Sunday, September 18, 2005

Life with Katrina - Part Six

Saturday September 10

We got up at three that morning and intended to leave at four, but it was nearly five before we heading down my sister’s long driveway and then up the steep rocky road that lead to the highway.

The tranquilizers didn’t seem to be helping the dogs much at first, but after about an hour they settled down and we decided to drive as straight through as we could, only stopping when we had to for gas or to walk or water the dogs.

We didn’t have trouble finding gas until we got about three hours from home. Another hour or so and we hit the damage we had left behind. Instead of fourteen hours it only took us eleven this time.

When we hit our parish the roads were all mostly opened, but it almost seemed as if things looked even worse than they had when we left. Now all of the pulled up, broken down, and splintered apart trees were dead, their oak leaves or pine needles brown instead of green. Roof tops were covered with big blue tarps and power trucks, tree trucks and army trucks were every where.

When we reached our street we found our homes were still there, waiting for us. After a few moments we were thrilled to find no looters had entered or damaged either house and that the sewer hadn’t backed up into them either. Everything was just as we and Katrina had left it--including no power.

We expected that we wouldn’t have power since the main line to our home had been ripped from the pole, but since the business below us and above us had power because of us being on that main grid, there was no reason for my son not to have power. I wanted to just sit down and cry as I thought of the miserable nights ahead of us. I was also worried about my dogs, two of them really. One is a big husky who has too thick of a coat to handle the heat well, and the other is my dog that has the seizures. He has short hair, but because of his health and meds, he can’t take the heat even as well as the husky.

My husband got back into the truck and went in search of the power crews, of someone who looked like a boss maybe. When he found a lone man sitting in a power company pickup talking on a cell phone, my husband approached him and explained that our street didn’t have power and that the lady who lived next door to us was on meds that had to be refrigerated and the next neighbor over was in an electric wheelchair, and that we were on the grid that had power so he didn’t understand why we all didn’t have it.

The man came and took a quick look, moments letter he had bucket trucks here, and moments later we all had power! I think the whole street celebrated.

Our happiness soon came to a sudden halt though.

In celebration I headed through the house turning on each light. I didn’t really pay much attention at first. Things had been left in a pretty good mess. Furniture stacked up, stuff scattered about, flashlights and lanterns and such here and there. It just all looked like the way we had left it until I got to my bedroom. When I flipped the light switch in there, I couldn’t miss the colorful mold that covered all of the walls from the floor up to about two feet. Closer inspection revealed it on the walls of all the newer rooms we had built onto our house over the years, including the second bathroom, the living room, and the utility room. It was also on cabinets, shelves, furniture, and so on.

We had cleaned all of the water out of the house after the hurricane, we had left a number of windows open when we headed for my sister’s so the house wouldn’t be sealed up, but it hadn’t done any good. The mold had taken over anyway. There was nothing we could do but gather up the things we had unloaded from the truck and carry them across the street to our son’s home. (Thankfully his interior walls are paneling with no insulation behind them. Nothing there to soak up the water and hold on to it in the walls.) We couldn’t even begin planning a clean up or repair work until our issuance company and FEMA came and looked at things.

Everyone we asked said it wouldn’t be safe for us to stay in our home until the mold is gone, which means throwing some things away, cleaning what we can, and ripping out all of the sheet rock and insulation from the floor up to about four feet and then replacing it all. I don’t even know what we will be able to save. It seems the water destroyed motorized things and the mold is trying to get the rest.

It’s hard to live right next door to my home, to be able to look out my son’s front door and see my house sitting there, empty; to see my totaled car sitting in the driveway. But it’s hard to walk through the yard too. I’ve spent years on my yard, on roses and fruit trees and lovely plants and shrubs. That giant oak tree that fell through my whole back yard pretty much did them all in with one fall, including my large Japanese persimmon trees that took me over ten years to grow big enough that I was getting a decent amount of fruit from them each fall. They were both loaded with persimmons too, and you can’t buy Japanese persimmon fruit around here.

I even feel guilty for feeling sad--and sometimes even angry. We lost so little compared to what many others have lost. We are all alive, we have a running vehicle, our home is still standing, we have a roof over our heads and food and water and power and I know everything and anything else above or beyond that is more than I should ask for, but being human as I am, I guess I can’t help but have an occasional pity party for one or a special moment as my husband has named them.

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