Four Years Ago …Posted: August 29, 2009
Four years ago, I was sitting on a pink futon on the floor of a motel in Lake Charles, LA with two blond labs and a cat named after Miles Davis wondering if I still had a place called home. In the bed on the right was a finance Phd student from Macao and on the bed on the left, her roommate, a sociology Phd student from Japan. I actually got my place on the floor because I called all the foreign Phd students at UNO (New Orleans) in the Econ/Finance Department and said, get hotel rooms and get out of here, as soon as you can! We had the United Nations there. My friends from Syria, Turkey, and then, of course, the other two I mentioned took me right in! My lama from Nepal showed up there eventually too.
I had planned to stay in New Orleans. It wasn’t until I remembered the aftermath of other hurricanes that went else where (like Georges) and the mess that went on inside and around the Superdome that I thought, I bet I could survive the Hurricane, but NEVER the aftermath. I knew the aftermath would be a Hell Realm. After boarding up the house, I left with my pets, a pink futon, a poorly packed overnight bag, and little else since I was waiting for a paycheck due on that Monday that wouldn’t arrive until three months later. I went to bed that night, thinking I could drive back home. I woke up the next morning wondering where I was going to seek refuge.
All of us, grad students and animals, piled into the mighty mustang to head towards Texas that day. I actually signed up with FEMA on line while Hurricane Katrina wailed. That was before it even had a FEMA number so I knew the process and made every one I bumped into do the same before we left. We were a mess! I got hauled over by a state trooper on the interstate in Tom Delay’s district. He said I was going a bit above the speed limit and that they might do that sort’ve thing in Louisiana but not here in Texas. I mostly think it was because I had a Kerry bumper sticker (now, four years later covered over by my Hillary Sticker) on the rear. I said, look, none of us are planning on staying here, I’m sorry, and I don’t intend to mess with Texas because I’m heading North. My destination was my friend, Jane, and my daughters in Omaha. Their destination was the Dallas Airport for the Japanese student and the Dallas Greyhound Bus Station for the one from Macao.
On the way up there were plenty of things gifted to this American from other Americans. One of the belts in the mighty mustang got squeaky and I was a bit afraid to head up towards the Topeka Turnpike and through no where Oklahoma with an unknown car problem. The Ford dealer took me in, looked at my car, and sent me on my way with no charge. A nice soldier on leave from Iran held the dogs on the leash while I tried to calm Miles in the customer wait room. One lady asked me if I needed anything. I already had a money offer from a woman in Lake Charles who looked like she really needed money herself. (Given they got pummeled by Rita a few weeks later, I’m glad I refused and told her to send it to the Red Cross.)
I didn’t take any money from any one until I hit Omaha with the realization I had no pajamas, only a pair of beat up sandals and a pair of patten leather mules, and later, no coat when it was getting cold. The lack of clothes, food and a
messed up pay check made me rethink my status as a charity case. Friends of my friend wrote me checks rather than checks to the Red Cross, Target gave me discounts, the Red Cross gave me gift certificates (I was greeted by a Nepali named Dharma there), and several clothing stores offered up gift certificates too. Thankfully, I was one of the first folks to get those FEMA checks deposited in my account because I’m willing to bet you I was one of the first people who filed a Katrina Claim with FEMA. I spent one entire day calling WAMU who told me that I didn’t need to pay my house payment or credit card payment for three months. (Whew!) The Nebraska UNO gave me an office to work in–I’d gotten my first masters there and they remembered me. An Omaha Veterinarian sheltered my 3 animals at cost. My favorite phone call offering help was from another Phd student who called from Egypt. His mother insisted that I had to come to Cairo because she was afraid I was missing out on hot meals. He was calling to tell me his family would arrange to fly me there on their jet.
My friend, Jane, put up with me for 5 weeks. Mostly, I was glued to CNN day in and day out on her sofa and got up to make her home style meals every night because those were the only things I was up for. I finally left for home the first part of October and arrived to what has been a major mess and disruption in my life since then. The rest of the city and I have been slow to recover but each in our own ways. What I saw when I got back is a story for another day.
So, my Katrina story isn’t like the others I heard when I got back. I had friends airlifted by the Cost Guard. I had
friends who had fishing boats they had to take from their homes to the Chalmette City Center. I heard tales from the boys in the National Guard from Washington State that they had just shot six alligators trying to eat a few dead folks over in the lower nine which is a few blocks from my house, but across the canal. I did not flood. I did not lose my roof. I simply had some wind damage and some one took my brand new stainless steel grill. I came home one day and the FEMA inspector showed up the next to access my damage. I don’t have any of those kind of horror stories to tell. During the next year, however, my little house on the bayou was a refuge to many people who had lost their home. There were up to four people, living free in my house, at any one time. So, my stories are different but nonetheless, I have them.
I was the first teacher to teach a class on the main campus at UNO. President Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush visited us. I saw a lot of people come through my neighborhood, the Prince of Wales, Saudi Princes, Senators, Greek Orthodox Patriarchs, President Jimmy Carter and his wife, actors and actresses, journalists galore, and many nice nice people that just came to help us clean up. Just like with my cancer
bout, there will never be a day that I am not free from Hurricane Katrina.
There are many quiet heroes about which I can speak who helped me during the Katrina nightmare that fades but never quite goes away. Number one on my list is General Russell Honore who made the mayor, the governor, the president, and the Police Chief look like complete Pikers. If there is any truth to this story at Bayoubuzz and TPM, I will re-register as a Republican so I can vote for him, I kid you not! I think that’s akin to saying if I were a soldier, I would follow his orders even if he sent me to the depths of hell. He’s a legend here.
In a breaking story, The Louisiana Weekly and Bayoubuzz.com have learned that the hero of Hurricane recovery, General Russell Honore is seriously considering entering the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate seat against incumbent David Vitter. Honore, a Republican since the Reagan Administration and a registered Louisiana voter from his Zachary home, has spoken to friends and supporters in the last two weeks signaling that he is, according to one, “more than 50% sure that he will run.”
The news comes mere hours after Third District Congressman Charlie Melancon announced his firm intention to be the Democratic challenger to David Vitter in the fall of 2010. Melancon, who represents the critical swing areas of Central Acadiana–a region known for crowing statewide candidates–has already proven a serious obstacle for the incumbent Senator to keep his job. Even if Vitter should emerge victorious from the closed Republican primary, a bruising fight against Honore could leave the Senator financially and visibly weakened before the onslaught of a Moderate Democrat like Melancon–one of the leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Caucus in the House.
While polls show Vitter as the clear favorite in both the primary and the general election, one very senior Louisiana Republican predicted that if Honore runs, “He wins.” As that GOP party elder further explained to the www.louisianaweekly.com and Bayoubuzz on the promise of confidentiality, “All he has to say is ‘Stuck on Stupid’, and Vitter is toast.”
I really like the punch line here because it is so true …
And, all things being equal, Cajuns DO vote for Cajuns.
Now, Rep. Charlie Melancon is a Blue Dog Democrat, as blue as they come so even in the general, election that is, I’m gonna have to think on this one. All I gotta say is
Run Russell Run!!!! If I gotta be stuck with Republican Senator, I’d rather it be you!!!
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