“In a time of destruction, create something.”
― Maxine Hong Kingston
It’s been a while since I’ve been here. But today is a day of remembrance for me. It’s a day of memories, and a day to finally put behind me. In the sphere of remembrance this day lives, a day that changed my life and the lives of thousands of others who called the Mississippi gulf coast and New Orleans home. Still to this day I find it hard to put into words the feelings that I felt then. Just a few words to describe it would be surreal, unimaginable, catastrophic, disheartening and devastating. This is my Katrina story.
On August 29th, 2005 she made her landfall. The previous morning I had evacuated to Hattiesburg, MS which is approximately 80 miles from the gulf coast and from the town of Long Beach, MS where I was living at the time. It would turn out that I hadn’t evacuated far enough away. That morning at around 6am we lost power and wouldn’t have it back for another 14 days, during the hottest part of the year in the humid, throat strangling air of the gulf south.
Hattiesburg rests in the “pinebelt” of the south. We sat on the porch with winds gusting over 100mph, watching as tall yellow pines snapped in half and fell on top of cars, houses and everything else around them, twisting power lines and smashing through rooftops. We heard the roar of tornadoes touching down and ripping apart homes and uprooting trees. What was left after about six hours was a twisted pile of rubble stuffed under a maze of ripped apart trees.
Back on the coast, things were already gone. My apartment, which once housed all of my possessions, sentimental items and everything that any personal space would contain was completely wiped off of its foundation. Not a shred of carpet or tile was left on the slab. I wouldn’t see my slab until about three days after the storm, when finally a path had been cleared along the roads heading back home.
After all was said and done, after everything was washed away, I was left with only a few things; the clothes on my back, my car and my shoes. I was left with good friends and family, and that’s all that really matters in life anyway. So today, in this sphere of remembrance I choose to let go of this part of my life once and for all. It’s been ten years since that destructive day and this is a marker for all of those who lost loved ones, lives and possessions. In every ending, there lives a beginning, such is the cycle of life.
For all of those who knew what the coast and what New Orleans was like before Katrina, it’s truly hard to move on from and not remember those days before, the times shared and the memories made. We remember the antebellum homes that no longer stand, the many neighborhoods and shops and eateries that no longer exist. But in their ghostly places stand new memories and reminders of days past. It’s a blend of history and a mix of emotion, true. But it is the present, and holding on to the past will get us nowhere.
The picture here is what was left of my little slice of life. It was just a simple apartment. There were many like it, but this one was mine. It housed me in difficult times. I was working two jobs, attending school at the University of Southern Mississippi and I was in the middle of a divorce. I’d lived there only about 9 months and was about to renew my lease. But, all was washed away and wiped clean and for the longest time I couldn’t understand why, but now I do.
Without Katrina and her devastation I may have never embarked upon my own spiritual path of understanding, never taken to the open road in search of myself and in search of meaning. It was through Katrina that I found my calling in life and though she took many things from me, I owe her gratitude.
In remembrance, and in all spheres, we must always remember:
No matter how great the suffering, how horrific the devastation or how intolerable the pain….
Everything happens for a reason.