I got this email forwarded to me this week about a college friend of mine and had to fight to keep from crying. It’s funny how as long as I can keep myself distanced from what happened in the gulf with Hurricane Katrina I am ok. It’s not quite real. I didn’t personally know anyone there, and I was grateful that it wasn’t somewhere that I did know a lot of people.
I didn’t know X (name removed) was there. Now I feel sort of helpless again, and hearing what she is going through makes this whole thing a little harder to digest. I remember reading a novel once about the aftermath of a deadly fire in California that destroyed hundreds of homes and the feeling of insecurity and vulnerability that the people felt afterwards. You always see so much about people fighting natural disasters and never how they cope afterwards. You aren’t seeing news stories about the insurance companies who are refusing to pay out claims just people pointing fingers at each other about whose to blame. And sure there are telethons and donations galore. You can’t turn on the TV without hearing about how x, y and z are raising money for victims. But sadly, in a month it will be old news, and the media monster will be zeroing in on the story of the minute while people like X are still fighting to piece together their old lives. That is what really bugs me.
[Excerpt from email....]
I hope you all are doing well.
First, I would like to thank you for your calls and emails. It was reallynice to know that people care. Second, I apologize for not responding.Things have been really crazy and to be perfectly honest, I haven't feltlike talking about my current situation. The uncertaintly surrounding mylife has made it difficult for me to explain what I am doing or where I amgoing.The bottom line is that I am currently at Washington & Lee Law School inLexington, Virginia. I arrived here last Monday and am living in the lawschool dorms with two law students, one from Tulane and one from Loyola.There are about ten students here from New Orleans, which makes it a loteasier to adjust. W & L started three weeks ago, so it has been difficultto try and catch up on what I have missed.
As many of you know, I was able to evacuate New Orleans before the storm. Iwas at the law school library when I received the first news that Katrinawas headed toward New Orleans. At that time, she was only a category three hurricane and no one anticipated the level of destruction that the storm caused. Upon cancellation of classes, I began looking for a plane ticket to Columbus, but I was afraid that any flight leaving on Sunday would eventually be cancelled. The phone lines in New Orleans were already clogged and it was next to impossible to reach certain 504 cell numbers.
I finally got ahold of myboyfriend who was leaving to visit his family and wait out the storm. After speaking with him, I had about 20 minutes to pack my bags. Looking back on it now, it's easy to see that I should have taken more from my apartment, including my car, but on Saturday afternoon the storm was not as large or as strong as it grew to be by Sunday.When I left New Orleans on Saturday I assumed, as did most people, that Iwould return to the city no later than Tuesday. I anticipated only minor damage, if any, and my biggest concern was completing all of the school workI would miss due to the hurricane.
After Tulane closed for the semester, I frantically searched for a place to spend the remainder of the fall semester. I lost my car in the storm, so I needed a place that I could walk around, I also needed a furnished apartment that was cheap (since I thought I would still have to pay rent in NOLA) andI wanted to be close to DC so that I could continue my job search. I settled on W & L because it fit all of those goals and X (name removed) was able to get in as well. As for my life back in New Orleans, I was holding out hope until this weekthat my apartment would be relatively OK. I knew that my car was probably gone, but since my apartment is on the second floor and the flooding was only 7-10 feet in my area (sounds funny to say ONLY), I assumed that most of my stuff would be alright.
Unfortunately, I received some bad news yesterday from my roommate. Her father is a Doctor and was allowed back into New Orleans to work at the hospital. He drove by our apartment and reported that the entire roof has caved in and it is literally raining inside our apartment. He made itinside the apartment but was unable to walk around since he was worried that there may be structural problems to the entire building. His report is that pretty much everything is gone. Those things that are still alright will probably be ruined since our apartment is open to the elements and will continue to be until my landlord can make it back to the city. At this point we are assuming that the entire apartment building suffered extreme structural damage and will have to be torn down. I am holding out hope that at some point I will be able to get back to New Orleans and that some things may be salvagable from my apartment. However, if the structural damage is as bad as they report, it may not be safe for me to reenter my apartment at all. This news has been very hard to me to handle. While I know that they are only material possessions, it is still hard to believe that everything I have is gone. To make matters worse, my insurance company is fighting my claim for the damages to my apartment. I know that I am lucky to be out of New Orleans and to have a place to stay, but honestly all I want to do is go home. I miss my life in New Orleans, I miss my friends, and I miss the stability that I had. I am planning on returning to New Orleans in January when Tulane reopens, however there is still a lot of uncertainty. I'm not sure how long it will take to rebuild my apartment, or even if my landlord will decide to do so.
I apologize for the somber tone of my email. I am hoping to know more inthe next couple weeks and I remain optimistic that my next email will bemore upbeat.