Home Where You can find me on the webs The Threshold DesignWrite

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Memories

Chalmette neighborhood after Katrina

Lately I've been having a lot of fun on Facebook on the "Your [sic] probably from 
St. Bernard if...." --
Maybe you've got your own hometown version. 
But I bet the comments on yours aren't peppered with :
 "Remember the Chateau before Katrina?"
 "We used to go to Splash / Skateland / St.Robert de Bellarmine before the storm."
"How long did it take you to come back / rebuild / find work after the storm?"
 "Where did you live before your family got all scattered by the storm?" This one gives me a pang of sad in my heart because everyone sings out addresses and housenumbers and landmarks that are no longer there, and people reply to the responses with "I remember that house!"
"That got demolished...,"
"Did they make it out in time?"

Globe photo by Erik Jacobs

 I have no right to be a part of Katrina memories in my hometown, because  
I lived through Katrina in Georgia. 

We'd just returned from Metairie ("Metry") the weekend before, with me grousing about traveling nine hours over a school weekend for my 78 year old widowed mother in law's wedding to a fine gentleman at St. Benilde's Church there. 
We also grabbed the opportunity to visit with my parents in Mobile on the way home. 
The sun shone, the air was hot and muggy and scented with mimosas - all was normal.

Katrina had gone out to simmer in the Gulf awhile, and all the forecasts predicted she'd go west and miss the Crescent City. 
But she stewed out there and gathered up her anger and did what she wanted to do: blow east.
New Orleans evacuated. The newlyweds drove west, other family members drove east to a relative's in Macon. They got stranded there for a month because the Seven Mile bridge from Slidell to Metairie broke in two.
My parents in Mobile left their home to ride it out  in a nearby extended stay hotel. They'd survived the fallen oaks Frederick left twenty years earlier - it wouldn't be safe at their age to be trapped by those giants again. 

I went to work. I fretted and worried, called and watched the news: I logged on to the internet for some word or news, but everyone was out of communication with the internet, phone lines, and cells knocked out by Katrina's winds.  

Then the real nightmare began. 

photo by Genaro Molina

We called a friend who'd stayed for the storm in Metry to check on the newlyweds' house. Wind damaged the roof and a tree, but nothing more. Water lapped at the front door of my brother in law's home, but didn't make it in. We were all blessed.
The appliances - full of spoiled food from the power outages - were put out for the garbage collection. Air conditioning didn't work. Ever been in New Orleans? The one week it's not hot there is in February.
Imagine the stench. Garbage and refuse and dead animals in piles as high as six feet lined the streets.
Every street.

There are loads of YouTube videos, news footage, blogs memorializing the horrors burned into our minds. 
I don't need them. 

My cousins' homes in Plaquemine's Parish suffered flooding and wind damage. But they escaped unharmed and rebuilt further inland. Their old ways of life - living streets apart, a levee in the backyard holding back the river - gone. Looters stole thousands of dollars worth of lumber from the family business. 

My own childhood home of screen doors and chandeliers still stands like a wobbly grande dame, a little worse for the beatings of an overflowing spillway. It's been repaired, but looters took the chandelier. The wrought iron gates came off their hinges and rusted, and the garage door was marked at the top by the water level. Next door, the neighbors' neat white brick ranch is a bare concrete slab. My playmate's home is also gone - it sported the black demolition 'X' last time I saw it.

photo courtesy of Lisa V. Hecht

A friend lost a grandparent who suffocated in his attic, waiting too long for rescue. 
An  honorary aunt and uncle - old  friends of the family - the husband afflicted with the early stages of Alzheimer's and unable to see nature's reality, drowned.
Looking back now, we can see where a series of mini strokes affected my own dear mother in law, now manifesting itself as Alzheimer's.
She was the home that we lost. 

Memories scar over and heal. People are buried, the streets are cleared, the mimosa trees bloom  and scent the air again. 
Life goes on in a state of repair, though never quite the same.  Rocky and Carlos' Family Restaurant and Bar, where Ladies are Invited, is back. My cousins reestablished the family lumber company, now approaching its hundredth year.
But so many are scattered and apart from their home towns, a choice forced upon them by fear. 

Here in Georgia a hundred year rain flooded our basement. We dried the carpet with towels and a dehumidifier. 
We didn't have to pull up carpet and padding, throw away appliances, pull sheetrock off the studs, or clean mold and mildew off framed family pictures. We didn't lose anything or anyone.
Our house, with its street numbers nailed to the mailbox, its flower pots and park bench in the yard, the gas station that sells candy and coffee on the corner -- all are intact.



Copyright2011©Pamela V. Mason, all rights reserved


  1. Wow! Really makes you think. We have the You're probably from... going on with our home town. Although we don't live there, it does help to bring up memories long forgotten only because we moved on. No disaster involved, just growth.

    I haven't had to live through something like that so my next comment might seem callous, but I say this often. What if... this had never happened? Would couples who might never have met outside of being displaced by the storm ever have met? What if one of their children grow up to be a well known senator or even president? What if someone who uses this experience to go out and help others wasn't there and the people they help didn't get what they needed? What if... It sucks after seeing such widespread damage. But what if it had not happened? Would we not be better prepared to handle the next natural disaster? Would people not be using the experiences learned from Katrina to keep those experiencing the hurricane along the east coast right now to stay alive?

    It sucks that it happened and I feel for all those who had to live through or lose something along the way. I just hope that their loses can be used to keep someone else from having to go through the very same thing.

    Okay, enough blabbing. This is a great post and really makes a person think. Thanks for sharing your experience and your lose with us.


  2. There you go messing with the universe's time/space continuum Tami, lol!

  3. Great Post Pam, truly makes one think and be thankful for what we have.


  4. Yes Leanne - especially thankful for air conditioning! Thanks for stopping by!


Thank you for following!