the following is from my good friend anthony, who just packed up his things in new orleans and moved on out before katrina hit. we're thinking of you, buddy, and we love you.
Being a writer, I thought I’d write.
Saturday: It is about 6 pm as we decide to evacuate our homes and apartments at 2 AM. The clan that consists of myself, my wife Cheryl, her parents, her sister and her son. Our brother in-law being a parish employee had to stay behind to work. We packed what we could think of that would be necessary for what we believed would be a three-day excursion. A mini vacation to Little Rock, Arkansas perhaps. The irony of letters ARK do not escape me.
We opt to drive together as a group, leaving a car, truck and everything else behind.
Sunday: We arrive in Little Rock after eating at an IHOP just around Tallula, LA. Suddenly, we have a pool, a balcony view, someone cooking breakfast every morning and the luxuries of all luxuries, a maid. As we begin to try to contact people, we learn that the 504 area code is worthless. We learn that there is no power, no running water, no sewer system. We are unaware of the location of grandparents, friends, co-workers, etc. The notion of unemployment and homelessness begin to set in. We finally come to the realization that our house in Birmingham hasn’t sold. Although, I can never understand the complexity of the Almighty, I at least have the answer to the question: God, why won’t our house sell?
The executive decision is made and we pull our house off the market.
Monday: The same all day – watching the news, calling cell phones and hearing what I have now committed to memory, “I’m sorry, due to the hurricane, all systems are busy, please try your call again.” Today, it occurs to me that without phones, financial questions can’t be answered and in thinking that the gulf coast has lost millions in casino revenues, your everyday ATM has become the new slot machine. Any amount of withdrawal is three cherries.
And then there are the looters.
Watching people ransacking retail outlets is an odd thing. On the one hand you think, well they need to survive – that is the mode they are in. On the other hand, as you see people carrying things like Nike shoes, suits and jewelry out of stores you used to legally purchase such things, you think – shoot on site. To me these are the sub-humans that New Orleans inhabits. And true it is an habitat – “The zoo,” I told my wife, “is flooded.”
Somehow, we manage to see our apartment on the news, being a mile from Cheryl’s parents, we deem that indeed the entire city is underwater. The biblical story of JOB comes to mind. If you have never read it – do so. The malls, the blockbuster, homes, cars, everything is submerged to some degree. Knowing helps, slightly. I say this because as once as you come to grips with total loss, you truly can only look forward. There is no yesterday.
Tuesday: More of the same. Clothes are getting worn. I personally am wearing as little as possible. A scary thought for those who’ve seen me naked. Crazy enough, you can lose everything but your sense of humor, I suppose. More calls are made to re-establish ourselves in Birmingham. The idea now is to harbor who we have in tow and hunker down for the month they are saying we will have to wait to return. To what, however, we have no idea.
Wednesday: Cheryl’s mom’s birthday. 61. The only thing I can think about is that for her birthday she has been given one more day. As of today, none of us know much about our jobs, homes and family members. Although we do get word that grandparents are alive. Thank God. We are also getting calls from friends offering help. Our love goes out to them. Ah, something else we have not lost.