August 29, 2005

Anyone in southern and central Mississippi and Louisiana can tell you immediately what happened on that day. This is my Katrina story.

We had watched the news for several days. Katrina was building up to be a powerful storm, possibly a category five. So we expected things to be bad but not THAT bad. My daughter is the only one who had a real apprehension for the oncoming storm. She wanted to pack up some of her things from her room and store them away but we assured her there was no need, that things would be fine. We figured there would be some trees down and we’d lose power for a couple of days and then things would be back to normal.

My husband was scheduled for a heart catheterization at the Baptist that morning so we headed out before dark. Our daughter stayed with my sister who lived right beside us. We expected the interstate to be full of people headed north to escape the storm but it was eerily empty with only a very few head lighted vehicles visible in the darkness.

As we reached the hospital even it seemed unusually quiet for a Monday morning. The procedure went well and thankfully my husband had no blockages. While he was recovering, we could hear the wind outside the hospital, picking up. News footage was already showing the devastation as Katrina came ashore. I called home to see if the roads were safe enough for us to get back home. No was the answer.

When my husband was discharged we drove to my sister’s home in Madison. It amazed me how hard the wind blew, even knocking out their electricity, and this was eighty miles inland. Late that evening we received the dreaded phone call from home. We had seven trees down, one was on our house. Another was down on my mother’s home.

That was the longest night of my life. We woke up at daylight and headed home, or at least to what was left of our home.

The devastation was unreal. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what the coast must look like after such a tidal surge. Fortunately, good neighbors with chainsaws had cleared our little country road so we could drive to our house. Half of it was crushed by a huge oak. Trees were every where. Other than lost shingles and a turbine or two missing, us and my mother we the only ones who had severe structural damage. All of my family and animals were fine.

The following days are almost like a dream. No electricity, no outside communication, no gas. The oak tree had taken out only one end of our trailer so my husband and I stayed in the “good” end, which happened to be half of the den, the kitchen and our bedroom and bath. I figured it was just as miserable everywhere else without electricity and warm water so we might as well sleep in our own bed and take cold showers in our own tub. It was so odd seeing tree branches jutting through the living room. My daughter was lucky to have a friend who lived near the industrial area in town so they had electricity back on in a day. She spent several days with them in a cool home with hot water. The tree had got her room too so she was devastated over the loss of her things.

Our church became a local distribution center. Hot food was brought in from a nearby mission in town and several hundreds were served food and given supplies. Later, disaster relief teams from churches from Tennessee and North Carolina would come in for weeks to help with recovery. Praise the Lord for churches and Christians.

I think reality really set in when we got our electricity on six days later. The “camp” atmosphere was gone and we realized we had no home to go back to. But watching the news I realized just how fortunate we were. We had not lost our entire home like those along the coast. We dug and scraped and managed to get probably eighty percent of our belongings out. My husband even went to excessive lengths to dig out my daughters trophies that had embedded into the ceiling. Only one was broken.

Katrina rushed up our plans for the future. We knew we would one day remodel my parents home and live there. Since our home was a total loss, my mother bought a small trailer so we could go ahead and repair and remodel and move into the family home. We moved four times in the following year scrounging for places to rent, which wasn’t easy, while our home was remodeled.

But we are settled now. I consider us blessed. I know there are so many who still live in FEMA trailers and still don’t have a home to go to.

It just totally amazes me how this storm changed so many lives. Not just the loss of physical property but the emotional and mental anguish that came with it. I think, now if we were still in that trailer we wouldn’t have room for the two extra little girls we now have in the house. Others left the only place they had ever known as home and moved hundreds of miles away. Churches were affected by the loss of members, even pastors. Schools and ball teams were affected. Who knows who may have had a championship team “if” the athletes hadn’t moved away. Or who would have had a losing season if the evacuees hadn’t moved in. Or who would still be living if only they’d got out sooner. Or who may have died without a stranger’s help.

It’s like the butterfly effect. We’ll never know what would have been without Katrina.

I hope I never see another Katrina in my lifetime but odds are, I will.

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