Monday, August 29, 2016

#Katrina11 + #laflood = brand new perspective

Biloxi, before and after 

Hurricane Katrina.
Eleven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I grew up.

As tragic as that day, the months and years to follow have been, I didn't think I could feel any more strongly about personal belongings being destroyed than I did in 2005.

I thought, "You know, I'm FROM the coast. I get the sense of loss. I'm as close as you can come to being the one who actually lost everything."

And maybe I was. Maybe. 

Or maybe I didn't realize that while being away and not being able to help in the ways I wanted pained me, just as a picture of a destroyed landscape doesn't show a 360 degree view, nor does not living in it.

Panoramic view from our driveway in Baton Rouge, 

taken this evening.

Maybe I kind of missed out on the fact that driving past debris piles daily wears on you. Seeing others' belongings sitting on their street is saddening in ways you can't describe. And hearing about diggers climbing on debris mounds is both infuriating and heartbreaking at the same time.

And there's no maybe about this one -- I certainly didn't think about the toll a mass displacement takes on hosts and hostesses during this type of crisis. "Yes, please come into my home. I want to make you feel welcome. What can I do to help you?" And then silently, surely, "How long will this last again? They're nice, family needs some normalcy, man." 

Then the guilt. Everyone involved feels the guilt.

Those of us who went through it wonder what we could've done better, how we could've been proactive.

Those of us not present to help want to be there to help, even when there's nothing tangible to do, and maybe even nowhere to stay while we do the nothing that's so important for us to feel like we're doing. (This was 100% me in Katrina while I was three hours' north of my family, by the way.)

Those of us present bend over backwards to help however we can. Laundry? Dishes? A place to hang out? A meal? My home? A ride to work?

It's all over the top, and we are over the top, and our emotional barometers are full before we can ever brush our teeth in the mornings.

Each anniversary of Katrina, I reminisce on my beautiful upbringing and all the places and faces I call "home."

This year is different.

This year I'm empathizing with Nan, and all the times I offered to give her something -- you know, a basic, like a nail file, and she replied with, "Well honey, I used t'have SEVEN of 'em, but now I guess they're FLOATIN' in th' GULF a' MEXICO."

This year I'm thinking about my Mother, and her multiple washings of Nan's and others' clothes to make sure they got that "Katrina smell" out and saved the saveable clothes from ruining. (God BLESS laundry and dish washing angels!)

This year I'm thinking about Pop Ball, who diligently worked at contacting FEMA and filing insurance claims and making repairs like it was his job, and I'm thankful for a husband that is doing the same, on top of his own full-time job, plus spraying the house nightly for mold and sorting through clothes as we organize ourselves in another new place.

This year I'm thinking about the many who hosted families like my own little Maricelli bunch of Baton Rouge in their homes when they were displaced by that storm.

This year I'm thinking of all the power outages, which I am thankful we are not dealing with, and all the nasty heat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August '05 and in Baton Rouge in August '16, and how we are all getting so much sun, but not in an ideal way.

This year, on the anniversary of the storm that changed the landscape of my upbringing, I'm thinking about the first 18-wheelers I saw coming into Baton Rouge post-flood, and how they were all from my Mississippi Gulf Coast. And the first of still ongoing Red Cross trucks that delivered meals to my neighborhood, and how they were from my Mississippi Gulf Coast, too.

No, this memory and day aren't all about what we went through in Baton Rouge, but I'm experiencing a different sort of commemoration of Hurricane Katrina, and it's all because of the flood we just experienced and, though we [read: me] are terrified, we have been shown enormous kindnesses.

Mainly, I'm keenly aware that while eleven years ago today Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of where I grew up, and that while two weeks ago a flood changed the landscape of my present life, I am from a resilient people, and a pattern has been set to overcome tragedy. Michael and I will not just survive; we will thrive.

Our perspective may have changed, but our resolve has only strengthened.

Of all the beliefs that remain unchanged, though, there's this: good riddance, Katrina.

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