I've read The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke twice and am now on the third reading. The book covers the time immediately preceding and then following the nightmare known as Hurricane Katrina.
The first two times I blanked the entire thing out of my mind. The book was published in 2007 and I read it the first time 'hot off the press'. You'd think a year and a half would be a far enough distance.
It wasn't. I read the book and a week later could not have discussed the story for anything.
I read it again in 2010 just about this time of year. I blanked it out again.
I am reading it again and it hit me this morning as I stood at the back door smoking a cigarette and reading the first few pages, that oh holy hell, it's 1st June! I didn't plan it this way, the book was on the shelf in the library and I added it to the growing stack of books to check out. I didn't time it so that I would start reading THAT book on THIS day, it just happened that way.
I looked at the book in my hands and it all came flooding back. That helpless fear that the 1st of June brings to anyone who has ever lived in Hurricane Country. I wonder if I will be able to keep from blanking out this reading of James Lee Burke's amazing The Tin Roof Blowdown.
As most Dear Readers know, in August of 2010 I relocated to the UK. As some Dear Readers may not know, I'd moved up from the Gulf Coast area shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
I'd been through so many 'canes since first finding my way to the Gulf Coast Region! The first was Hurricane Frederick, bad enough to bring it home to me why people pale at the phrase 'cane comin'. I went through Andrew, saw my then in-laws express deep gratitude to Tropical Storm Jerry that enabled them to have their entire roof replaced via homeowner's insurance instead of out-of-pocket as they'd thought they were going to have to do; we suffered minor damage to our SouthEast AL home during Opal-watched that one helplessly from Guatemala, unsure if the wee Tin Shack with quadruple tie-downs would make it at all.
Ivan was the whopper-Gator and I huddled in the apartment bathtub when we were trapped after delaying our evac just a half hour too long. Tornado after tornado whipped the landscape around us and when we finally crawled out of the tub and out of the apartment, we were stunned to see we somehow were an oasis of undamaged building surrounded by a sea of debris. The breeze driven creaking of a piece of tin roof hanging drunkenly from a tilted building across the street made me think of the soundtracks of countless disaster movies, and I did feel as though I'd just emerged from a bomb shelter to find a war devastated landscape. It went beyond eerie and I still haven't recovered to be honest.
I hung on in Dothan, AL for another year after Ivan, but Katrina? Oh Katrina.
I gave notice and a month after the storm I was in Alpharetta, GA. I tried with everything I had in me to get my son, his then-fiancee, and the grandson to go with me. I think the grandson would have gladly come but at barely a year old, he had no say in the matter especially after his parents and I became estranged.
Just after arrival, in Oct, 2005, I started this blog and made no bones about being a climate refugee.
I left Dothan and the Gulf Coast behind because I could not take it anymore. Since Ivan every time it rained or the wind blew, I shook and suffered quiet little panic attacks I think I hid well from everyone else but could not ignore in myself.
I left because as I watched Katrina aiming at the Gulf Coast, and watched the then governor and mayor pleading with people to LEAVE and pleading with people to HELP, and watched the growing disaster at the SuperDome, as the news filtered out that a woman had been shot in face by her brother over a bag of ice, I knew absolutely it could and would happen in Dothan one day. So I left.
Over the years since Katrina I have met people who were on the front line as emergency relief providers. Every single one of them carries unhealed wounds that will never scab over enough to become scars. Please say a prayer for those people today as we go into another hurricane season. Since there have already been two named storms BEFORE the season begins today, make those prayers extra strong, extra long, and extra fervent.
Pray that the Atlantic Hurricane Season 2012 takes no more lives than it has already (18yo surfer dead off St Augustine in heavy surf from TS Beryl), and that the emergency relief providers, First Responders, medical personnel, and LE officers remain compassionate, calm, and knowledgeable in the face of whatever they are asked to confront.
Today is the official start to the Atlantic Hurricane Season 2012. If you are there, please prepare.
Google emergency preparedness, and follow the instructions and advice on the American Red Cross, FEMA, and other preparedness sites. Best tip ever? EVACUATE if the local authorities ask you to be prepared to do so-waiting until ordered is too late. Better to evac needlessly 100 times than die once.