Every Louisiana Child Has Their Hurricane Story

“I couldn’t leave …a this isn’t BUT is it Katrina story… I know what it means”

I’m supposed to be filling out my FEMA application or catching up on work, because my in laws took my kids to go swimming somewhere. But, I just don’t want to. Yes, in that kiddie, whiney voice: I just don’t want to. I feel guilty, and I feel guilty about feeling guilty!

16 years ago, I was fresh out of nursing school and ready to do my part (and get paid to sleep) as Hurricane Katrina made its surprising approach to NOLA. My parents had grown up DTR, and Camille and Betsy were part of my heritage. “Don’t freak out everyone; we got this” was my mantra. It’s just a hurricane. I showed up to work Sunday morning ready to do this thing. Katrina came and went as the day shift slept, and the next morning, the sun was shining, and we were in the clear. OK, let’s open this place back up, so I can get home to my really cool apartment on Magazine Street and start to make plans for the weekend!

Well, as the day went on, I saw my co-workers sob as they couldn’t get in touch with their husbands. I saw moms courageously talk to their children who were miles away. I saw patients families show up in the parking lot with packaged electronics. And, we started to “hear” things – looting, drug seekers, water shutting off, levees breaking, water rising in the streets. So, what to do? A plan had to be made. Administration asked who could take patients to the airport – of course, I said yes.

A lot changed that day for this brand-new nurse with really no strings in life – as we made our way to the airport, the devastation was over whelming and people were milling around the streets, clearly hungry, hot and wild eyed. There are plenty of stories about that night, and that’s not what this one is about. And, it’s not about what I saw the next day leaving the city: hungry, hot, crazed people staged on Causeway waiting to be picked up by military helicopters because they had just been plucked from their roof tops 4 days after the storm hit.  

This story is about how 16 years later – 16 wonderful years later after marrying the man of my dreams, raising 2 amazing boys, and building a career – I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t leave because all I could see were people lined up on the interstate, desperate, and I was petrified and couldn’t help them from afar. 

We (because now I have strings) talked about it – initial forecasts showed we would get about 70 mph winds. We would lose power, but we have a generator. I’ve done this before, babe – we got this! We meal prepped, and I bought ALL of the good candy. Then, when Ida was clearly going to be the real deal on Sunday morning, I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t get in my car with my family and my things and make the journey out of the city. I was truly panicked! So, we stayed for Ida, and I made it 3 whole days. My husband is a total rockstar (humanly flawed like all of us), but hey, he tolerates my crazy and I tolerate his. He learned A LOT about generators, and I’m pretty sure our boys aren’t scarred for life. We tried to keep the winds that shook our house and made the neighbor’s roof fly off something normal and cool to talk about. And, let’s be honest, we used the generator and our hot spots to keep their device usage intact. S’mores and pizza on the grill! 

But, yesterday morning, I had to get in my car and drive my boys out of the city. And, I did it – white knuckled all the way (thanks for following me, Mom)! And, guess what? There was thankfully no one lined up on the interstate as my Katrina memories had embedded, but I do know that there are people who are hot and hungry and devastated. And, I do know that this initial response is 1,000 times greater than it was “last” time. And, I do know that recovery and rebuilding will take A LOT of time – have “we” or “I” really recovered from “last” time. Should we? {Side note :: here are ways to help Louisiana after Hurricane Ida.}

But, guess what, recovery and rebuilding is happening right now. We will all get home very soon. And, we will help our neighbors and our family and our friends and our friends’ friends. And, we will stop being angry about “missed” things again this year (because I can’t even go there right now). 

Because, Camille and Betsy were part of my story about my family growing up. And, Katrina was part of my boys’ story about me growing up. And, now, they have their own Ida story. 

And, I can honestly say, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because …..IYKYK (trying to look cool for my high school aged nieces), vintage, “I know what it means.”


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