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Day 8 – A helping hand (really two…or two thousand)

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The storm surge 24 hours before Isaac was up to the sea wall already. (I don’t know those people who were walking out into the water…I was too scared to do that.)

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The empty lots near where my nephews’ apartment used to be before Katrina. There used to be apartments and houses all the way up through there.

I consider this my first “real” post when it comes to being thankful. But I am thankful to live in a world where people come together to help one another the way we do when disaster occurs. I think it’s a bit hard to explain what it’s like to have the infrastructure you’ve known all of your life disappear in a matter of hours when a storm surge rolls in, but it’s absolutely mind-boggling. I remember after Katrina, I was staying at school taking care of my nephews, because their apartment had been washed away. I brought them back down three or four weeks later, and that was the first time I saw the extent of the damage to the coastline I used to know.

Sometimes when I had gone back home from school to visit I would note how much things were changing as new stores and shopping centers were popping up, new condos along the beach, new restaurants. And even though it was strange, it was a good change. To return to your home to see absolutely nothing recognizable is an extremely hard thing to comprehend. It’s hard to verbalize. The memories we make when we are young are memories that stay strong. The places we used to go, the houses we used to hang out at, they are the way we remember our youth. And when I returned after Katrina, we had to count the streets trying to figure out where we were at because there were no longer any recognizable landmarks half a mile inland. (I live in a city that was not totally destroyed, and in fact sustained considerably less damage than the areas just two miles away from my home where the water literally covered almost the entire city and entire cities just 15 miles away.) Travel was limited, the bridges were washed out. There were barges sitting on top of the store my dad used to own. It’s still surreal to think about, and the recovery more than 7 years later is still ongoing, with much of the homes still not rebuilt and much of the infrastructure not fully restored.

One of the greatest things that we experienced after Katrina was the outpouring of support from people all across the country, and even internationally. People send supplies, came down to help gut the homes that had sustained too much water to be salvaged beyond the studs, helping set-up housing and rebuild homes, bringing food, bringing water, bringing ice and supplies. (In the weeks after the storm, as people see, it takes a long time to fully restore power, and when you have no power, no grocery stores because there’s no power and most of them were damaged down here, the national guard provides you with MRE’s to eat…I was lucky enough to bring food down from school with me, and only ate a few of those.) So all of those little things make a huge difference.

It truly amazes me when I think about how many people came down here, to a place most people didn’t know existed beforehand to give, to provide support and love. And this continued for years. People continued to come down, on spring break, on Christmas break, on summer break. We have an amazing resolve and an amazing willingness to serve those in need here, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. So I am thankful that I live here. And I send thoughts and prayers every day to those affected by Sandy. For us Katrina hit in August. It was hot. It stayed hot. We didn’t have to deal with the cold. We didn’t have to worry about not having a heat source for the snow and freezing days and nights. I can’t imagine having to deal with that. I’m bringing Jack to donate some blankets tomorrow at one of the many donation areas we have set up down here. He said that was what he wanted to give to the little kids who might be cold. And I’m excited he has the chance to give and the heart to care for those who are in need. Recovery takes time, and we are recovering from a lot in this world. There was a powerful earthquake today in Guatemala. We had Sandy last week and a Nor’easter this week. We are still recovering in Japan, in Haiti (you can check out Justin’s work here, he’s about to go to Haiti to help in an orphanage there), in Mississippi and Louisiana, in Indonesia. There is so much happening in the world, and so much need just related to natural disasters where our basic needs hang in the balance. And I’m thankful that we live in a world where we can help and where we do help.

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