30 August 2015

Ten years feels like a lifetime ago. I remember the preparations we were making 'down in Dothan' for Katrina to turn and hit our area of the Gulf Coast at the same time we (I was an ARC disaster relief vol at the time) were gearing up to shelter evacuees and deliver disaster relief to the hardest hit areas.

The song 'Louisiana 1927' played continuously in my head for days before the storm, and months after.

'...six feet of water/in the streets/of Evangeline...Louisiana!/Louisiana!/They're tryin' to wash us away/they're tryin' to wash us away/six feet of water...'

And then the storm hit.

I remember having an ominous feeling when I heard the initial 'We've dodged a bullet...' over the news feeds - I knew instinctively (like countless thousands of others) that simply couldn't be true - for one thing reports on storm surge hadn't come in yet so how in hell could anyone responsibly say 'We've dodged a bullet'?

29th August is my real birthday. Long story - too long and frankly too typical of my dysfunctional family to tell here or anywhere short of a counsellor's office or St Peter's Gates. Legally my birthday is the 27th but the real day is the 29th and frankly since 29 August 2005 I've not really felt like celebrating. 

Yesterday I 'turned' 59 - oh my! Suddenly 'pushin' 60' isn't a joke I make and saying 'I'm too old for this' isn't the joke it once was either. But I'm good with it - beats the alternative, now, doesn't it? We had a lovely, quiet day - a ride in the country and a sausage supper on the beach at Carnoustie. Emailed birthday greetings from adult children and closest friends. Lidl special carrot cake. Young Montalbano on the box to avoid the Katrina anniversary programmes. More blocks and rows crocheted on the latest blanket. Considering, it was a perfect day even though at the very back of my mind that song kept playing and the images kept up a continuous slideshow in my mind's eye.

As the day rolled on and the levees failed and the streets filled with water, we knew. People were dying. And over the next week the news just got worse. And worse. And worse. And worse.

NOLA. When I lived in Lafayette and would take the occasional trip down to the French Quarter, the approach to New Orleans from Baton Rouge never failed to make me uneasy. It always seemed to me a dark, evil miasma hung over the city. I really never liked it, preferring the good honest Cajuns who'd opened their homes and hearts to me those too short years I lived in Acadiana - something dark and wrong enveloped NOLA in my mind. When I left the state in November 1981 to move to NW FL I drove out of my way to avoid the city.

But I NEVER wanted to see what happened 29th August 2005 and the weeks that followed. The awful images from NOLA...

In the first hours of the rescue effort I was never so proud to be a former Coastie as I was at those moments seeing the USCG rescue helicopters plucking survivors from rooftops. As the hours ticked past and it became clear the Coast Guard and a growing band of determined locals were the only ones trying to save people, I was proud and horrified at the same time - WHY was there such an effort to keep rescues from happening, WHY did the USCG and those local men and women have to shame the rest of the world into coming to the aid of their fellow humans, WHY?!

I looked around at the people I knew in SE AL and knew should the same awful devastation happen (and it nearly had a year before with Hurricane Ivan) there, the response and behaviours would be the same if not worse...

By 3 September 2005 I'd found a new job in Atlanta, given my notice to the owners of the storage facility I managed, and began packing to leave the Gulf Coast area. By 5th October 2005 I was in Metro Atlanta finding out my new job had been given to a Katrina evacuee. I shrugged and after a few weeks found something else through a temp agency. And by 18th August 2010 I was in Scotland - with no intention of ever living back in the States again.

The ten years since Katrina have been a lifetime, so many changes - the very last thing I EVER expected was to find a new mindset shredding what was left of the USA much less a new husband and a new home in the country my family left (but never really broke all ties with) in the early years of the 19th century.

'Louisiana! Louisiana! Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline!'

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