My 1996 Saturn SL2 had 12.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

And on the morning of August 30, 2005, I realized that nearly everything I owned was in it. You see, I lived in the Lakeview area of New Orleans. I thought that was pretty funny, given that I couldn’t see the lake from my house, but, whatever. It was a great neighborhood. It was relatively safe, quiet and pretty. The streets were lined with beautiful live oak trees that were protected by law and in whose winter, leafless branches you could see the remnants of the neighborhood Mardi Gras parade. In the neutral zones between lanes in the street, there were enormous crepe myrtles that seemed to be nearly always in bloom. There were some locally owned grocery stores, some restaurants, an elementary school, a library, gym, video stores, and a great coffee shop. I left the neighborhood to go to work and to go to church. But, mostly, everything we needed was right there within walking distance. I didn’t know a great many of the people in the neighborhood other than by sight. But the same crowd showed up most Saturday mornings to Coffee and Company. There was the man with the maroon and black Citroen Duck car, the white haired lady who covered all of her exposed skin and who wore super dark sunglasses regardless of the time of day or amount of sunlight. There were children just off the soccer field out for a Saturday treat with Dad. They normally sat at the outside tables where I sat. I would wait until they left to have my morning cigarette to follow the latte and chocolate croissant I’d just enjoyed. Then I would read and smoke, drinking my latte, listening to the bells of St. Dominic church on Harrison Ave. It was a weekend routine that I deeply enjoyed. I was looking forward to that routine on Friday afternoon when I left work. We had been keeping a curious eye on Katrina as she crossed over Florida and headed into the Gulf. She seemed to be gaining both size and strength, but we were generally unconcerned. After all, only the year before we had all headed for the hills having been warned that Hurricane Ivan would wash us all away and we hadn’t even gotten a good soaking rain out of it. So, in blissful ignorance, we all left work, calling out that we would see each other on Monday. I would not see some of my coworkers again for more than 2 years. I watched the storm a little more closely on Saturday. My son and I went car shopping, as our little Saturn which had served us so well, was on its last legs. Most of the dealerships we visited were closing early to load their inventory on trucks to move further inland; so, our expedition was cut short and we returned home to watch Margaret Orr give us the weather updates. Seeing that the storm was nearly filling the entire Gulf of Mexico and looked to be bearing down right on the city, I made the decision to evacuate. However, it was still early in the day and I had seen lines at the gas stations earlier; so, I decided that we would wait until about 7 PM to leave. And, since our last evacuation to Jackson, MS, 161 miles away took us nearly 8 hours, I took a nap. After waking, we loaded the car with my giant basket of photographs, the fire safe, a cooler containing the contents of my freezer (the choice to take that still baffles me, by the way), four changes of clothes for each of us, two pairs of shoes each, our 17-year-old cat (most unhappy in her container), our recently, severely injured 9-month-old Labrador (thrilled to be alive in his large kennel) and the large folding pen we used to restrict his activity. There were so

many things in crammed into my tiny car (got a dog pen? Sure! Got a weather radio? Sure! Elephant in there? Lemme check.) that it became a running joke for the time we were there and sometimes, even now. I closed my front door, whispering “Please be here when I come back.” No kidding, I really did that. Looking back, I should have been more specific. I walked to the car, said good-bye to my neighbors (some of whom I have neither seen nor heard from since) and pulled away from the curb. I handed my son the map so that he could navigate us along the back roads after we crossed the Causeway from Metairie to Mandeville. We made much better time than we had the previous year and when we got to I-55, I saw one of the reasons why. The contra-flow had been instituted so that all four lanes of the interstate were for northbound traffic. This was true from where the interstate met I-10 all the way to McComb, MS – about 91 miles away. My son was watching a movie on his portable DVD player, but I made him look up to witness the bizarre scene of only tail lights as far as we could see. I told him to remember this. It would be a good story to tell his grandchildren. Little did I know. Our trip was fairly uneventful and much shorter than it had been the previous year. We arrived at my cousin’s house in Jackson at around midnight, our drive having lasted 4.5 hours, only about an hour longer than usual. My cousin and his wife were in Destin at the time, but he welcomed us to stay there, letting me know the location of the spare key and assuring us that the alarm was not set. This was about the time that God really started laughing. I could not initially find the key in the dark; so, I was using my cell phone as a flashlight. My cousin had failed to tell me that his home had recently been burgled and that his neighbors were extraordinarily vigilant. They had already called the police when, from the backseat of the car, the dog barked. Did you know that some alarm systems pick up the sound of a dog barking and register it as glass breaking? They do. I know! I was surprised, too. About the time I found the key and made it to the side door, the alarm stopped screaming and the police pulled into the driveway. After much discussion and ado, they were assured that I did, in fact, have permission to be there and had no more nefarious plans than to empty some things from the car and go to sleep. One of the things I needed to get from the car was the cooler bearing the contents of my freezer, including a frozen chicken. Now, my cousin’s wife is a vegetarian and here I am in her house with a frozen chicken carcass. When putting it into the freezer, I dropped it on the kitchen floor starting a Karmic chain reaction. Did you know that some alarm systems pick up the sound of a frozen chicken hitting a kitchen floor and register it as glass breaking? They do. I know! I was surprised, too. Again. My cousin had given me the location of and code to the alarm keypad. It was near some door. Well, their house has about 70 exterior doors. In a near blind panic, I raced from one to the next, not finding the keypad. All the while their golden retriever Kip was calmly staring at an open closet door. Behind that door was, you guessed it, the keypad. Thank God for Kip. The alarm had been blaring too long to stop the call; so, the patrol car arrived again. I chatted with the officers and assured them again that I was no burglar, just a clumsy, Karma-ignoring, storm refugee. The alarm company called to request that I call the neighbors to assure them of who I was and what business I had at my cousin’s home.

Apparently, the neighbors had somehow contacted the alarm company. Anyway, I called them. After a 30-minute conversation about storms, burglars, other refugees, and my cousin and with a promise to share Mary Mahoney’s oyster soup recipe, they were assured that I was no burglar, just a clumsy, Karma-ignoring, storm refugee who was a big fan of Mary Mahoney’s restaurant in Biloxi. Although my cousin had said that they would be staying in Destin for the duration of the storm, he and his wife decided to come home and arrived on Sunday. We had a couple of beers, had a few laughs and enjoyed each other’s company. The storm arrived on Monday. For awhile, we were glued to the television, watching weather reporters being blown about, watching window blinds in buildings in the Central Business District being sucked out of the windows to bang against the sills, watching, watching. After some time, we didn’t have to watch it on television anymore – it was right outside the windows. Even in Jackson, the winds were horrific. I’ve heard that they might have been in the range of 60 mph. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t care. I know that as I looked out of the big living room window, I saw tall, thin pine trees bending to what looked like an improbable 45 to 50 degree angle. I saw branches flying over the grass and rain moving through oak trees like a swarm of gnats over a mud bank. That was one of the most surprising sights – the rain. It didn’t come down in a normal way. It came down like a great blob of drops thrown from the clouds. From time to time, a loud crack would announce a broken branch somewhere nearby or a tremendous groan would tell of a falling tree. Since our line of vision was limited, there were always tense moments wondering if the falling branch or tree was about to be next to us on the couch. Late in the afternoon, we lost electricity; so, we moved our game of Simpson’s Clue outside under the carport. Really. What else are you to do in a storm? Playing Clue seemed like as good a diversion as any. My cousin won the game, but I’m just sure he cheated. At last, the storm passed. The winds slowed, returned to a breeze and then were gone altogether. The broken pine trees lent the neighborhood the smell of a Christmas tree lot. There was no damage to my cousin’s home and, although we had no power and limited cell service, we were safe. Before we lost power, I had heard that the stormed had moved through New Orleans, but that, for the most part, the city was okay. The levees had held. I had been concerned about that since when evacuating for Ivan long-time residents had told me that if the levees failed, the city could be underwater for up to six months. As I lay down to sleep in the dark, muggy house, I was calm, knowing that I could return home Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday. Tuesday dawned a beautiful day. Since phone lines were down and cell service spotty, the four of us – my cousin, his wife, my son and me – piled into their Rav 4 and headed across town to check on other family. Sitting in the backseat of the car, driving down Ridgewood Road, a call made it through to my cell phone. It was my aunt who also lived on Orleans Avenue. She had heard a different report. She told me that the levees had failed. Our homes were under 10 to 12 feet of water. Everything was gone. Everything I owned now fit into the 12.1 cubic feet of my car. I couldn’t feel my hands. My whole body was numb. In an instant, I was homeless and unemployed. My world became like a snow-globe in the hands of a hyperactive toddler. I felt it all moving around me, out of

my control and in random, erratic motions. I suppose I was in shock. I remember tearing up at the time and shedding a few tears, but I don’t remember sobbing just yet. In fact, I don’t remember sobbing that day. I remember feeling some grief for the loss of things like the antique pump organ that my great-grandfather had bought and that was in my living room. But, mostly, I remember being honestly glad that we were alive, whole and healthy. I spoke with other refugees whose homes were near mine, on the City Park side of the Orleans Street Canal, and who harbored great hope that their homes were dry. I harbored no such hope and discovered a freedom in that complete loss of control. I had no need to worry about my home or the possessions in it. I was confident that it was underwater and that, likely, everything in it was destroyed. I suppose there was some peace in knowing or maybe, like I said, I was in shock. I don’t know. Either way, I knew that there was no going home that day or any day in the near future. I had a 12year-old son who needed to be back in school and who depended on me as his sole means of support. I had bills to pay and obligations to meet. I needed a plan. A few family members in the Jackson, area offered to let us stay with them until we could go home or form another plan. Friends from California, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, well, just everywhere, made the same offer. However, moving me, my son, a cranky, geriatric cat and a hyper, healing puppy into anyone’s home would be disruptive, at best. So, I did what any good Southern girl would do – I ran to my daddy. Women in other regions of the country may have Dads or Fathers, but Deep South girls have Daddies. And when we’re hurting or need a hand, we go to them. My daddy lives in Lexington, TN. I called to tell him that we were coming. He was not surprised. I told you, when we need a hand, we go to our Daddies. They know this and expect us. I remember sobbing at my daddy’s. Dad cooked great meals for us, took my son around town, took me to a Rotarian lunch and arranged activities for us to help keep us busy. I pitched in with cooking and housework a little, but spent a great deal of time watching the news, filing with FEMA, the Red Cross and everyone else I thought I should. I called friends from outside Louisiana to let them know we were safe and tried to find friends from New Orleans. People asked what we needed, to which I replied, “Everything.” And, you know what? They gave it. I went to a local meeting with the Red Cross with the other refugees that ended up in Lexington. Standing in line, the woman next to me began to weep. I hugged her to try to comfort her. At length, she stopped crying. I never knew her name. In addition to the relief offered by the Red Cross, merchants in the city of Lexington gave us toiletries, a couple of changes of clothes, food and even haircuts. The generosity of those strangers was overwhelming, but the largest tide of kindness was yet to come. I had some savings, but had no idea how long they would last; so, swallowing my pride, I applied for the food stamps for which I was now eligible. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. However, I did not want to become a financial strain to my dad and I

really had no idea how long I was going to be without a job or what I was going to do, ultimately. That night, as I lay trying to sleep, I began to sob. As the tears came faster and harder, I left the bed, went to the sofa, put my head on my daddy’s shoulder, let the events overwhelm me and I wept until I had no tears left. My tears relieved some of the tension I felt, but I still needed a plan. I found one in my phone calls to friends. One friend was working in Smyrna, TN, for an aircraft charter company. They were looking only for someone for a data-entry job, but it was an industry I had several years of experience in and they were interested in speaking with me. In setting up an initial interview, I told the woman that I would be thrilled to come over and sit down with everyone, but that, I truly had nothing to wear but some Capri pants and t-shirts. She assured me that they were unconcerned with my clothing. In the interview, the CEO of the company asked me, if they offered me the job, when would I be able to start? I told them that I could start right away since it wasn’t like I had anything to pack. Gallows humor, I suppose, but those were the facts. A couple of days later, they offered me the job. I told my daddy who shared an excited hug with me. As I felt his tears hit my hair, I got a very real sense, for the second time in my life, of how much my father loved me and how worried he had been for me. So, within two weeks of losing nearly everything, I had a new job. Now, I needed a place to live. A fantastic realtor in Smyrna solved that problem for me very quickly and within two months of the storm, I was working again and moving into a new home. Since we had arrived in Lexington, friends and family had sent money, clothes, household goods, you name it. When we moved to Smyrna, Rock Springs Church adopted us and supplied us with everything else we needed and even a replacement video gaming system for my son. As I said, I had been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people of Lexington, but the additional gifts of friends and strangers touched and humbled me in a way I could not have imagined. Through the kindness of those people, we began to build a new life. In October, my aunt and I organized a salvaging group to go to our homes and see if there was anything we could save. There were fourteen precious people who made the trip with us. There were more who volunteered, but, once the date was set, only fourteen were available. We headed out from Jackson, MS, in a Sienna van, a Suburban with an open trailer and a Silverado truck carrying horse feed. My sister was in the truck and was involved in an animal rescue effort, as well. We drove south on I-55 until we reached Hammond. At Hammond, we drove East over to Mandeville so that we could take the Pontchartrain bridge, which we knew to be in good condition, over the lake into Metairie. Driving along Hwy XXXX from Hammond to Mandeville provided us with views I had never imagined. Normally, the area is full of long, thin pine trees. These trees were lying beside the road with all of the order of toothpicks in a box. All of them had fallen the same direction and were lying there in this bizarrely orderly fashion. Before we reached Mandeville, we passed over the line that the storm’s eye had taken, for, the trees which had been lying down with their crowns facing south, were suddenly lying with their crowns facing north. A clearer demarcation of the wind’s ferocity and direction, I could not have imagined.

Our goal was Metairie since we were to meet a former college roommate of mine who had volunteered to show up with rubber boots, Kleenex and beer – lots of beer. Although my home was a short drive down Veterans Ave from our meeting place at Lakeside Mall in Metairie, we could not get into the neighborhood that way. Our neighborhood was still officially closed. Can you imagine that? Two months after the storm and having already been inspected for hazardous leaks and human remains, the neighborhood was still closed to those who owned property there. We had heard that the police department were very vigilant and would turn you away; however, we had also heard that many National Guardsmen were more compassionate and, if you had documents showing an address in the affected area, would let you through. As a result, we drove through Hell and half of Georgia to get into the neighborhood – but we got in. We drove down Carrollton Ave and the New York New York Pizzeria – a favorite for me and my son. For a treat, would go there on Friday nights, order a pizza, play board games until the pie arrived, then gorge ourselves on the delicious food. We’d walk a little to settle ourselves before heading two doors down to Brocatos Italian Ice and Bakery for some gelato and cappuccino. Fantastic food, but parking was always a nightmare. It might take up to ten minutes to find a spot! On our salvaging day, parking was abundant. We drove through City Park, deserted and quiet. The park is known for its beautiful live oak trees with their enormous trunks and low, thick branches, perfect for climbing along, reading or picnicking beneath. At Christmas, the city celebrates with Christmas in the Oaks. You drive through the park serenaded by Christmas carols and view the corporately sponsored ingenious decorations in the oaks. As we drove through on this day, many of these graceful live oaks were literally shattered. The winds had jerked their tentacle branches so violently, that the trunks had split in multiple directions. My friend Willy and his cousin Randy still live in Metairie and had actually reached my home before I did. They discovered that the front door was still locked, as I had left it. More than just being locked, though, it was rusted closed. Willy had gone around to the back door to get into the duplex that way. The problem there was that the washing machine, dryer and wooden back steps had floated. When the flood waters receded, the three items landed in such a way as to wedge the back door closed. The only way in was to break a front window. They broke the window, thinking to be able to eventually open the front door that way. It was a good idea, but, ultimately, the only way in was the break the solid wood door that had protected our home for the more than three years we had lived there. Once inside and able to look around, Willy strongly advised me not to come. He repeatedly asked me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to see the state of my home. All of my belongings were in that house. I wanted to see them whatever state they were in and there were three things I thought might have survived the water. I wanted to see if I could find those three things. During the drive through the city, the visual information my eyes were receiving was so shocking, that it was not until we reached my home that I began to process information from my other senses. The first sensation to register with me was the odor. I had expected the area to smell so horrible that we would all need the Vick’s rub I had brought

to put under our noses. It wasn’t that bad, really. To help put it in perspective; I would classify the smell as worse than a port-o-potty, but not as bad as a chicken farm. It was unpleasant, but it didn’t take our breath away. The second sensation to register was the temperature. Even in October, New Orleans can be steamy and uncomfortable. That day was cloudless and breezy and remarkably unoppressive. We had brought rubber boots, layers of rubber gloves, breathing masks and Tyvek suits to wear to protect us against God-knew-what contaminants we were about to encounter. I had dreaded the idea that we would have to don all of this gear at 90 degrees with 97% humidity. The third and perhaps the most surreal (and given the context, that’s saying a lot) thing was the absence of bugs and birds. The duplex that my son and I rented was on the Orleans Street Canal, just at the end of City Park. There were always dragonflies and wasps everywhere. Barber parrots lived in the park and, while pretty, were hideously noisy. On this day, the air was quiet - no traffic, no insects, no birds, no sounds. Inside the houses we did find copious numbers of house flies living and breeding in the dog food and spoiled pantry staples. But, outside, all was still and quiet. While I was grateful to Willy and Randy for getting in, I was initially disturbed that I was not going to be the first one to see my home and that there would be no time for me to see it alone. When I walked in, there were several people already there, sort of triaging possessions as to what might be saved and what was surely lost. As it happened, it was good for me that everyone was already there and in attack mode. You see, I don’t like to cry in front of people. I don’t know why it’s a big deal for me, but it is. Over the years, I’ve been accused of being heartless and any number of other things for this near phobia, but it’s there, regardless of how anyone else feels about it. In fact, I spent a great deal of my mother’s funeral in the restroom at the Oliver Funeral Home to keep my grief a private thing rather than a public display. When I first walked into my living room, my knees very nearly collapsed beneath me. I truly believe that had there not been a host of people there, I would have fallen to a heap and wailed. As it was, we had fourteen people who had given up their time for us and a single day to salvage what we could from both mine and my aunt’s homes. We had a job to do and there just wasn’t time to cry. I walked through the duplex to get a quick idea of the damage. Everything in the living room was lost. We packed up my 20 years worth of CDs in the hope that some of them might be salvageable. The 150+ vinyl albums could not be saved. The furniture was mildews and the pump organ my great-grandfather had bought at the end of the 19th century was in dozens of pieces. My kitchen cabinets had not fallen off the wall as I had expected; so, my porcelain dishes along with my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s china were intact. Two boxes of my Christmas decorations had floated and, much to my delight, were saved. That was pretty much everything we were able to save from the first floor. On the second floor, I anticipated that all would be well.

The flood water did not reach the second floor of my home; however, the winds had heavily damaged the roof, leaving gaping holes over both bedrooms. Rain surely poured in through those holes as the beds were mildewed and the increased moisture had encouraged the growth of mold and mildew on every leather surface available. Books, belts, jackets and shoes were covered in the furry green patina of mold. There were some clothes, a few books and a couple of small tables that we could save. We also found my son’s two award winning Pinewood Derby entries. I have never so rejoiced to see little wooden cars. We took no clothing, blankets or other porous items that had been underwater for fear of the contaminants it held and because, really, you just can’t get mildew out of cloth once it has that kind of foothold. I had gone into the house expecting to find nothing to take away, but hoping to at least find a figurine that had belonged to my great-grandmother and three rocks I had brought home from near Omaha beach in Normandy. I found those three items and many more. I really looked on the other salvageable possessions as gravy – extras I never really expected to have again. After saving everything we could from the two homes, we loaded our weary, weary bodies back into the vehicles, drove back to Metairie the short way, cross the bridge over the 17th Street canal and went from the Dead Lands back into the real world – or at least close. In my neighborhood, grass was brown, birds and insects were absent, and streets were muddy, debris filled and devoid of traffic. Crossing the bridge into Metairie was rather like falling through the looking glass. There were people and cars moving around; grass and trees were green and unmarked by flood lines. Certainly, it wasn’t normal only one restaurant was open (and don’t you know they were doing a brisk business in chicken tenders!), buildings were clearly damaged and activity was far from normal. As far from normal as it was, Jefferson Parish on that October day was a hell of a lot closer to normal than anything we had just left behind in Orleans Parish! Such a band of exhausted humans we were that day headed back to Jackson pulling our trailer of smelly treasures. Little did we know that our exhaustion had just begun. The next morning, I called my new job to let them know that I would need a few more days off. The good news was that we had been able to salvage more than we had anticipated. The bad news was that we had been able to salvage more than we had anticipated. My new employers very graciously gave me the time that I needed. They owed me nothing, but gave me the time anyway. And time was what I needed at that point. Everything we had pulled out of those houses was covered in a film of Godknows-what and had to be cleaned. We started by washing everything in huge containers of anti-bacterial soap. Once the grime had been removed, everything went into bleach baths. The first soaking solution was about 20% bleach and the items stayed in it for an hour. The second solution was 10% bleach and items stayed in it for another hour. Items were then rinsed and put in the sunshine to dry. To make the process as efficient as possible, we purchased six large storage containers, filled two with each soaking solution and the remaining two with fresh water. We purchased several milk crate type containers

which could be loaded with dishes, glassware, CDs, whatever and moved from one bath to the next. The process was slow, tedious and physically exhausting. We were able to save some clothes and bedding from both my house and my aunt’s. While the items had not been submerged and had not started to mold or mildew, they all still had to be washed. My cousin Kimberly spent ten hours one day at a Laundromat washing, drying and folding our clothes. The clean clothes, along with the items we had soaked, were all packed into moving boxes and taken to a temperature controlled storage facility until we could find new homes for ourselves and have someplace to move all of these things to. As I write this, it sounds like we were able to save quite a bit – and, given the circumstances, we were. However, that “quite a bit” was the remains of two households. The things we saved from our combined living space of about 2600 square feet, fit into a 10 X 15? storage unit. I had a history teacher in high school who maintained that three good moves or one good fire would get rid of all of the stuff at your house that you really don’t need. I’ve since added “one good hurricane” to the list. In addition to downsizing my possessions, Katrina changed me in more and different ways than I would have anticipated. Hobbies no longer hold any interest for me, I don’t care to spend much time with some extended family and I no longer watch the news. When I lived in New Orleans, I enjoyed gardening, decorating for holidays, and listening to music. I don’t find myself engaging in those activities anymore. I took great joy in planting and caring for my flowers, and creating fun, little tableaux for holidays. My music collection featured Abba and Dan Fogelberg albums I bought in adolescence with babysitting money all the way through high school’s Pat Benatar, college’s George Strait and adulthood’s Sting. The roughly 500 recordings were the soundtrack to my life. These things and others which occupied so much of my time seem rather pointless to me now. I don’t garden at all. I decorate only for Christmas and, even then, with little of the joy that I felt before. I have replaced only about 30 CD and even those spend more time in the cabinet than in the player. There are many hobbies and interests I have dropped and replaced with nothing, really. I learned a great deal about my extended family, which I thought was fairly close. Both maternal and paternal aunts, uncles and cousins tend to have some kind of reunion each year just to stay in touch somehow. After the storm had passed, I emailed all of the family members with addresses to let them know that we were all okay –our stuff was gone, but we were safe. It was a huge disappointment and I find that even now, I feel no compunction to correspond or make any effort towards those who expressed such complete disregard for me, my son and my aunt during that period of time. In a way, I feel like I lost roughly half of my family. However, the family members, friends and even complete strangers who helped us or at least expressed their concern for us have my undying gratitude that is almost Chinese in nature – when you save a man’s life, you own it. I really feel like they saved mine.

As for the news, I’m sure that you’re likely sick to death of it all, too. The stories were unabashedly biased, sensational, with a very narrow focus. The storm and the situation afterwards were sensational and horrific all on their own. No further effort on the part of the media was required. Yet, that didn’t seem to slow them down at all. The blame for all of the system failures were laid squarely at the feet of the federal government without taking into account the US Constitution. There was plenty of blame to go around from people who refused to take responsibility for their own lives, through the mayor’s office, the governor’s mansion right on up to the White House. I’m going to share something with you that you would have not learned from watching the news coverage of the storm’s aftermath – the French Quarter, the Central Business District and the 9th Ward are only a part of the city. I know! What a shock! Very few stories even mentioned Gentilly, Mid-City, Lakeview, Marigny, New Orleans East or the Garden District. Guess what? In my Lakeview neighborhood, people died. In Gentilly, people died. In Mid-City, people died. People lost everything they had. People’s lives were ruined. Maybe they started out with more than some in the 9th Ward and maybe they had insurance, but since the insurance companies delayed or flatly refused to pay many claims, those other New Orleanians were just as ruined as the one from the 9th Ward. So, why is it that no one is making it right for them? Sure, the 9th Ward needs rebuilding - I’ve gone to the city and worked on building projects in the area myself. My point isn’t that they don’t need the help and attention; my point is that they aren’t the only ones who need the help and attention. People drowned in other neighborhoods or died from heat stroke in the attics they sought refuge in. Huge areas of the city are still deserted and crumbling, but, to hear the news media tell it, the 9th Ward has its white knights riding to rebuild and the French Quarter is okay; so, the city is just fine. I’ve got news for you – that city won’t be fine again for years, maybe decades. My life has been full and active. With activity, comes the chance for loss. I’ve grieved over lost loves, lost dreams, deceased family, friends, and pets. I’ve moved, leaving one town and set of friends to go someplace new. Any kind of loss like that, even the small ones, takes something out of you. It takes time to recover, whether we let ourselves think so or not. Like everyone else, some of my personal losses have taken longer to overcome than others; however, if I’m going to be truthful, I’d have to say that this one is the biggest and its wounds will take the longest to heal. I don’t know if it’s because the event was so unexpected (yeah, yeah, I know it was possible, but , as Monty Python pointed out, no one really expects the Spanish Inquisition), so enormous or because it came with further, unforeseen ramifications in the form of the feeling of betrayal by family, the government and the media. Whatever the reason, I know that sometimes I can forget, but, then I go through the house looking for something I once owned. Then, suddenly, almost five years after the storm, I still feel buffeted by the winds all over again.

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