Where to from Here?

photo courtesy of history.com

In honor of the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an excerpt from my old blog.

~ ~ ~

September 20, 2005

Yellow police tape and orange cones restricted the entrances into the Convention Center. With our “Katrina Relief” badges hanging around our necks, a policeman acknowledged us and let us inside.

A city within a city. The main conference halls were transformed into living areas; evacuees slept on cots with their few belongings stored underneath. Various halls were designated to different services, each identified by hand written posters. “Food” in this area, “Medical Triage” in that area. “Housing” over here, “Transportation” over there.

“The shelter is closing in 3 days,” we were informed. Thus, I worked as an “escort” to assist evacuees with their “exit” plan, weaving our way through maze of services cluttered around the center.

While waiting in line to register for the Red Cross, I chatted with one of the evacuees about his experiences during Hurricane Katrina.

“The water started rising, but I didn’t leave. Where to? I got nowhere to go. No family out there, no car, no place to go. The military came and knocked on my door.. made me leave. Then they dropped us off at one of the universities temporarily, said they were going to pick us up soon. But were were there for days- no food, no running water, no bathrooms. I couldn’t believe they’d let us live there, like animals. We were stranded and went up to the roof and kept waving for help. Finally after a few days they picked us up. It was horrible…” he described, in a somber voice.

Then he began talking about the crime. The looting. The chaos, on the streets. The lack of police authority. The lack of response. Losing his home. Losing all his belongings. Losing everything. Being disabled. Living on social security. Having nothing. No family. Being alone. No where to go. Nothing to start with. Powerlessness. Lack of control. Depending on people for help. Lack of resources. Unfamiliar surroundings. Pain. Lack of meds. Lack of medical help. Lack of understanding. Hurrying it up to wait. Being lost. Hungry…

After awhile I had to turn away… I knew that if I looked into his eyes, I would start crying. I saw a crowd of people in front
of me, beside me, behind me. The images began to blur together. Like a movie in slow motion, I saw the trails left behind people as they passed by, but I couldn’t catch a glimpse of their faces.

In some sense, I didn’t want to. I couldn’t bear to look straight into them- it was too difficult. Misery, loss, devastation, depression, hopelessness. What could I do for you? What do I have to offer? Not much at all. The merry-go-round continued spinning; I sat there and stared into oblivion.

“15!” the Red Cross representative shouted out the next number in line, waking me out of my trance. We were number 32. It had been over an hour already. But what next? Housing? How could he afford it? Would he go back to New Orleans or stay in Austin?

I buried my hands and sobbed.

Where to from here?

For you, for me?

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3 thoughts on “Where to from Here?

  1. I don’t think many in this country truly comprehend the extent of out governments total and complete collapse in helping their own citizens in a desperate time of critical need from both Dems and Reps- inexcusable for a 1st world country with the amazing resources we’ve been blessed with. What makes it worse is we had so much time to prepare as the hurricane made it’s way closer, unlike earthquakes or others disasters that provide little if any advance warning. There’s even a government plan on such an event written years before the incident.

    My anger still burns against Mike Brown, the lead at FEMA, who instead of seeing this as an opportunity to show the world our ability to deal with crisis, folded like a coward and sent emails to his friends about “now being trapped in his position”, proving he never should have been appointed to it in the first place. He wanted nothing more than the visibility/prestige that came with title and none of the true responsibility.

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