Friday, August 29, 2008

Katrina: Three Years Later

Today (Aug. 29) marks the third anniversary of hurricane Katrina making landfall. It seems like an eternity ago, but when I stop and really think about it, the memories flood my senses like I was just there yesterday. The 4 inches of mud everywhere in the yard. The dead-brown look everything that was once green had after sucking up so much saltwater. The smell of rancid meat and sewage and diesel fuel and dreams...sitting, rotting on the floor.
The first floor of my house looking like
war-torn Kosovo. The sweat dripping as I try to sleep on a sleeping bag on the hard floor with no breeze. The thrill of a hot meal, the first in 4 days; chicken and rice from a Red Cross van. The smile that came from a bucket of cleaning supplies packed by FUMC in Montgomery. Two months with no power. Six weeks with no water. Line after huge line waiting to fill out FEMA paperwork only for them to scoff at you as if you had just floated up on a raft from Cuba, and tell you losing nearly everything you own plus nearly 8 feet of water in your house, was only worth $5000. If only my address had ended with LA instead of AL... the switch of two tiny letters would make all the difference. In new orleans, they were getting $2000 debit cards and promises of brand new houses to replace their crack shacks, never ending aid and publicity and sympathy for their loss that, because their address contained an LA and not an AL, was somehow, more significant than mine.

Three years later, some things have returned to how they were. Sheetrock has been replaced, new furniture bought, and debris piles have faded, but the sting is still there. The pang of loss that still creeps up even though you have moved on. The careless recollection of knowing you have something stowed away in a closet somewhere at home, and then remembering that you don't. The emptiness of vacant lots where your friends once lived and business once stood. But the thing that probably stings the most, is knowing that even though we have all been through so much, if it happened again today, nothing has changed. Bureaucracy would still slow relief to a trickle, preference would be given to a special few, and the media would once again forsake you for a crackhead in new orleans.

Some may disagree with me, but this is how I feel. This was my experience. And this is why I have no sympathy for those who play the sympathy card. Everyone is dealt a bad hand from time to time, but there comes a point when we have to move on. I have moved on. I have rebuilt my life not with the help of Uncle Sam, who has been too busy dumping truckloads of money, and effort, and resources into new orleans to help the likes of me; but with the help of those who love me. Those that stood by me and sustained me and built me back up.

And for them, I am truly thankful.


American-Woman said...

Taking the 'move on' outlook will help you become the person you want to be. Earlier this summer when other parts of the country were being flooded, my husband commented on how these people weren't belly-aching, but just quietly rebuilding their lives.

The lesson to learn from this is one of non-attachment. Things (as you well know by now) can be replaced.

I met a man in Prattville that had lost his home to a tornado. When I told him how sorry I was, he said 'Oh, it's ok. God has blessed us and we're having a great time picking out new floor plans.' I was amazed at his grace. I know you'd rather be like this man than like those in NOLA.

Albert Schweitzer said:
No one can give a definition of the soul. But we know what it feels like. The soul is the sense of something higher than ourselves, something that stirs in us thoughts, hopes, and aspirations which go out to the world of goodness, truth and beauty. The soul is a burning desire to breathe in this world of light and never to lose it - to remain children of light.

You're a child of light Sam. You have soul.

DP said...

Sam...we didn't know you were affected by Katrina. You should have called us...we would have loaded you a truck of stuff instead of sending it to MS and LA. Speaking of stuff...I sent you a package on August 20. If you didn't get it let me know...there was a belated graduation check included.