my family never left together for a hurricane, EVER. My mom would pack up my sister and I and we would head in the opposite direction of wherever the storm was headed. Dad always stayed behind and even as a little kid, that terrified me. It was the source of many disagreements between my parents and now that I’m older and have my own family, I can certainly see why. I remember that back and forth discussions between my parents in the days before Katrina. Dad always liked to wait until the last possible moment because in the past, it was almost always a wasted effort to evacuate; hours of traffic only to turn right around and head home. The storm was predicted to hit on Monday, August 29. When we went to bed on Saturday night, we were still unsure about what we would do. About 5am Sunday morning, I heard noises around the house, so I got out of bed … my stomach is in knots at this very moment thinking about this, its clear as yesterday. I saw my dad and he said, “Start packing, we’re leaving.” When I realized that my dad was leaving too, I KNEW it was going to be bad. I started to cry and felt very scared. I went into Hayden’s room and packed up all his brand new little baby clothes into huge plastic containers. I took everything that I possibly could from his room and whatever I couldn’t take, I piled up on the bed. We did the same thing in our room, packing a few changes of clothing for ourselves and grabbing anything that was important.
I don’t remember what time we got on the road – dad was in front of us with the dogs and his boat, Wade and I were in my car and mom was behind us in hers. It took us 9 1/2 hours to get to Lafayette on Highway 90 – a drive that normally takes 2 1/2 hours. Its funny and ironic now b/c we stopped in Morgan City for a break and to get some water for the dogs. I had never been there before and didn’t know the first thing about the place. Later, Morgan City was also where I met up with my dad to pick up Wade after they snuck back into the city to check on our house.
So, 5 years ago at this exact time, we were all waiting, watching and praying – not knowing what was going to happen. Well, we all now know what happened. Katrina barely brushed by New Orleans, leaving us all sighing in relief, only to hear devastating news about the levees just days later.
I kept a personal blog at the time that wasn’t really about the family or my pregnancy, just a place for me to share my own thoughts. This is the blog post from Wednesday, August 31, 2005:
TITLE: Wednesday – 7:40 AM
Not much else new and I really should tear myself away from this computer and the news to try and take a break from this nightmare. I can’t seem to find the words to describe what is going on in the city where I’ve lived and worked my whole life. It almost feels like 9/11 when you sit here watching everything on TV, knowing its reality, but because its so far away, it doesn’t seem real. Its not until I see pictures of places I know very well, the interstate exit I drive on every day to go from work to home under water or Canal and Bourbon streets under water that I realize, its real.
This morning I heard an interview with the mayor. They need and want so badly to EMPTY OUT THE CITY and COMPLETELY EVACUATE, but they don’t have the means or the roadways. All but one road out of New Orleans is ruined. Its only a matter of time before the people in the Superdome riot and cause more problems. Its a sad reality. As it is, I sit here helplessly watching as people run wild in the city, looting stores everywhere. I just can’t understand why they aren’t able to have a zero tolerance for these people and just shoot them on the spot. That may sound harsh, but why should we have to worry about our homes being burgularized when there is so much more to worry about? No other area has this problem. Mississippi and Mobile haven’t had these problems, only New Orleans. I’ve seen them rip iron gates off of CLOTHING and JEWELRY stores and kick in the doors of convienence stores. Two police officers had been shot trying to stop them and gunshots are still being heard in various places.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE???????
The city seems doomed. It feels like everyone is just giving up on it and it sounds like something from the 19th century. The conditions there are unsanitary. No electricity, no water, sewerage in the water that has flooded the streets, bodies floating around soon to decompose.
The mayor’s estimate at how long New Orleans would be uninhabitable was 12-15 weeks. UNINHABITABLE …. its completely incomprehensible to me.
Unlike the other areas that were hardest hit by Katrina, New Orleans is unable to start picking up the pieces. We’re forced to sit back and watch helplessly, not knowing the condition of our homes and property, some still unable to contact family and friends and with absolutely no idea when life will return to normal. Its hard to even be excited about the baby. I keep thinking about what the condition of life would be like even 2 months from now and I don’t want him to be born into a life like that. Even if by then, things are greatly improved, all I’ve seen of New Orleans is hell. Its a shame that in a time like this, instead of feeling all warm and fuzzy because of the efforts around the world to help us, I feel disgust and sadness. I’m embarrassed that there is such a huge desire and effort to raise money to help the city, yet there are so many there that don’t deserve the help.