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One Month After Katrina

By Remy Benoit

I cannot begin to explain to you the sheer immensity of destruction left in the wake of Katrina and Rita. The linemen working in this area have told me horror stories of what they have seen. One asked me today if someone was in the trailer that was torn off and flipped over on its back when that happened. I told him a man and his dog were in there. He asked what they did and I told him they climbed out and ran to safety. He said in amazement ‘in winds strong enough to do that?’ Well, yes, what else was there to do?

To that sweet man who is here from the Hudson Valley in New York, to all the others who have put in endless hours to put us back together again, our heartfelt thanks.

There are many here who still do not have power, or phones. My phone just came back today, ironically from a short inside the house. There are many here who have not yet, a full month later, reached FEMA or the Red Cross.

We have dear friends who have lost everything; the home, the contents, the jobs, all of it. I cannot wrap my head around the idea of going back to your home that had many feet of water in its for weeks and “assessing the damage.” How does your head handle that? How does your heart cope with that?

We are not a third world country here along the Gulf even though one volunteer seems to think that “for all intents and purposes” we are. We are part of the strongest nation on the planet, and there will be many questions to be answered. My heart goes out to those in California who today are facing the ravages of wildfires. I do hope help gets to them more quickly. We need to ask those questions, to demand answers, for the ones, wherever they may be in tornado belts, along flooded rivers, along shorelines, who need help next.

We, well, we take a great deal for granted. We follow our morning routines, drink our coffee, take out the dog, enjoy the hot shower. We here now know what it means when those things just go away just as others have from natural disasters. Some of us now know what it feels like when everything goes away. There was a time when I took walking and dancing for granted; now, after a year and a half of not being able to, I thank God for each and every step.

It is a strange feeling to not flip on the cable and know what is happening “out there.” It is a strange feeling when the e-mails from friends are not there, when the mail doesn’t come, when trees fall within inches of our home, on their roofs, their roots torn from the ground by the hurricane winds. Water rises and swallows all that you hold dear.

I am rambling, I know. My head is still scrambled from the excessive heat, it was 98 yesterday, 91 today, the weeks of no power, of canned food, of little sleep. And we were the lucky ones. We have our home. We haven't spent endless hours on the phone for a month trying unsuccessfully to get through to help. We are not a 72 year old woman who has to drive miles to the next town to get 4 MRE’s.

We can learn from disaster. I feel I have come closer perhaps just a little to even beginning to understand what a soldier must feel when all that is known, is familiar, is dear, is gone. Why letters dripping with what is familiar at home are so precious. We have had little outside news, most of what has been on the radio is local problems trying to be settled, but I heard today that we lost 5 Marines in Iraq and I wept, again for so much loss of life there, for the Mom here with a destroyed home whose Marine son was on his way back for a second tour.

I do not have any answers for any of this. At this point, well, I don’t think I have even formulated the questions about how to do all of this better. As the days pass, as we clear the grounds, help those who have lost it all find a new way, a new place, a new beginning I do hope we can remember what a world turned upside down feels like.

And that leads me to the thought that I have constantly been trying to get through on here. When those we send to battle come home different people than those we sent, and they all come home different; when they come home wounded, maimed, physically and psychologically scarred, we need to be there from them from day one on. In many cases their worlds, their lives, have been permanently turned upside down.

We need to cut through the red tape and be there just as they were for us.

I know having gone through this that I am different. I really don't know quite how yet though. That knowledge will come in time. I can tell you that I made a LOT of ice cubes now.

For any of you who need to “talk” just click on Feedback. I don’t have the cable hookup yet, nor know when we will, but as long as the dial up holds, I will get back to you.

Blessings, and thanks to all of you who have been there for us.
Remy

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This item is part of WelcomeHomeSoldier.com: 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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