As you all know I’m from New Orleans.
For about four years after the storm telling people that I was from New Orleans was always followed by some variation of the question, “Well how did you fair in the storm?” The storm of course being Hurricane Katrina, a big ol’ storm that basically raped the Gulf Coast and braised the New Orleans levees just enough to make them all fall to pieces and be of no use. I never got offended by the question, and never will, because I feel it is a justified inquiry and usually people are asking from a good place. I had gotten so used to telling the story at one point that I could tell it with minimal amounts of emotion and could effectively “cliffnote” it enough where the story only lasted about five to ten minutes. Unless I was around fellow New Orleans folk, who all had their own Katrina stories, or was directly asked about it I didn’t talk about the storm.
I wasn’t ashamed of the story I just hated the “pity factor” that usually followed the announcement of being from New Orleans and the telling of the story. Even though I know it wasn’t intentional, for about two years after the storm, non Katrina-ites [that’s a good term for those who didn’t suffer from the storm] would treat me just a smidge different. They would do small things like be nicer to me, avoid any discussion involving my life prior to the storm, and search my face for emotional responses when someone else brought up the topic of the storm. I always noticed little things like that after the storm, but then again I could have made some of them up because I was self conscious of it and was projecting.
I’m still a bit cautious of telling my Katrina story because frankly it’s a mood killer.
As intriguing as you may think the story is I promise you the happy, joyous mood you may have prior to the story-telling gets shot straight to heck by the time the story is finished. I’m sure that’s the effect most Katrina survivors’ stories have on the general mood of any social gathering unless it’s a a venue specifically for deep story telling. Not saying good stuff didn’t happen among the crazy whirlwind of the recovery period but the good usually gets drowned out by the extreme difficulty of whatever else one went through. My story involves weathering a storm, being trapped in a city for four days, canoeing away from most of the things I owned, staying overnight in the Astro Dome, getting to spend a crap load of time with my family, growing super close to my toddler cousin, living in Baton Rouge for two months, living in a house with no heat or electricity for a month, watching the 6 am news religiously, and a lot of bags of Ranch Sunflower Seeds. If you want the in-between details just ask me I’ll tell you.
I guess the biggest effect of Katrina for me was the giant mental timeline it created in the lives of all those who suffered her wrath. Once the storm, hit every life experience one had prior to August 29,2005 became a before the storm thing. When people mentioned any event they specified if it happened before the storm or after. Life before the storm became this glorified, fantasy land that one only visited in their dreams. I had many a dream about my life before the storm only to wake up and be in post-Katrina living. Life for me after the storm wasn’t bad it was just different. In a span of three weeks I went from being a 15-year old sophomore at Dominican High School who lived in a shot gun double in Middle New Orleans to a 15-year old sophomore at a school in baton rouge who lived in a hotel and rode to school in a rental car because our car was flooded in the storm. Everything was just drastically different. I guess that’s what happens whenever any major, sudden change occurs in one’s life. That change could be anything, from the death of a close friend or family member, loss of a job, etc, it always causes this giant marker in our lives that separates our experiences into pre- and post- mental accounts.
I’m not going to lie there are a few things I still miss from my life before the storm like my first dog, Tia, or my aunt and uncle who we used to go by for Christmas living ten minutes from my house [they had to relocate to Texas after the Hurricane], or the building which used to be my middle school [it got torn down after mold took over the infrastructure]. But God brought me through the storm and I have so many things to be grateful for now. There were so many great things that happened to me and my mom because of the storm [government money allowed us to pay off a lot of debt] and I wouldn’t trade my post-Katrina life [my current life] for anything in the world. I’ve gotten to the point where it’s no longer only my post-katrina life, it’s just life now.
What brought on this blog is that I used some of my Katrina story in my personal statement for my grad school applications. For once, I volunteered to tell some of my story for a purpose other than just telling the story for story telling sake.
Well I guess I’m done ranting about my story, but fellow readers I would love your comments. Especially my readers who were affected by the storm, comment away!
Love, the kewl_briize!!
“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
2 thoughts on “Skeletons in the closet [why I never talk about Hurricane Katrina]”
I actually left New Orleans the year before Katrina but guess what? My entire neighborhood now ceases to exist because of it. I have no family in New Orleans anymore and it’s like that whole part of my life was just erased. Even I say the “before Katrina…” and “after Katrina…” thing too, so I get it. For anyone from the city, it completely dichotomized your life into separate experiences. However, I am totally willing to talk about those to anyone, and in my graduate school statements of purpose. Thanks for the idea!
No probs, I realized all the change needed in New Orleans and how the storm kinda blew the lid off all the corruption and inequality so I thought it would be a good story for my statements.