Thursday, November 13, 2008

The realities of Katrina still live in people

Not too long ago I met a 17-year old girl from New Orleans. As I was taking her home one evening, I asked her if she had moved to Dallas because of the hurricane. She did.

She began explaining the horror and the fear she and her family endured during the hurricane as they moved to the upstairs of their home, then had to break through the attic as the water rose higher and higher. She explained that they were ordered to evacuate a couple of weeks before for a different hurricane scare and they didn't have the money to evacuate again. They were hoping this would also be a false alarm, but as the water rushed in, they knew they were in trouble.

They were stranded on their rooftop with only a box of cereal. She talked about how they communicated from the rooftops with three other families, trying to figure out a plan to survive. Helicopters kept flying over, but none bothered to stop.

After three days on their rooftop, the four families decided they needed to get to the infamous bridge that they could see from their rooftop. They could now see that buses had begun arriving taking people to safety.

The families used a door that the hurricane winds and water had busted off of its hinges and began taking turns swimming and using the door for a floating device. However, after their horrendous journey swimming through the waters, the bridge did not offer them the route to safety they had hoped for.

So few buses and so many people created chaos. Perhaps on purpose, the buses kept stopping on opposite ends of the bridge causing people to run back and forth trying to get to find safety...trying to get out, often losing the people they were trying so desperately to hang on to. At a last ditch effort, my friend was able to lurch onto a bus and hang on to her mother, despite the official's attempt to separate their hands.

You would never know all she went through by talking to her. She said it has taken her quite a while to be able to talk about it. But as she talks, she lights up as she remembers the music, the culture, the city where she once lived.


In the French Quarter where I am...and I'm sure where most tourists go...the memories of a hurricane, to the naked eye are gone. But, it is my friend and the remaining devastation that prevents her from moving back that I think of as I sit in Cafe du Monde eating beignets and drinking coffee.
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