My Hurricane Katrina Story

All this snowstorm stuff makes me think back to August 2005. Stay warm North-East!
  1. Backstory:
    I was 11 (two months short of 12) and had just completed my first week of 6th grade. My family lived (and still lives) in a suburb about 15 minutes outside of New Orleans itself.
  2. Evacuation Plan:
    We had evacuated once before a year or two earlier at my dad's insistence; however, the storm missed us thankfully. Because the storm missed us last time, my mom didn't want to leave. My dad insisted and we left on Saturday August 27 around 8pm.
  3. Stop 1: Vicksburg, MS (Part 1)
    We got to Vicksburg a little after midnight. I slept the whole way up there and woke up to discover hives all over the trunk of my body and my feet so swollen I could barely walk. The next day was spent in front of the TV watching the coverage of what was about to happen. We didn't even go to church--which never happens in my family. My parents' best friends arrived to join us with their daughter who was a college freshman at USM.
  4. Stop 1: Vicksburg, MS (Part 2)
    The next morning (the day Katrina hit) my mom called her parents and grandmother to check up on them. They decided to stick it out as they had done their entire lives living in NOLA. (My grandparents were 60 and 65 at the time and my great grandmother was still in very good health at 92). They reported wind and rain, but nothing they hadn't seen before. In the afternoon, the power in the hotel went out. We lasted one more day in that hotel before moving to a different hotel in a different city.
  5. Stop 2: Rayville, LA (Part 1)
    Tuesday or Wednesday, my parents and their best friends decided to move to a different hotel--with power. I was still feeling strangely ill. Sometimes the pain was so bad I couldn't walk. My parents's friends' daughter was really not loving the evacuation situation and really hated watching all the destruction on the news. My mom couldn't get in touch with her parents and grandmother (who btw lived right by the levee.) I was so absorbed in my own pain, I don't think I realized how scared she was
  6. Stop 2: Rayville, LA (Part 2)
    My dad, on the other hand, was in touch with his father who, at 80, was still physically and mentally killing it. He was fine and even drove by our house to let us know we weren't flooded. My pain increased and we saw a doctor (maybe 2) who diagnosed it as post-strep syndrome.
  7. Stop 2: Rayville, LA (Part 3)
    My dad's company wanted him to relocate to Baton Rouge, so that he could get back to work as soon as possible. On the Thursday after the storm, my dad was on the phone with his boss & grabbed my journal to write something down. I went to correct by giving him the other notebook my mom was using to keep track of everything the past few days, & my dad snapped at me. Emotionally unstable & in pain, I cried for like 20 minutes. My parents left the room to get air. I watched The Golden Girls when...
  8. Stop 2: Rayville, LA (Part 4)
    My dad burst in the room to tell us that my mom's family had been rescued by boat (the water had risen to their door, but thankfully no higher) and were in a shelter about 50 minutes outside of the city. Thankfully, my dad knew awesome people who helped drive them half the way to us and my dad picked them up from there. It cut a nearly 5 hour drive into 2 and a half hours.
  9. Stop 2: Rayville, LA (Part 5)
    About a day or two later, my dad got word that he could start back at work as soon as he could. The company could put him up, but not all of us. Fortunately, we had friends who knew a place for us to stay about an hour and a half away. So we headed to there...
  10. Stop 3: Lafayette, LA (Part 1)
    We stayed in an empty doctor's office that a nurse friend of my parents used to work at. There was tons of extra room for me and my brother to run around; it was a nice change from the tiny hotel rooms we were staying in. A day later, however, we got word that some doctors from New Orleans bought the building to relocate their practice; we had to leave ASAP. We stayed in a hotel the next night (literally the only hotel in the city with the 3 rooms we needed).
  11. Stop 3: Lafayette, LA (Part 2)
    Unfortunately, the hotel was really sketchy. Men lurked outside at all hours of the night and would literally stare my mom down when she needed to take our dog out. Not to mention the hotel itself was dirty. We decided we weren't staying a second night, so we called the hotel in Rayville to see if they still had 3 rooms. They did, so we packed up and headed back.
  12. Stop 4: Rayville, LA
    We resettled in the town for two more weeks. The kindness my family experienced from the people there was out of this world. We had the DA of the town invite us to a fancy dinner at his beautiful house. We had a lady approach us after church who gave us a $50 gift card to Wal-Mart and offered to let us tour her farm (we did and it was really cool!). The restaurant by our hotel cooked my great-grandmother free breakfast every morning.
  13. Stop 5: HOME
    Finally, a little less than a month after the storm hit, we were allowed back into the city and returned to our unaffected, one story, three bedroom home. My parents' friends stayed with us for about a week and my grandparents and great-grandmother stayed with us for two months. Thankfully my school had not been damaged and I returned to school the first week of October.
  14. The Aftermath:
    I was beyond fortunate. I lost nothing. But I had friends who weren't so lucky. I saw firsthand the damage the storm did to my city. It was--and still is--heartbreaking. I did, however, gain something. I had a new appreciation for New Orleans and it's residents. We are a crazy, stubborn, gleeful people. We share something now, something that's palpable around the city.
  15. I'll end the note with this quote from New Orleans journalist Chris Rose: