Memoirs of a Refugee:
The last few days have been unprecedented in my life. Here's a brief rundown of my thoughts and experiences: Friday, 9 AM: I am at my favorite spa with my daughter, who has come in from Houston for a big birthday bash for my husband. Friday, 4 PM: I'm just finishing party preparations. Saturday, 3 AM: the end of a great party.
Saturday, August 27:
Saturday, 7 AM: The news is bad. Katrina has taken a turn towards us and she's getting stronger. 5 PM: We have done as much as we can to secure the house and are on the road to Baton Rouge to join family who have rooms in a motel. 7 PM: We find our family. It's Saturday August 27, my 39th wedding anniversary. My husband, the romantic devil, has taken me to a nearby Shoney's and sprung for the $11.95 buffet. Because I'm a tea drinker, and in the rush to leave have no means to make tea in the morning, he takes me next door to a truck stop and buys some tea bags. It's a special occasion, so he also buys a plastic mug for $2.49. It comes with five free refills. He's such a big spender.
Sunday, August 28:
We get up early and head toward Houston in a caravan. My husband and I are in our car, my mother and sister are in another, and my youngest daughter, her husband and three children are in the third. All three cars are filled with treasured photographs, important papers, and ice chests with food and water. (New Orleanians never flee from a hurricane without lots of seafood.)
2 PM: My 9-month-old granddaughter can stand no more, and we stop at a Wendy's so my daughter can nurse her in the back of the van. Thank goodness for tinted windows. About seven hours later we make it to my older daughter's house in Houston. She left early Saturday morning and is prepared for us. We go to my sister's house and cook up some of the crawfish we brought. We are also in luck; my brother-in-law went fishing over the weekend and he blackens some fresh fish.
Monday, August 29:
We have spent much of last night watching video streaming from the news channels at home. The national press never seems to get anything right. I saw one CNN reporter on Commerce St. in the American Sector claim he was in the French Quarter. Bienville probably turned over in his grave. The Creoles would never let anyone on Commerce Street in the French Quarter. They didn't even let them use the street names that cross over from the French Quarter into the American Sector. But, I realize I digress.
We hear some good news. Katrina has passed just to our east. We may be saved. We spend the day huddled together eating, praying, watching the computer screen and playing with the children to keep them from getting too scared. At one point my 6-year-old grandson asks me if we will have to live in Texas forever. He's worried what will happen to his cat, Arbo, left at home with a week's worth of food and water. I just tell him that Arbo is a pretty smart cat and can catch birds if he gets too hungry. My grandson looks at me sadly and says simply, Arbo can't swim.
Monday, August 29: Evening:
We are all exhausted and I'm beginning to see signs of stress in all of us. We all handled these things differently. I wondered why I didn't save a better purse. One of my daughter looks at me and laughs. She said, "That's the first thing you think about?" It occurs to me that I only have clothes for about four days and one pair of shoes. I wonder if my two 80-year-old crepe myrtle trees will make it.
I fall asleep at about 1:00 AM and get back up at 3. The house is quiet and I turn on the video stream. The news is not good. The levee was breached in the 9th Ward and water is pouring into the homes. I know that area well. I was there last when I took photos in the St. Roch Cemetery for this site.
There's Got to be a Morning After:
As my eyes are glued to the TV and the internet news feeds from New Orleans, I keep thinking there's got to be a morning after. When will the bad news end? There are several breaks in the levee system and the I-10 East bridges are gone. 80% of New Orleans is under water and downtown looks like Beirut. That's only some of the bad news I know. What about the homes of my family and friends? What about my home? It was built in 1876 and, like most homes in the Uptown area, is well over 100 years old. Have they stood proud and beautiful, sheltering many generations of New Orleans families only to be blown, or washed away in one day?
The devastation of some much of my home is testing my resolve. I have decided the only thing to do today is to go with my daughters and their families to Chuck-E-Cheese for lunch and hope to get some good news later. After all, there's got to be a morning after.