Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scrappersaurus remembers... 5 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

I wanted to write and let everyone know why I haven’t been blogging. There’s been a LOT going on in my life lately which has prevented me from blogging regularly as I intended to… which has prevented me from running the Scrappersaurus online store as I intended to… which has prevented me from crafting, even, or just doing mundane household things.

I’ve recently learned how important it is to take the time—to MAKE the time even—to stay in contact with those you love the most, and let them know how much you love them. I’ve (re)discovered that life is very, very fragile and it is of the utmost importance to stop the frenzy of the workaday world at times to really be able to LIVE. My best friend of 20 years needs a heart transplant immediately. The sister of another of my best friends had a massive heart attack and passed away unexpectedly. My 11-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, Ally, also passed away recently; that alone was a very, very traumatic experience for me. Add to that the trauma of having to leave my hometown of New Orleans and move to Texas. And now, here we are, five years later after Hurricane Katrina obliterated our first scrapbook store.

Katrina took a lot more from me than most people realize: she took my best friends, my network of physicians and proper medical care, my business, a lot of personal items, my family’s entire pictorial history, and our family Camp in Lake Catherine where we spent the majority of our holidays and all of our summers. And worst of all, she took away the beautiful City that I grew up in. She took away my history, actually. The schools and church I attended are now razed—they simply don’t exist any longer. The high school I graduated from doesn’t exist any longer. The neighborhoods I grew up in are still largely boarded up or considered “blighted property”. And yes, this is in New Orleans proper, where most of America thinks things have “gotten back to normal”. Sorry to say, there will NEVER be any getting “back to normal” at this point. Some of us will NEVER recover from our losses. Hard as we try to move on, there’s always something there to remind us of that awful saying, “You can never go home.” Or the song lyric that says, “You can get back to the place, but not the time.”

On Yahoo! News today I read an article that gave 3 different accounts of people who had “survived” (did any of us really survive?) Katrina, and where they are now. One gentleman, an attorney in the City, said he felt that New Orleans had “matured” after Katrina. Yeah, well, guess what… he lives Uptown and I think his life is probably totally different from the majority of others who live in New Orleans. Uptown is pretty much “back to normal”, I guess you’d say. Uptown has the funds and resources to rebuild, and cover up the devastation--for that, for them, I rejoice. But I don’t think he’d say that if he went and lived in New Orleans East or Saint Bernard Parish for a month or so. Heck, even a week. Then he’d know…it’s just a shell of what it once was, and is not really a lifestyle anymore.

I miss Methodist Hospital and Chalmette Medical Center. I miss the people who worked there with me. I had worked with Methodist since 1988 or 1989, I guess. I knew most of the staff, regardless of the department they worked in. I saw many department heads come and go; many changes to the operations of the hospital. Throughout it all, the people remained the same: caring, giving, and loving, regardless of who you were or why you were there. And when the radiologists at Methodist asked me to transcribe for them at Chalmette Medical Center, I got to know those people, as well. They, too, were the same kind of caring, giving, loving people. Just in a different parish. But all of it was still “New Orleans”. New Orleans people CARE. That’s why we want our City to come back to life as it was originally. We have opened our doors to people—tourists and different ethnic groups and cultures—for centuries, and blended them in with our way of life. Growing, changing, evolving, with the addition of every new person to our community, yet still staying the same caring, giving, loving “family” that we always have been.

Here’s an excerpt from my journal a few months ago. I think it is very appropriate to include it here, now. 

“... I’m really depressed. I realized this afternoon that what I’m going through right now is actual grieving for all I have lost. I lost all my history in New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, causing me to lose all my friends, doctors, and work over the next couple years. Then I ended up losing both my stores to the post-Katrina economy.

Now, living in Texas, I’m grieving the loss of the friends I had made after Hurricane Katrina and the doctors and medical network I had finally gotten into place after all my original doctors either moved out of state by choice or couldn’t return because they had no home or business to return to. I’m grieving also because there has been an immense oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, about 40 miles south of the Louisiana shoreline that has absolutely halted the Louisiana way of life for most people in the coastal area, killed a lot of wildlife, and is preventing tourists from going to Louisiana for vacation now. Yes, it’s affected Mississippi and Alabama, and even Florida already (its been two months), but Louisiana is my HOME—it’s where my roots are... where my family is from... where my family still is. I grieve for the loss of all that I knew and can never have or even visit again: the schools I went to, the churches I worshiped at, even the hospitals where I worked, and the apartments and houses I rented and owned are all GONE.

This afternoon we had to go pick up antibiotics for my dog from the veterinarian’s office, which was on South Padre Island, a ways away from where we live now in Corpus Christi. As Felix drove, I looked out over the waters, over the beaches and the marshes, watching the people fish or kayak or boat or just sit on the beach. It smelled so wonderfully familiar, just like when I was a little girl and we were at the Camp in Lake Catherine—something else we lost completely to Hurricane Katrina. He made a comment on how it smelled, and it reminded me of home, which actually made me even sadder and more depressed. I thought of all my family on the Bayou—Bayou Des Allemands and in Cutoff. I thought about what their lives must be like now. I thought about how much I missed smelling that wonderful smell of the melding of the sea and the sky, and the lifestyle to which I can never, ever go back. And it made me very, very sad, and I realized there’s no home anymore. There’s nowhere to go. I thought about the people whose sweat dug the canals crossed over by cars on the roads of the city, or the fishermen who left their families for sometimes weeks or months at a time to go out and catch the fish, shrimp, and oysters eaten in local restaurants and literally, around the globe. And I was so glad that I grew up where I did—in New Orleans. I know my great-great-uncles and cousins dug the Irish Channel and a lot of the canals in New Orleans. I know my great-grandfather was a butcher and a preacher, and my great-grandmother raised her own animals and butchered them herself for meals. In some ways, she never quite recovered after her first child was murdered, but she went on with life nonetheless—as we always do here in Louisiana—rearing her children and doing what she needed to do. I know her son, my grandfather, spoke our native Cajun French until he went to high school or college, and that although he was newly married with a child on the way and only 18 or 19 years old, served in the military to keep our country free so we would have these treasures to fall back on. And I know the true value all of that is. People who are not “from here” simply don’t comprehend it. And they miss out on the real richness these people have shared with everyone else. And so they do not understand our grief on having to give up all of that, simply because a Hurricane named Katrina decided to come here to visit, too...”

So, be real. Be real in your journaling, real in your blogging, real in your scrapbooking, and most importantly of all, be real with yourself. Know and allow yourself to feel the feelings you have, however much you wish to suppress them. Every now and then, just like the old photo or scrapbook albums you take out of the closet to look at—take out those feelings, dust them off, remember them, and then put them away and get back to real life. Today. And live the moment. From the time you are born, your moments are numbered. You never know the actual number you have left, or the number your friends or family members have left, so live in the moment, and love in the moment. Give yourself to reality every day. As the sun rises every day, we are given another fresh start, another chance to be the person we know we are inside, and another chance to love and give love to others. Bring joy to those you love. It will come back to you, a thousand-fold.

My love to ALL of you,