“We have to evacuate. There’s no room for CoCo in the car.” The Saturday morning Aug. 27, 2005, cell phone call would be life altering. Hurricane Katrina was heading to New Orleans. St. Charles Parish issued a mandatory evacuation.
Katrina would hit with all her might early morning August 29, 2005.
“Get out or leave next of kin contact information.” That Saturday, it was 11am in Orlando. My husband was able to book a flight to New Orleans to prepare the house for Katrina and to take care of CoCo. He tirelessly worked, putting hurricane panels on the house till 2am Sunday morning. The neighborhood was deserted. The house was dark. Dog food packed. Grocery store shelves were empty. “I don’t have any bread.” “You have a bread machine, bake a loaf of bread.” He did. Early Sunday morning, he and the dog left for a motel by the New Orleans airport, parking his car on a high floor of the airport’s parking garage, where Parish emergency vehicles were staged in case of rising waters.
Monday, August 29, 5a.m. CDT, he called. The winds and rains are coming. Katrina was arriving. Non-stoppable Katrina was coming to town. Barefoot, he took CoCo for a walk. The electricity went out. He couldn’t get back into his room. Stuck in blinding rains with a partially blind and hearing impaired dog, he pleaded with motel owners to break open the door to his room because he needed his medications. When they opened his door, his bed was full of water from a leak in the motel’s roof from Katrina’s rains. They relocated him to a room on the bottom floor. He forgot to pack food for himself. He had a loaf of bread and a gallon of water. It sustained him four days. He was depressed, (though he wouldn’t admit it) hungry, and survived through a state of adrenalin following Katrina’s devastation and destruction.
After Katrina passed, wading in waist high water, he walked a mile to his office to check on the building. He wasn’t allowed back to our neighborhood and home. He didn’t know about levee breaks, lootings, shootings, fires and desperation until I told him. No electricity. No services. Darkness in a relatively dry home that he had to cut his way into after authorities allowed him entry. Trees had fallen across the road, blocking entry to our home.
Before daybreak, he and CoCo left for Lafayette to buy generators and gasoline cans. He took CoCo in case authorities would not let him back into the neighborhood. Road blocks were set up everywhere you turned. Access was usually denied, as he had encountered when trying to get back to our home.
While at home in a dark, boarded up house, he decided to make a run for Orlando after the telephone land line went dead. He had misplaced his wallet somewhere in the house. I reminded him of a stash of cash and its location. He and CoCo resolved to make it to Orlando, overnighting in a small Florida town. “Call the highway patrol, find out what roads are open.” Determined, he and CoCo made it to our Florida home, a safe place where he began the process to locate employees. Thousands of others didn’t have the luxury of a safe, familiar place they could call home. Evacuees were displaced far from their homes and sometimes, their families.
He had to purchase a new truck for the company so that critical shipments could be made at the Baton Rouge Airport. The New Orleans Airport was closed. We traveled with a U.S. government agency high-level letter of authorization so that we could get through check points set up along I-10. It was a nerve-filled trip, making a wrong turn on a detour, witnessing first-hand the indescribable devastation along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The wrong turn drive was humbling and tearful.
A subordinate’s home was washed away. His refrigerator was found about five miles from his home with his children’s magnet photos in place. The company owner’s home was flooded in four feet of water. The owner walked his property with a gun, to kill snakes trying to get out of flood waters. Everyone we knew was impacted by Katrina. There was no high and dry place. Katrina zeroed in along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Alabama and New Orleans.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects children. The woman who bought our home in December, following Katrina said, “My daughter has not slept in her bed since the hurricane. I hope she will sleep by herself after we move.” At the time, her daughter was a year old. Katrina’s PTSD impacted thousands. ©Barbara Moran and barbaramoranblog