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Katrina Day 22

By Remy Benoit

Yesterday, Monday, the temperature here was 102.
Today, Tuesday, it is 99.
We got our power back last Friday night.
Many, many, many do not have power, nor do they have homes, or anything else.

I spoke with a woman today from Chalmette which is southeast of New Orleans. Her home had 20 feet of water in it. She is not going back. Many people in St. Bernard Parish were told to come and assess the damage to their homes before they were bulldozed down.

Most of you probably don’t know the name Chalmette. It is where the Battle of New Orleans was fought.

Someone asked me what we did for 18 days with no power.
We went to bed when it got dark and tried to sleep in the heat and humidity.
When the first light came, we got up, set about feeding the animals, making coffee on the charcoal grill until that was replaced with a propane cooker.

We rationed the water until there was gas here and I bought a generator which I had no idea how to install. A neighbor did that for me. He has a brand new son born just before Katrina. Welcome, Conor. Your folks are good people.

We ate canned food. We rejoiced when a neighbor found some ice and shared it.

We made it through. And we are the blessed ones. Our home is in tact.

Huge trees gave their lives to protect it. The trees here above Lake Ponchatrain are not only snapped in half. Many had their very roots pulled out of the ground by the force of the hurricane. I heard an estimate that between Franklinton and the Mississippi border 75 % of the trees are gone. In some areas, they are between 90-100% gone.

We have had local news, just a tiny smattering of national, from United New Orleans Broadcasters out of Baton Rouge. Radio stations sharing the air waves. Radio announcers taking hundreds upon hundreds of calls from desperate people seeking help from FEMA and Red Cross that for whatever reason has not been forthcoming.
Thousands of people listening to Parish Presidents, to the President. Thousands of people wanting to go home. Thousands of people with no homes to go to.

From what I have been told, much of the media showed, again, again, and again, some nasty things that went on in New Orleans. Know this, it was neighbor helping neighbor, friends, family taking others in, that held, and is holding, people together. They weren’t looting, they weren’t raping, they were helping each other. They were out cutting trees, clearing up debris, and carrying on. The older man and his son from down the road, their respective trailers, one flipped over, one de-roofed, walked down the road through the blistering heat, the myriad swarms of love bugs and mosquitoes to see if I needed help to clear my road, if my house was okay. They, and thousands like them, are Louisiana.

Louisiana and the other states impacted by this are flooded with people helping from other states. The man who got my power back on is from Hattiesburg, MS and as I understand it, he has damage to his own home. These people have been working 16-18 shifts since the hurricane went through; sleeping in their trucks, in tents, wherever. They are tired, drained, exhausted and yet they carry on saying one day it might be them who need help.
God Bless them all as they have our deep gratitude.

National Guardsmen have come home from Afghanistan, Iraq, and have come here to patrol. Many are from Louisiana and have no idea where their families are; have no homes to come home to. A Marine here, who already served in Iraq, is on his way back. He is
one of many.

The brother of my heart, if not blood, told me to not let this devastation make me bitter. I am not bitter, I am stunned.

In Alabama, from Waveland, through Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, and Pas Christiane, there is devastation. In the latter, a 32 foot tidal surge came ashore and ate the cities. The homes of friends have been devoured by the fierce hunger of the storm. Take note that if you live in an area of possible flooding, be absolutely sure that you are not relying on your regular home owners policy to cover it. It will not. Period. Will not.

President Bush stood and spoke in our beloved Jackson Square. Let the rest of the country know that New Orleans, our lady, will shine again as brightly, as determinedly as she has from 1718. No one, no one, can say ‘the hell with New Orleans’ if they know not only the beauty of our city, but her vast importance to the economic welfare of this nation.
And when you come back to visit with us, when you come back for the Jazz Fest, for Mardi Gras, treat her with the respect she is due.

I am a firm believer in synchronicity and thus, I believe that the two books I read while waiting out the heat, bugs, and shock came into my hands for a reason. One is Lizzie’s War by Tim Farrington. It is the story of a Marine wife, left at home with four children, one on the way, while her husband was at Khe Sahn. Walk awhile in her shoes. Walk awhile in his, not only when he is there, but when they are told to walk away from Khe Sanh.

The other book is Pete Hamill’s, Forever. Imagine being an Irish immigrant who has lost it
all, comes to Manhattan before the Revolution, and gets to stay, Forever. Walk a few miles in his shoes. Think about what it would be like if you got to live forever in your area.

What befell us could happen elsewhere; an earthquake, a flood, another hurricane, a blizzard, whatever. Walk awhile in our shoes and think about what you need to be able to make it through on your own the first few weeks of a catastrophe. Because that is what you will need to do; make it on your own until those whose jobs it is to get it done, get it right. Ask for answers from our catastrophe of FEMA and of the RED CROSS as to why it took so long to even begin to get it done on a small scale, let alone the large scale on which it needs to be done.

All of life is for the learning. Learn this lesson well.

The Gulf Coast will be back.

New Orleans will shine.

The good times will roll again.

We shall make it so.

Blessings and love to all,


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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