I woke to hear my boys clammering through the kitchen and spouting off requests that began with "Mimi...?" I smiled as I remembered the events of the weekend and the opportunity to take an unexpected vacation. I wondered how long it would be before the seminary would allow us to go home again.
As I crawled out of bed I was anxious to get the TV on and see what the news said about the damage to New Orleans. August 29th, had brought hurricane Katrina, and I was hoping August 30th would bring good news that everyone was heading home. What I found was not what I expected.
The levys broke. The city was flooded. People were trapped at the Super Dome. My mind reeled back to our first few months living in New Orleans and all the things I had learned about the city that was lower than sea level. I remembered the news showing a computer graphic, revealing what would happen if a hurricane ever hit New Orleans. It talked about how the levys weren't strong enough to hold the surge of water, and how they would break, filling the bowl shaped city of New Orleans with putrid lake, ocean, river, and sewer water. The predictions were disastrous, and now I was watching it happen in real life. This was not a computer generated image, it was all real, and it was my home.
I felt sad. Now it would be even longer before we could go home. I wondered if the seminary was flooded.
Days passed and with each day, the situation worsened. There was no news on the seminary's website. We were living life, literally day to day.
The situation at the Super Dome worsened. I watched on TV, mamas holding their crying babies. "I'm out of diapers and I don't have any more formula for my baby," was a mother's plea. Behind her sat an elderly man in a wheelchair, covered with a blanket, head to toe. He was dead on the sidewalk.
As I watched the teeny little baby in nothing but a diaper cry, my heart crumbled, and my own downward spiral began. I began to think, what if that were me and my baby? What if we didn't have transportation out of the city, and I was stuck in 100F plus temperatures with no air-conditioning, no food, water, diapers, or formula? What if it were me?
I began to wonder, how many of those people could we have fit in our van if we had just left our trunk of pictures and all the quilts and afghans my Mama made me? Could we have saved that old man's life? Could I have saved one of those girls from getting raped?
The spiral continued. Prisoners were released from prison and allowed to go free. Looting and criminal activity was rampant in the city, and police officers went MIA. "Is my home being looted, are my things being stolen?" I couldn't stop the thoughts that remained within my mind.
I didn't ever feel sorry for myself, or consider myself a victim. I hurt for all those people still in the city. Until God used a dinner with some good friends to reach me.
Kevin and Lori had gone to seminary with us, but were from Oklahoma as well. They had moved out of New Orleans before Katrina, but knew many of us that were still there.
We met them at for lunch and Kevin immediately came over and hugged me as I asked, "How are you guys?"
"How are we? We're good, how are YOU?" he questioned. I suddenly realized, Hurricane Katrina wasn't just happening to the people stuck at the Super Dome, it was happening to us too.
God continued to break me open. I began to get sick. Morning sickness was normal for me, but this was more than morning sickness. I couldn't seem to deal with the the putrid feeling in my gut.
My mother worked as an medical assistant at a doctor's office. She asked the PA she worked for about me. God used that woman as a mouthpiece to heal me.
"Nothing is wrong with Amy," she told my mother, "except that she needs to turn the TV off and quit watching what's going on in New Orleans." She was right. When I watched the TV, I got sick. I would turn my back to the TV and do something else if I couldn't turn it off. I began to feel better, but the pain and hurt had grown roots deep in my life, my heart, my soul, and my spirit. I had no idea how deep. But it wasn't going to take long to find out.
Some news began to trickle in. We would be allowed to go back to our home when the flooding was gone, but not to live, only to get our things. But it had been nearly a month and the city was still flooded. I had nightmares about going back home. I dreamt I walked into Benjamin's room and found the windows broke and his room flooded. I had another dream where I opened my kitchen cabinets and found an alien, web-like substance in my cabinets, with little bugs stuck to the doors. I tried my hardest not to think about my Daddypa's picture, and just prayed that God would keep it safe.
As more time passed, it was obvious we had to make decisions for our family. The kinds of decisions a family makes one at a time and takes long periods of time to decide.
Where will we live? How will we finish school? What job will Jay get? Who is going to be my doctor? Where will we get clothes, furniture, dishes, blankets, towels, and coats?
Then there were the heartbreaking questions. Where are my friends? Are they okay? How can I get hold of them? Will we ever see them again?
The answers began to come one at the time, as did God's blessings. But the painful roots were growing deeper and deeper in our life, and we had no idea there was another storm we were about to face.