Monday, September 3, 2012

Waiting for Isaac while remembering Katrina

Waiting for Isaac While Remembering Katrina

Once again those of us in New Orleans are watching a hurricane, waiting to see if Isaac is going to show up at our doorstep or pass us by.  We've been here before, watching and waiting.

In 2005, we did the same for Katrina. Only then we really didn't think it was going to hit. While we evacuated, we brought only enough clothes (and diapers, because I had two little ones) for a long weekend. We left on a Saturday, before a mandatory evacuation had been called.  We planned on returning home Monday or Tuesday, believing deep in our hearts that a hurricane would never hit us.

My mother, my two daughters, and I stayed at the Embassy Suites in Houston. Houston was THE place for New Orleans people to evacuate. Most of us vacationed there frequently, a sort of home away from home.  Our hotel had swans in the lobby, which tickled my children, a clown who made balloon animals, which terrified me, and was something like 40 steps away from the Galleria shopping mall, which thrilled all of us.

By the end of it, we were there for two weeks. Two weeks in a nice hotels sounds like fun, but it really isn't. Especially when you've made your husband join you at the 11th hour and he's brought along his younger brother, which infuriated your mother (who is a little odd to begin with), and you have no idea if your house is still standing or not.

The hurricane made landfall on Monday. Everything seemed fine until the levees broke. We watched CNN and the Weather Channel in horror as the city filled with water.  My husband went home on Tuesday. As a deputy constable allowed to go back into the city before the general public.  He soon texted us-- there was no other viable form of communication at the time--that our house was fine, some roof damage, a few books and toys wet, but otherwise okay.  Same with the rest of the neighborhood.

We went back two weeks later, when the electricity was back up and a few stores had reopened. Two weeks after that my daughter's school reopened.  A few months later our neighbors started coming back with their families. For months it was mainly only men working on their houses and law enforcement.

Law enforcement was everywhere. Local police, police from other parishes, police from other states, even the National Guard.  It was hard to feel unsafe with so many police personnel everywhere.  You literally could not drive a block without seeing some type of police officer.

While the police weren't able to protect us from the giant flies that took over for several months, and couldn't prevent the maggots in our refrigerators when we got home, at least we didn't have to worry about copper being stolen from our homes when we were inside them, nor of someone breaking into our homes and doing God knows what to us, as had happened to many unfortunate women during the actual hurricane.

So now, seven years later, we are in the position once again to decide should we stay or should we go. Today is Sunday. The storm will hit Tuesday in the middle of the night or early Wednesday morning.  Wednesday will be the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Scary.

So my thinking, with a now 10-year-old and 13-year-old, and now having an evacuation house, I will probably leave.  The big difference this time is that I'm not dreading leaving, because I've faced the most uncertainty a person can face having dealt with Katrina and its aftermath.

I'm looking forward to visiting my vacation house in the hills, and while I will worry about what is happening back home, I will also use the time, and more importantly, the emotion, to write more of my third novel.

Chocolate City Justice takes place during Hurricane Katrina, bringing my protagonist, Ryan Murphy, into the present days. So everything I learn about that happens, especially if the hurricane hits, will be more fodder for my novel and jog my novel about what happened back then.  As I am planning what I will pack, Katrina is not seven years ago for me, but right now, while I am loading my car with the things I want to save should a worst case scenario occur.  And I will use it as much as I can, extracting as much good as I can from a potentially bad situation.  

NOTE:  I scheduled this to post a week after I wrote it, hoping by the time it is posted I will know how this has turned out, one way or another.

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