Can you friggin' believe this?
Here's the story. I'll try to keep it brief.
I spent the entire weekend trying to arrange to get back to New Orleans. I really needed my car. To go to the doctor, to the store, to do anything. I, no WE, needed a vehicle. My vehicle was just sitting there in New Orleans. I needed to get back home to get it.
A friend of a good friend, who drives trucks, offered to take me with him as his route passed near the area. A long drive. A LOOOOOONNNGGGG drive. 16 hours on the road and hey - only TWO pit stops. Impressive huh?
On the way however, we heard that New Orleans was again closed to the citizens. Now what was I going to do? I couldn't just turn around - I had no means of getting back. I had to keep going and hope for the best. I/we prayed for it to work out.
So I finally got to Louisiana, North of the lake. North of New Orleans. However I arrived too late for my dear friend C to pick me up and make it back before her parish's curfew. I was on my own for the evening. And my phone was not working. Somehow though, the gods blessed me. (And did anyone else see the blood red moon on Monday night? Is that a lucky omen or something?) I somehow managed to get a wonderful hotel room even though the signs said "No Vacancy".
The next day C arrived and we had a good breakfast. Recent experience has shown that sometimes you might go a while before you have an opportunity to eat or drink. Get it while you can.
And it was wonderful to have some time to spend with her. Even though the circumstances were less than pleasant. Especially since I cry at the drop of a hat. I was missing her and her son, my godson, already.
So anyway, after sitting in traffic for hours - don't know what was causing the backup but it was time we used to chat and gossip and cry some more - at least I cried, we picked up my car keys from my sister's house and headed to Jefferson Parish.
C's ex husband, a member of the NOPD, picked me up from there and drove me through to New Orleans. He asked if I had seen anything since our evacuation and upon hearing that I had not, he said "Hang on little sister, you're not going to believe your eyes." I got the grand tour.
It was so surreal. Like seeing a the location where a movie was shot. No real resemblance to my home at all. And so quiet. So very quiet. I saw only about a half dozen civilians. Two of which were carrying golf clubs. That was, uhm, quite strange, considering.
Oh but the smell. It does smell bad. Yes, worse than usual. Worse than Bourbon Street on a Saturday night. The odor rises from the streets, emanates from the houses. Is that the smell of death?
And many houses in my neighborhood, as they do throughout the city, bear the painted wall indicating if any bodies were left in the house, the date and who checked it. Even my house. Big letters across the front.
Now the aforementioned ex is a ranking member of the police department so, and with his commander's blessing BTW, he was able to get through the sentries, and the barbed wire gates posted around and took me to my house.
I really didn't want to go. I was very very apprehensive. Afraid of what I might see. Afraid it may have been more damaged since I left. Afraid that it had been looted and I alone would have to view it. He insisted though. He said that I needed to do this. He was right.
Thankfully, again, it was in fairly good shape. Considering. Better than I had thought, at least for now. He gave me some thick gloves and a mask and he allowed me to go in to grab a few precious possessions.
"Only the essentials," he said. "And make it quick."
And everything I took was for K. Not too much though as the room in his car was quite limited.
Her homeschool books - yes, she's thrilled. Her baby-memory box, her little tv and video player, some winter clothes and some yu-gi-oh cards.
I completely forgot to grab another pair of shoes for me (I'm still wearing the pair I walked out in - I made K get another pair - hers smelled so bad afterwards) or anything else I wanted to have. Ah well. You can see where my priorities lay.
He then took me downtown to a parking garage near the Superdome to get my car. I was so pleased that it was in good shape, still with a full tank of gas. I saw many many other cars that had not fared so well. He escorted me and my car down to the interstate, bid me good bye and I headed out of the city. Maybe for the last time. I didn't look around on that trip. I just kept my eyes on the road in front of me. I didn't want to see any more. I want to remember it the way it was.
Now, I had planned to take a day to visit some displaced friends who I probably would not see again for a long time, However, sometime during the day we found out about Hurricane Rita. It was headed straight for the Galveston area and the home in which my family is staying is directly in the path. I was very very grateful though that I had been able to get my car. Now it was an extreme necessity.
THIS TIME WE EVACUATE!!!! No discussions. No thought involved. We would NOT stay for another storm - no matter what category and it looked as though Rita would be as bad as Katrina.
So I said some quick incredibly tearful good-byes to my beloved friends and immediately got on the road. I drove straight to SE Texas, grabbed a few hours sleep (hah, sleep, double hah) and got up, packed the car and we headed up to the Dallas area where my brother has another small house.
We left along with the other SE Texas evacuees. Many other evacuees. A 5 hour drive took over 8 hours. Not too bad really considering what it's like evacuating from the N.O. area but hard nonetheless. Hard on the folks 'cause they are already sick, hard on K 'cause she has no patience which makes me impatient with her, hard on the cat 'cause she gets car-sick and HATES the crate and meows pitifully for hours on end, hard on the dog 'cause she's tired of this evacuating crap, and hard on me cause I'm just so plain tired...
The car was tightly packed full too. Four people, two pets. And our things. We had limited room for extras as we really needed the pet supplies and important household stuff and the items for my parents' health care.
But here's the kicker.
Our stuff? My clothes that my brothers rescued? The clothes for K I just rescued? Our precious collectibles? My dad's books and mother's pictures? And our new things we had just purchased? We had no room in the car for that. I had to leave it all behind. In the path of the hurricane. In the zone for the storm surge.
How's that for irony?
Once again I had to choose what was important and leave the rest behind.
While we waited in the house that week after Katrina, we heard a story that reflects the wisdom of Buddhism. A man said that the Buddhists say, when you purchase an item, to immediately picture it broken, ruined, destroyed. That way, when eventually, when the item is broken, ruined, destroyed, you have already grieved for it and you can move on.
So I've been trying to let it all go now. Imagine it's all gone and not attempt to hope or pray that it will all be all right. That way, if anything survives, it will be a wonderful surprise. Trying to at least. I'll let you know how that works out for me.
Meanwhile, I recently heard that the state of Nebraska has no natural disasters. Can anyone verify this? If so, that's where I want to live.