Sunday, August 28, 2005. It was a beautiful, sunny day & I was with my best friend and surrogate family at Percy Quin campground in Mississippi. It was such a beautiful day, we were delaying our departure a bit so for the first time since Friday, I turned on my cellphone.
Seemed a little higher than normal…
The first was from the guy I was “talking to” at the time. But the second, third, fourth, fifth – all from my mother. In escalating panic, she started to paint an ugly picture. I started to delete through some of them to get to the last messages.
I hurried to the last two messages. Message 16: Mom – Category 5 storm heading straight for New Orleans to hit tomorrow. Message 17: Mom – Contra-flow has begun. I can’t get you even if I wanted to – you’re on your own.
August 28th… It was a gorgeous day. Picturesque. My “uncle” was grilling. The kids were playing. The sun was warm and breeze was refreshing. And I had to go break the news that was going to ruin the day for everyone – Katrina is coming.
We wouldn’t return to Percy Quin, when the pictures above were taken, until 2009. Four years later.
We also didn’t return home from that trip.
You see, even if we had known, our “Hurrication” attitude would’ve prohibited us from proper preparation. No one prepares to lose everything they own.
No one prepares to have their community devastated. It’s hard to mentally prepare or even understand the impact of everyone being hit – your teachers, the grocer, your hairdresser, the cute guy who called last Sunday & asked you out to a restaurant that’s indefinitely closed.
No one prepares for Katrina. No one prepares for Harvey or Hugo or Sandy.
Maybe we expect some rain or power outages. We don’t expect our lives to change forever. Until you’ve been through a Katrina or Harvey or Hugo or Sandy and your life does change forever.
So Charlotte, I hope that Florence comes and goes peacefully. I hope the name “Florence” doesn’t elicit the same gut wrenching, stomach turning, anxiety that the name “Katrina” does for me. I hope you don’t learn lessons like I did: to never freeze meat; that toilet paper stored in low places becomes like papier-mâché when wet; store clothes you care less about in bottom drawers and clothes you like the best in higher drawers; always back up your pictures and important documents.
Prepare for the worst and hope and pray for the best.
I genuinely hope that Florence is no one’s “Katrina” – but for those being impacted, I hope you find the love, support, and community that New Orleans found after the storm.
Post-Katrina New Orleans… near my high school