The two-year anniversary of Katrina is drawing nearer. I remember those first days, and even first weeks, after the hurricane hit here, thinking how things would never, could never be the same. In fact, there were days when I even thought things would never get better.
That first spring afterwards, there were still scars everywhere. You could see them in the destroyed and damaged buildings, in the broken and downed trees, in the abandoned businesses and homes, and in so many other places and ways, even on the people who carried scars on the inside.
But…it’s 2007 and this is a brand new spring. Life does renew itself. You can see that all over Bogalusa. Yes, there’re still scars. The city is still tearing down homes and other structures, some people are still in FEMA trailers, there are still repairs going on in lots of places here. The city just last week finally came and removed four huge oak trees from my street. Three weren’t healthy before the hurricane and more damage just meant they needed to come down all the more. One, the biggest, was a giant beauty though, until Katrina tore the top half out and split sections of the big limbs that were left. My street sure doesn’t look the same without those four majestic trees stranding guard and protecting us from the heat of the summer sun, but it’s what needed to be done.
We lost some great stores and companies, but there are a number of new businesses being built here all at once. Some new things, like a restaurant called the Big Easy Grill, and a new Hot Links sausage company, actually came here from closer to New Orleans. Seems their loss was our gain in a few areas.
People who had their homes too badly damaged to live in, have, or are, moving back into those repaired homes or newly built ones. Places that had really major, major damage, like one of the big churches not too far form me, finally was fixed up enough to have services last Sunday. The city is planting some new trees too and planning things to make the area better.
We learned a whole lot too. The city and the people here will be far better prepared if another Katrina paints a bull’s eye on us.
As for now, help still comes in. The kind that requires muscles and sweat. Bogalusa has had a number of college kids and even members of churches and such, come down for days or even weeks, some even from other countries. At first they might have helped remove trees from roadways and homes and do kind of emergency-need stuff. Now they come and offer free labor to those who were maybe able to buy stuff to repair damaged roofs, floors, or walls, but maybe aren’t able to afford to pay for labor or do the work on their own.
After the hurricane, at first it seemed all anyone heard about was New Orleans. Probably because of the number of people there and the flooding and mostly and sadly the number of lives lost. But there were so many towns and cities that took just as hard of a hit, and even harder, than there--but thankful without the number of lost lives. I think smaller places just didn’t make as good of press. Months later, all you seemed to hear about was the people who had pulled scams and wasted money, and cheated and lied and…it was just all kind of sickening. I think just like some people didn’t notice other places besides New Orleans has suffered, after all the bad press they forgot that there were lots of people who weren’t scamming and cheating, who really needed and appreciated whatever help they got.
I know my family sure did. Still does. Members of my RWC group, some people from where my sister lives in Arkansas, and a couple of friends who lived near one of my cousins in Nashville, all seemed to take us under their wings during those very first few hard weeks. Together they gave us the help we needed to get over the hump. I never added up all of the money and gifts, but it was probably over fifteen hundred. The army gave us meals and water, the Red Cross helped us buy a new water heater and some needed odds and ends. I can’t tell you the number of cards and letters and messages I got from people who simply wrote to say hi and offer hugs or words of support. It was a combination of all of the above that had us back on our feet in record time. We still have floors to replace and shingles on the roof too…but those seem like small things now.
I can’t tell you what it felt like to be able to move back into my own home after the hurricane. I had a lot of great moments back then I can’t explain. It’s funny, but I don’t think I’ve stepped into the shower or crawled into a comfortable bed or ate a hot meal once since I came home, and not thought of how wonderful those things are. Or what’s it’s like to be so low, and to realize that people who you’ve never seen before will reach across a country to offer you what they can. It’s true what they say, without the bad, how can you ever know just how great the good is.
I guess sometimes homes, people, and even cities, are better for their sorrow and their scars.