Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hanging on the Wall: Changed Forever Part II

I found myself in an uncomfortable place between two carseats in the back seat of the van. Jay's co-worker, Billy, rode shotgun as the two of them chatted. We were fortunate to be heading out ahead of all the traffic, but it was already starting to pile up a bit. We decided that the best way to head toward TX would be to go north and cross Lake Pontchartrain via the Causeway, the longest bridge in the world at almost 24 miles.

As we moved further into the lake, and further from our home, we felt a rush of relief. We had managed to get out of New Orleans without waiting in standstill traffic with other evacuees. But I celebrated too early, for I suddenly realized my most precious valuable was still hanging on my wall, the antique painting of my Daddypa.

It is an irreplaceable painting, that had been entrusted to me by my grandmother, uncles, mother, and brother. And I just left it hanging on the wall! I panicked and asked Jay to turn around and get it. He compassionately and tenderly reminded me that we couldn't turn back now, we would be stuck in traffic with two little boys for hours on end.

I called my friend who had chosen not to evacuate until the middle of the night, when all the traffic had dispersed. She had two little ones of her own and was just weeks away from giving birth to her third. I begged her to go get my picture and take it with her, wherever she went. But to my devastation, she politely turned me down. She herself had much to get done with what resources she had.

I hung up the phone feeling angry at her, at Jay, and mostly at myself.

I began to sob and plead. "Please, Jay, please! Go back and get my picture. Please?"  He pulled to the side of the bridge as Billy offered his help. He called a friend of his who worked security on the campus. His friend showed me mercy and went to my apartment, took the picture off the wall, wrapped it in some towels, and placed it carefully on top of our extra refrigerator in the laundry room, where there were no windows.

I was still devasted to leave my precious picture behind, but there was a bit of relief knowing that it would not be hanging on the wall any longer. And becuase we lived on the second floor of the apartment building, it was unlikely that water would reach to the top of the refrigerator.

We soon resumed our travels to Beaumont. We arrived late in the evening with at least 6 hours still to Tyler, so Billy's in-laws were polite enough to offer us a place to sleep that night. "You can sleep in the shabby chic room," Billy said. "It has two beds and a crib, so you'll have a bed for the whole family."

We woke the next morning to find the hurricane was still heading toward New Orleans, so we made the trip to Tyler and stayed with our friends there on Sunday night. Monday morning we woke early to watch the news. We watched as Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. We watched as the news proclaimed New Orleans had been fortunate and only suffered minimal damage. 

Since it appeared that we would be going home in a week, we celebrated the good fortune. We were relieved and made plans to make an unexpected, but pleasant visit home to Oklahoma. But we had no idea the tragedy that Tuesday would bring.


  1. I have enjoyed reading a bit into your life. I paitently wait for the next installment. You are such a good writer. It does make me sad that you and your family had to experience this.

  2. Good job. I'm desperate to know if you got your picture.


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