Oh no Katrina

 On Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005, a storm was brewing in the Bahamas. Hurricane Katrina would become the deadliest Atlantic Coast storm of the 2005 hurricane season and one of the five deadliest in United States history. Katrina made landfall in Southeast Florida as a category 1 hurricane on Aug. 28, causing massive flooding and several deaths. The storm regained momentum over the Gulf of Mexico and ravaged cities from Central Florida through Texas.

 President Bush, on Aug. 27, declared a state of emergency in select regions of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. By Aug. 29, Katrina was a category 3 hurricane, packing winds of 125 miles per hour. It touched down on New Orleans, Louisiana, gobbling up homes, buildings, people and memories. Ninety percent of Mississippi’s coastal regions were devastated. In all, Katrina accounted for 1,836 deaths, and $81 billion dollars in damages. 

 For one week, there were television broadcasts of the hurricane from Anderson Cooper of CNN and Brian Williams of NBC. It was all the information anyone would need to keep abreast of  the devastation wrought by Katrina.

 This was all surreal. In a matter of a few hours, Katrina took homes and businesses off their foundations,  pushed cars, boats, motor homes and furniture into the streets as they floated away. No way, this couldn’t be happening.

 The streets of New Orleans and neighboring towns resembled war zones. Properties where homes once existed were decimated. Streets became streams, as beds, refrigerators, pool tables, night tables, chunks of rooftops, drywall, floorboards, and collapsed trees were floating gently away. It looked like the city had been put through a blender.

 Rescue crews were out in the elements, getting soaked to the bone, working round-the-clock to find people who failed to evacuate their homes, despite warnings that a deadly storm was fast approaching. It was reported that some residents refused to leave because they didn’t have the means to. They had no money and transportation, nor did they have relatives who could take them in. Others had a deep faith in God that He would see them through this catastrophe. Some of the folks said they had survived other storms and that they could ride out Katrina as well. Some simply had a desire to stay behind to help out their neighbors wherever possible. They insisted on staying in the homes they have been in for so long. 

 Cooper reported that sons and daughters who survived the hurricane were frantically looking for their parents, who swore that they survived Hurricane Camille in ’69 and could survive this time. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

 Dogs, cats, stuffed animals, baby carriages, cribs and other items were unaccounted for. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, co-workers and others formed search squads, going door-to-door to see if there was any sign of life. Then came the gruesome truth . Lifeless bodies were found. Others escaped the perils of Katrina, but had an assortment of injuries. 

 The New Orleans Super-dome, home of the New Orleans Saints, opened up to hundreds of Katrina victims, who sought shelter, food, clothing and health aids. President Bush authorized $16.7 billion in funds under the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by Community Development Block Grant program to rebuild damaged homes and infrastructures.

 Parishes opened their doors to hundreds of victims who found a place to pray and seek shelter. Some folks were paralyzed by shock, wandering aimlessly in the streets. Without any place to stay, people were relieving their bladders and bowels in the streets, on lawns and in the remains of their homes. There was no power to speak of, because Katrina knocked over power lines. Desperate to eat, dress and clean themselves, people raided department stores, taking clothes, food, barbecue grills, toiletries and medical supplies. It was sheer bedlam. 

 Some local schools, churches, day care centers that were solid enough to survive the storm were converted into shelters. Folks whose homes were intact opened their hearts to friends and strangers who needed shelter. People wondered when Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FE-MA) officials would show up to provide financial relief. Some of the lucky families received trailers from FE-MA. They were large enough to store some clothes and food, go the bathroom and rest their heads. Families who didn’t have trailers outnumbered those that did.

 In Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, mayor Eddie Favre, older brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, witnessed his city disintegrate into a pile of rubble. But he wasn’t about to throw in the towel. Rotarian’s from across the United States donated time to pack trailers with food, clothing, school books, medical supplies and cleaning agents.   

 The Army Corps of Engineers was instrumental in getting makeshift trailer classrooms so kids could return to school. That year, school didn’t start until Nov. 1. At Thanksgiving, many families knew that they were blessed because they were able to survive Katrina. For Christmas, children, when asked what they wanted, said sheet rock so their parents could begin the rebuilding process. They weren’t in the mood for toys. They just wanted life to get back to normal.

 One year after Katrina hit, many families still had not heard from FE-MA. People were beginning to despair, wondering if their own government would remember them. Citizens banded together, some with skills in carpentry, roofing, plumbing, to help families restore the homes. The American spirit was alive and well.