August 29th

It will probably be mentioned as an afterthought on the nightly news, but here in Southeastern Louisiana August 29th is a day that is more memorable than the rest of the year.  On this date 8 years ago – August 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina roared ashore on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, devastating the small towns of Waveland and Bay St. Louis.

She also flattened Gulfport and Biloxi.

I’m not even going to go into the political impact of these storm. I’m also not going to dwell the repulsive comments from our “fellow Americans”. Although the haters represent a small chunk of our fellow citizens, their vitriol hurt. And they’re still at it today. I feel sorry for people with that much hate in their hearts.

A lot of the immediate coverage was centered around New Orleans, and rightly so.

There are so many stories of horror and survival. Even today – 8 years after the storm – when you meet someone in line at a festival or in the store, the subject usually comes up. We survivors feel the need to talk about “The Storm”. I don’t think we’ll ever NOT want to talk about it. It’s therapy to those of us who lived through it and still want to live here.

I’ve put together a montage of Katrina’s devastation on this page. After The Storm I was out of work for 2 months, so I taught myself basic HTML and created the page. It kind of helped my survivor’s guilt.

Memories of The Storm are anywhere one travels in Katrina’s path: overgrown lots, forgotten decrepit houses, flattened beachfront properties on the coast. To offset those sights, it is still evident that the area is still coming back, 8 years later.

Oh, yeah. Something else happened on August 29th: Hurricane Isaac. The odds of this storm hitting on the same date as Katrina blew us away. Isaac blew away our electricity for almost a week, flooded our streets. He did much less than Katrina, he was just a nuisance.

We survived both storms and the ineptitude of the U.S. Government in the aftermath. Today – August 29, 2013 – we are blessed with cool weather and clear blue skies. Many thanks to those who’ve cared, contributed toward our rebirth and all of the prayers.

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Assignment

“He really acted up today,” was what I’d been told the day before.

I intimated that it might be more than just post-hurricane, out-of-school-for-far-too-long restlessness to the school administrator, contrary to what my husband wanted me to say to any of the school higher-ups this year. The office assistant told me it would stay between the two of us. I hoped so.

This afternoon threatened to make that conversation the least of my and my son’s problems, though. The little guy had recovered from his rusted-out frying pan of bad behavior only to be cast into the flames of the bad behavior of his entire class. Although his day overall had been “better,” his mind latched onto the injustice of removed recess privileges (no one was quiet, no one was listening, so those were the consequences for everyone) and worried over it like a dog with a bone during the car ride from school. Initially, I wasn’t too worried, myself. This had happened a few times before the previous year and was a common complaint that he let go of once he got home.

We unlocked the door, climbed up the stairs, and, once the after-school snacks had been devoured, took a look at what was in the homework folder – “Oh, I see the behavior flow chart you had to fill out,” I said, signing it. There was a note from the school asking for payment for a small instrument for use in the kiddo’s music instruction; okay, will send a check with him to school tomorrow, I noted. “Is there anything else?” I asked.

The little guy’s face fell.

“I have to write an essay about my day,” he said sorrowfully.

I sighed. From the tone of his voice, I knew what was coming. What would normally be forgotten, dropped at the door and allowed to waft away in the early September warmth, was now etched in his brain. Attempts to get him to recall anything other than that missed recess would prove fruitless; in fact, further questions and calm admonitions to get him into a better frame of mind only made things worse. He wandered off to his room in a teary huff, looking for his own brand of calm as far away from a blank page as he could get and still be indoors, while I called my husband.

“Please kill me,” was what I wanted to say.

Instead, I poured out my frustrations to my husband and got a different kind of slow stiletto to my heart.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I guess you can tell him to just use the pain. Write out what he’s feeling, whether it’s in his notebook or on a scrap piece of paper to get it out and clear his head so that he can write something good about his day.” That advice felt to me what I’m sure my admonitions to my son felt like to him – like boiling water on a fire out of control. Now there were two people in the house that needed calm.

After a bunch of internet games and some reading to take my mind off it all and thrive on the quiet, I gave the subject some thought. I whipped up dinner, called the kiddo to the table, and we ate together, chatting of other things. We cleared the table, and then it was make or break time.

I broached the subject again. The little guy started crying. Again.

I fought the impulse to yell in frustration, instead giving him a hug we both needed. “I know this is hard. I know this is hurting you to remember…but you know what? Sometimes, that’s where writing can help.” He sniffed, looking at me questioningly.

“You want to leave these feelings behind? You’re really sad that this assignment wasn’t more specific than ‘write about your day?’ Guess what? You can use that,” I said, warming up a little more, kicking my own recent writing frustrations into it. “Go ahead and write what you’re feeling, right here and now. Leave it on the page. Just write it all out, kiddo.” There were some more sniffles.

But he turned back to that page. He confronted its blankness, stared its taunt in the face. The pencil began to scratch the surface. The redness disappeared from his cheeks. Even though the teacher’s work was meant to get the kids to do longer pieces of writing, the little guy stood up after two sentences. “I’m done, Mom.”

Some time after the kiddo went to bed, my husband came home from his rehearsal. “How’d he do?” I was asked. I gestured to the still-open notebook on the table. Dan looked it over. “Two sentences?”

“Sometimes, that’s more than enough,” I said.

For today, it was.

11 Post-Isaac Days & Counting

This is the debris pile and household trash pile in front of my house today, Sunday, September 9. Our trash is usually picked up on Mondays and Thursdays but, because Hurricane Isaac blew through on Wednesday August 29, we didn’t get our regular trash  pick up on Thursday. Totally understandable. So, by Monday September 3 we, of course, had more trash than usual to be picked up. We had to resort to putting household trash on top on the cans which were already filled but when the trucks came by, the workers threw those bags on the ground and left them. Fortunately, I saw what was happening & yelled for my husband who went out and actually threw them into the truck himself as the workers apparently didn’t believe they were trash but, instead, leaves. That’s ok, I can understand the confusion.

On Wednesday, a city contracted worker came by and picked up our debris which was about the same amount as you see in the photo and I’m grateful for that. But, again, on Thursday September 6 we didn’t have regular garbage pick up. We called the company and reported it. On Friday, I tweeted Kristen Palmer who replied within about 20 minutes that the mayor was having a press conference at 3:30 where garbage & debris pickup would be addressed. Great, I said. Except I never heard any more about it. I turned on a local talk radio station (admittedly at 3:45 because I was still raking storm debris in the yard) and there was no press conference on. I watched two local news stations Friday evening: no mention of a press conference.  OK, maybe I just had bad timing but it really shouldn’t be this hard to get garbage/debris pick up information updates.

On Saturday I went on the NOLA Ready website but there was nothing new there. I called 311 and was told by a a very nice lady that they were no longer taking debris/garbage pick up calls and not to worry because it would all be picked up. The big question is WHEN? I watched local TV news on Saturday evening, no mention.

Saturday night I decided to tweet (see Femme Tweets in the sidebar to the left) and post on my FaceBook wall asking about garbage/debris pick up in other areas of the city. (I live in Algiers.) Here are the results from the various people who replied:

No debris pick up as of Saturday night (in no particular order):
Algiers
Uptown
East Carrollton/Riverbend
Bywater
Irish Channel
Lower Garden District
Broadmoor

From what I can gather, my particular area of Algiers seems to be the only area that has not had regular garbage pick up. For two weeks we have had only one pick up instead of two.

Saturday night @NOLA Ready responded to the conversation on Twitter about garbage/debris pick up. They stated, “we just got more crews & equipment in to help; they covering city & will check & see if can get ETA for you!”  and today, ” thank you. We’re still running behind because of massive volume, so please leave out bins – crews working all day today.”

I sure hope today will be my day and I also hope all of my regular garbage, those bags inside the cans and outside the cans, will be picked up without my husband having to police them to make sure it is.

All in all, I think the city and Mayor Landreiu did a great job communicating and preparing the city for this storm – way better than was done seven years ago for Katrina. The NOLA Ready website (and Twitter presence) is a great idea and I referred to it many times during these last two weeks. The mayor has been accessible and visible and nobody has had to ask “Where is the mayor” in these post-storm days as so many of us did for years after The Federal Flood. Of course, no one is perfect so I hope once all the debris is picked up and the streets are clear that perhaps lessons will have been learned in that department for a better trash/debris protocol for next time. Because there will be a next time.

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Addendum: It’s 9:35 pm and today, again, was not the day. Grrrrrr.