writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: September 1, 2005; revised: April 2, 2018; readers in past month: 500
I stayed for Hurricane Katrina. It was a pretty rough storm, but I survived. My apartment is on the third floor in a suburb of New Orleans, less than two miles from where the levee broke and flooded New Orleans. However, I was on the other side of the levee that didn’t break. The water was up about five feet in front of my apartment. My car is ruined, but my apartment and its contents are fine. I posted some pictures in the photograph album section of my site (see link in top left margin).
It was lightweight where I was. About two miles away, where my daughter lives, there’s 25 feet or more of water. She’s in Houston with her mother. She’s upset because they left her dog (a long-haired daschund) at home. The water was up into the attic. I can’t imagine he survived and I had no way to get to him. Even if I could, I would have to dive a few feet under water to get to the door knob and lock. The search and rescue people were there trying to find people who were alive and on their roofs. They said they found 100 bodies today in my old neighborhood. I couldn’t ask them to check on my daughter’s dog.
I stayed until Wednesday afternoon. We had no electricity or running water. One of my neighbors had a gasoline powered electric generator that we used to power a refrigerator. The local K-mart manager gave us plenty of food. So, with the refrigerator running and the natural gas powered barbeque pit, we were able to eat. However, we were getting heat exhaustion, feeling the effects of something in our digestive system, running out of water in our bath tubs for the toilets, and running low on gasoline for the generator. Then the police came by and told us that the levee on our side of the 17th Street Canal looked as though it was about to break. That would have meant twenty feet or more of water rushing in on us. So, we paired off with those who had older vehicles that didn’t have complex electrical and computer systems, that is to say I left with a neighbor who managed to get his old truck started.
We worked our way over twelve hours to Birmingham, Alabama where my neighbor’s son lives. I checked into a hotel and spent a few days recovering and figuring out my next move. To my comfort, I received many emails from people around the country and in other countries to come and stay with them for a few weeks or months. I settled on the home of the editor of my book, Andy Oram. He and his family have taken me in. They live in Arlington, Massachusetts, which is not far from Boston and my youngest son Geoffrey and my sister Janice. So I will have some of my family around me while I work out a permanent solution.
People have asked me already why I stayed for the hurricane. I stayed because hurricanes are part of who I am, and who we are as a people (similar to why the Jews won’t leave Gaza, or why Serbs won’t leave Croatia). But this hurricane changed us and scattered us like refugees from a war. My daughter and her mother are renting an apartment in Houston. My oldest son is in Fort Worth and plans on staying. He and his friend are renting an apartment. My cousin is stuck in Miami. He was in Brazil and was flying in when it all started. His mother is stuck at the Pensacola welcome center and not sure what to do. One of my friends is in Baton Rouge, but thinking of going to Toronto to start his life over again. Another friend is in Montgomery with his wife. He’s heading to Georgia to stay with a cousin in the morning. He’s trying to figure out how to complete his cancer treatment which was just starting to work in the past few months I have neighbors who have gone to St. Louis, Seattle, and other places. We’re not sure what to do next and none of us seem to want to go back.