Warning: this is an edit-free zone…
I hate Catch-22 positions. Absolutely hate them. I’ve been in one since Hurricane Katrina hit and it just seems to go on, gathering steam and added layers and growing more complex when it should be simple. Don’t you hate those situations? God, but I do.
All of my mother’s relatives lived in the area hit. We had relatives in New Orleans, in Slidell, in Waveland, Pass Christian, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs. Three generations of relatives, not to mention lifelong friends, and I grew up in Gretna, which is just across the river from New Orleans. Five minutes, max.
With an incredible amount of anxiety, I awaited news on all her sisters and brother, brother-in-laws, cousins and their children and their children’s children. And over a week and a half, one by one, we learned they’d survived. One aunt and her children are still missing, but we believe they evacuated and just haven’t been able to get in touch. We pray it because there’s only a slab where her house once stood.
Everyone has lost everything with two exceptions. Houses, cars, jobs, everything. One of the two has a tree through her roof and another on her car. The post office, where she worked, is gone. She’s a widow with children to support. The other has damage and a houseful of people. She’s the only one with a solid structure. It is heart-wrenching and I catch myself a thousand times a day, reminding myself to be grateful. They are alive. With time all this will sort out. But for now, it’s trying.
There is no gas, so travel is out. Getting food is a challenge because there are no stores. Nothing is easy. One aunt in her 70s told me, it’s like being thrown back into the days of the cavemen, only there are no caves.
During the time they were all missing, I started the writer’s check in list to DO something. Like everyone else who wasn’t directly impacted, I felt helpless and I do hate that feeling. It turned into a large and very time-intensive project, but one I’m grateful for the privilege of doing. The many hours I spent with it, I imagined others helping my family. It might not sound like much, but during the height of the not knowing, a grain of solace is a welcome thing.
And so tonight I find myself torn. There’s a part of me that knows how hard so many of these family members have worked to build themselves a pleasant, simple life. How much some were looking forward to retirements that now will not be. You see, in these areas, many of them were not in flood zones. If you’re not in a flood zone, you don’t need flood insurance. Unless, you have a Category 5 Hurricane Katrina come through and flood places that have never before seen water and might not again.
But your home was there when it did. So your home is gone and your money and everything you owned is gone with it. But you’ll still be paying the mortgage and those car payments on a house and car that no longer exist.
The injustice in this has me angry. For them. For all they’ve done to get where they were to enjoy simple things. For all they’ve lost. And for many of them because there is not enough time left in their lives for them to rebuild.
And the angry part of me is at war with the on-my-knees grateful part of me that is overwhelmed that they lived.
I’m not in an unusual place. There are people going through this anger/blessing business all over the place. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. But I’ve been working since 3 AM today. I’m exhausted and it feels very, very late. And tonight this is my war. And it’s taken on the proportions only middle-of-the-night wars can take on for me.
Things will settle out. I know that; they always do. And yet tonight, I don’t have the heart or stamina left to be philosophical about it. Tonight I’m just wondering when and how soon.
Breaking for a phone call. It’s a friend in Mississippi. He and his wife lost everything. Home. Four cars. I invited them to come and stay here. He can’t. If they leave, looters will steal the few things they have left. In the middle of the storm, they had to swim out of their home due to rising water. The house down the block was higher. They took refuge from the 150 mile per hour winds there. But the damn water just kept rising. When they were going to have to get into the attic, they swam to a two-story, broke into it and waited out the storm on the second floor. The water reached halfway up the stairs and finally stopped rising. He’s sixty. He had no flood insurance. Wasn’t in a flood zone.
Today has been a day of nothing but news of loss. So many need help. I hope book sales are up. Tomorrow has GOT to be a better news day. If not, I promise not to blog.