The sun is bright this morning.
The wind has a slight chill. From my kitchen window, it appears to be an ordinarily beautiful day. However, my small community is not facing a beautiful day at all. We are still numb. We’re in disbelief, we are heartbroken, and we are confused. St. Bernard Parish has taken on its fair share of natural disasters, but a tornado? That was something that only happened in the “Midwest” according to our Parish logic. “At least we don’t have earthquakes or tornadoes” became an automatic response to our inner brains as we braced and endured rough hurricane seasons. That logic was cut short last night.
The cell phones in my house started blaring alerts around 7:00 PM with tornado warnings. I’ll be the first to admit; I blew it off. Then, I heard that a tornado touched down in New Orleans East, which made me a little nervous. I told my kids to quickly head to my bedroom, away from the large living room window.
“The tornado is going through Arabi.”
My face and hands went numb. My heart started racing. I couldn’t think quick enough. I ran my kids into the hallway bathroom away from all windows and tucked myself away with them as I called my mom and told her to prepare herself. I tried reaching my grandmother and aunt who both live in Arabi. The minutes seemed like hours before I heard from my aunt assuring me, they were fine. “No power, but we are safe.”
Their neighborhood, however, was not so fortunate. As the pictures and videos came in through group messages and my Facebook feed, it didn’t seem real. My stomach turned, and I could hardly swallow. Homes obliterated. Families homeless in a matter of minutes. Lives changed forever in a split second. How can this happen? How can this one small parish go through another horrific natural disaster? I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of the aftermath of this devastation.
We’ve been here before.
I was in my early 20s when Katrina tore apart my hometown, leaving St. Bernard Parish broken. Katrina took away a lot from us. Everything to some. However, the one thing we held onto was our spirit and love for our parish and community. We rebuilt and restarted. Many of us moved back and started our own families, confusing outsiders on how we could go back to the place that nearly took our own lives.
There are plenty of people who may say “St. Bernard is different now” or that “it will never be the same after Katrina.” But I assure you, St. Bernard is the same because WE are St. Bernard. We are strong and we are proud. Before daylight could break this morning, plans were already put in place, neighbors were helping neighbors, supplies were being ordered, restaurants were offering free food and a local school announced they would be closed but opened its doors to families who needed a place to gather themselves, have a free meal, and offer shelter to those in need. We aren’t just a parish; we are a community. We help each other, we love each other, and we come together for each other. I’m happy to raise my children in a town that will show strength in the wake of catastrophe; a community that will always show up. Our neighbors are hurting, but we are hurting with them. We are hurting for them. We are coming together like we always do and always will to overcome a tragedy. We have learned resiliency and how to handle rough situations. We are built on heart. We don’t just build from the ground up, we build each other up too. There’s not much I can say to those who are completely devastated right now, except I hope you know that you’re not alone. We are here for you and we will heal, once again, together.
To help with assistance for those affected by the recent tornadoes ::
Tornado Victims – Donation Drop Offs
For physical drop off donations including water, non-perishable foods, storage containers, baby items, personal hygiene items, blankets, chargers, toiletries, garbage bags, gift cards, phone chargers, gardening items (i.e.: rakes, shovels), gloves, wipes and other cleaning items, paper products, etc. ::
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School
Donations may be dropped off daily during school hours of 8:00am-3:00pm
2305 Fenelon St. | Chalmette, LA 70043
T.P.A. (Top Performance Athletics)
6723 St. Claude Ave. | Arabi, LA 70032
Bella Home Staging & Cleaning, LLC has organized a Hygienic Drive for the people of Arabi. Amanda Miller Realty Group is collecting items as well and will use her office as a drop off location.
Amanda Miller Realty Group | 300 West Judge Perez in Chalmette
Additional drop off location in Kenner:
- Children’s clothes (all sizes) gently used.
- New socks, diapers, baby wipes, new towels, new wash clothes, bottled water, new snack boxes and new hygiene products any kinds you can think of.
- Please go through your closets and donate whatever you can that’s gently used. If you can’t donate any of the items above, but would like to get involved. You can personalize your donation by taking some time out to write cards or letters with words of encouragement and prayers.
Monetary Donations for New Orleans Tornado Victims
- United Way
- Mutual Aid – Louisiana
- St. Bernard Project – New Orleans Tornado Response
- Second Harvest Food Bank – learn more about what is most needed in Disaster Response situations here
- Community Center of St. Bernard – this is the only food pantry in St. Bernard Parish and was directly affected
- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans – assists with aid and case management following natural disasters locally
- Crisis Cleanup