Mother Of All Storms

by Young Che on September 1, 2008

Here we go again. As the 3rd Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approached we learned that a storm of similar magnitude was also approaching. Hurricane Gustav didn’t necessarily need an invitation to the activities planned around the Rememberance of Hurricane Katrina because he planned to make a grand entrance regardless of what organizers had planned for. Our overall response as a city, state and Gulf Coast region proved quite remarkable in terms of planning, preparation and communication. The message this time around was very clear especially from Mayor Nagin, “if you stay this could be the biggest mistake of your life.” Mandatory evacuations went into effect for most of the region with time to spare. Prior to Hurricane Katrina there was always a segment of the New Orleans population who were dead set on riding out hurricanes as if they were thunderstorms passing through. The devastation that Hurricane Katrina left in her wake changed the thinking of everyone who lived in this region and even those brave enough to return to New Orleans determined to call it home.

As Hurricane Gustav approached I found myself in a state of disbelief. The thought of another hurricane with the potential size and strength of Hurricane Katrina was unsettling to say the least. This feels like De Ja Vu. I can’t believe we’re going through this again. I know, I know I have to snap out of this pattern of denial. If I thought I was in the Twilight Zone during the rebuilding efforts associated with Post-Katrina New Orleans now I am stuck in the Twilight Zone for real. We had to evacuate just like we did for Katrina except this time the disturbing thoughts associated with Katrina were nagging at our psyches. Just the thought of having to start all over again before gaining a sense of normalcy from rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina is enough to make you rethink the whole decision to go back to New Orleans and rebuild in the first place.

Whenever you are forced to evacuate your home to potentially never return again there are a lot of decisions that have to be made very quickly. Having a plan is a must but as the time quickly approached for us to depart I realized that I hadn’t spent much time devising my contingency plans in the event of another storm. My plan was the same as Katrina which is a good plan in regards to protecting the lives of my family but not much in the way of protecting property, securing important documents or having a desirable place to stay in the event we had to relocate for any prolonged period of time.

Before Hurricane Katrina we would to just pack a weekend bag to get out of the city for a couple of days until the worst of the storm blew through until it was safe to return. We would have several potential locations to call home for a few days usually with family and friends so that the stay could be as enjoyable as possible since we would be inconvenienced for a couple of days. Not anymore. My wife and kids are determined to bring their entire wardrobes. “Do we have room for at least one of the flatscreens?” my wife asks. OMG!

I’m trying to play it cool but as I open my closet I find myself thinking about starting all over. We had to start from scratch last time. We only had enough underwear for 3 days and nobody wants to go through that again. So how did we end up in this predicament again. I love those ubiquitous “New Orleans, Proud To Call It Home” bumper stickers that could be found on automobiles all over the city both prior to and post Hurricane Katrina. Is the price of calling New Orleans home too high to pay? Repeatedly.

We spent all day Saturday packing up stuff to bring and stuff to put in the attic to avoid the flooding that could possibly find its way into our area. We got six feet of water from Hurricane Katrina so we know anything goes. I moved about the day not really wanting this to be happening but it definitely was happening. I don’t know what I packed because I wasn’t in the mood for dealing with this stuff. The only thing that mattered to me was getting out. The only thought that comforted me was the thought that if this thing hits big like Katrina did then you can forget about me rebuilding in New Orleans anytime soon. Its just too much to deal with on a regular basis.

My wife and I were both on edge as a result of trying to get out of town. Both of our nerves were frayed and we even resorted to a little infighting and finger pointing. What was the infighting about? Well a little bit about what to take and what to leave. A little bit about where to go as we prepare to hit the road. And the kicker about who’s fault it is we are even having this conversation in the first place. Who’s fault was it that we were back in New Orleans again when after Katrina we were talking about not moving back because we didn’t want to have to go through it again. And here we were going through it again.

How could this have happened? Why were we reliving the same nightmare? Of course each one of us had every reason under the sun to blame the other. Well its a little late for all of that now because we had to concentrate on the matter at hand… getting out of the city. We finalize a few of the last minute items and finally head north toward the first destination of our 2-tiered evacuation plan. In this modern time who wants to be inconvenienced with the lack of power for any stretch of time? That was our reasoning for not staying put just north of the city because although we wouldn’t have had to worry much about rising water like any brave soul remaining in New Orleans we would have definitely had to deal with the prospect of not having electricity. Imagine that. That also means that I wouldn’t have been able to post this in a timely fashion. So of course we decided to move onward toward Atlanta, the city we should have called home after Katrina in my estimation. There I go, ever the Monday Morning Quarterback. I won’t bother sharing with my audience how this little mix-up is all my wife’s fault. I know you guys are too sharp to believe something like that anyway and a great deal of it is my fault as well. It takes two to tango.

We decided to sleep over by our family’s house Saturday night and leave for Atlanta Sunday morning. Everyone took this storm serious because the highways were jam packed for much of the way. It took us about eleven hours to get to Atlanta. This trip normally takes much less time but several thousand Gulf Coast residents joined us on the road to Atlanta. It felt good pulling into Atlanta again. As I write this the storm has already made landfall without the punch of Katrina but we are still waiting to see the amount of damage and flooding it generates.

To keep the feeling De Ja Vu as authentic as possible all I brought with me was my family, a duffel bag of clothes, my skateboards, my PS3 and my laptop. That’s pretty much all I need even if I have to start all over.

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