August 29, 2005. That is a date that will forever be etched into my mind. Growing up, I heard stories about Hurricanes Betsy and Camille that struck the Gulf Coast in the 60s. From the stories I heard, I knew I never wanted to experience a hurricane of that magnitude. On Monday, August 29, 2005, I experienced the worst natural disaster in history.
I have lived in Louisiana my entire life and remember Hurricane Andrew back in 1992. I was around 12 or 13 years old, living in Baton Rouge, and remember being excited because we wouldn't have school. From what I remember, it wasn't that bad of a hurricane, we were just without power for a few days. I have never been excited to see a hurricane go anywhere, and quite ashamedly felt blessed they all seemed to keep picking on Florida. But I knew Louisiana was long overdue. And when we were told Katrina was coming straight for us, I knew it was not going to be another Andrew.
I have never been so scared in my life, as I was Monday morning about 4:00 am CST, when the first effects of Katrina were being felt in my area. About noon, standing inside my mother's living room, watching a storm rage outside through her picture window, the fear had me almost paralyzed. 100 mph winds raged outside, and my parents' 25-foot pine trees were bent over so the tops of the trees were eye level with me. 100-year-old majestic oaks were uprooted and thrown across houses like baseballs. Cars were flipped over repeatedly, like Tonka trucks in a child's care. I truly experienced the wrath of God.
Tuesday, after everything had settled, my boyfriend and I rode around and looked at the devastation in our area. I had all this pity for this north shore area, until I started to see and hear what New Orleans was experiencing. Suddenly, my heart sank. A once vibrant city, known worldwide for it's good food, good music, and debauchery, suddenly became a city without a soul. Katrina has ripped the very heart of this state out, but I for one will be damned if I let her take away our spirit too.
Two years ago, I moved to a small town about 40 miles north of New Orleans to attend a university and get a degree. The small town I now live in will become home to thousands of people from New Orleans who no longer have homes, jobs, or a livelihood to boast about. It used to be nothing to get a group of friends together on a Saturday night and go to the French Quarter. Bourbon Street was a party hot spot, and everyone wanted to be where the party was. Now, Bourbon Street sits flooded, littered with debris, dead bodies, and raw sewage.
From what I'm seeing in the newspaper, the media seems to be focusing on the horrible aspects of this storm. The looting, raping, and murdering seems to be the focus of headlines around the nation. I'm here to tell you that yes those things are happening, but there are so many heartwarming stories that I'm sure none of you are hearing. Crippled people trapped in homes, with no electricity and no food, are getting hundreds of people showing up at their doors with food and ice. People are sacrificing their own comforts to help their neighbors. Volunteers who went out into the 35-40 mph winds Monday night to start cutting down trees so people could get out of their homes and on the main roads.
And now, in Louisiana's most desperate hour, her people dying from starvation, heat exhaustion, and desperation, the federal government isn't trying to help. Desperate people do desperate things. There are people who have been trapped in flood waters since Monday night. Five days later, they are still trapped. And while people from all over this state are bringing in boats to help rescue them, many of us are wondering where in the hell our federal government is.
Imagine sitting on your roof for five or six days. You probably don't even know what day it is. It's 90 degrees, but feels like 120 degrees. You haven't had food or drinkable water throughout that whole time, and all you can do is pray that someone finds you. You see multitudes of dead bodies floating around you, and wonder how long until you join them. You see fires off in the distance, and wonder if they are coming your way. The smell of raw sewage and rotting corpses fills the air. You don't have a television, radio, or air-conditioned room. At night, you pray you don't get eaten alive by mosquitoes, especially ones carrying the deadly West Nile Virus. This is what New Orleans citizens are going through right now. And the sad thing is, the representatives of our national government want to leave them there to rot.
If any of you have ever been to New Orleans, or Louisiana for that matter, you know what the people here are like. Giving, loving, helping, and caring people. We literally take the phrase "Love thy neighbor" to new levels. So for those of you out there, and I know there are many of you, wanting to do something, who don't know what to do, do this: pray. I believe in the power of prayer, and trust me, God listens. Throughout this entire storm, God had His hand over my family, neighbors, and loved ones. There are many friends I have in the New Orleans area that I haven't heard from, and I don't know if or when I'll ever hear from them. But God listened to me and took care of those I love nearby, so I know He listened to me and took care of my friends down there.
Thank you all for the well wishes you have sent me, and God Bless all those affected by this horrific beast of a storm. May God have mercy on us and grant us the blessing of never having to experience something like this again. A proud citizen of the Great State of Louisiana,