What was Katrina actually?
When any person starts talking about the facts of their Katrina episode, it is important to remember that they are the person who has been effected by that monstrous event. You need to listen to their specific information, and not your perceived constructs about their journey. By this, I mean that different individuals had their own personal experiences. However, individual people, families, and groups who experienced things together, usually have similar stories and revelations. It is impossible to use a universal generalization about all experiences that happened to them. Different horrible and scary things were experienced by individual people. Quite often these things, whatever they may be, happened in a fashion or sequence known only to that particular person.
With that premise in mind, I am going to give an account of how my family and I were effected by the storm surge, better known as Hurricane Katrina. I will give a first hand account of our initial shock after the storm, the Katrina Exodus, and about the Katrina storm victims being labeled. In addition to the accounts just mentioned, I will discuss suppressed mental flashbacks, the damage done to children, being given a fresh start, and how time heals all. To just write or talk about Hurricane Katrina, is much to broad of a topic. Personally, I feel that everyone who has gone through this life altering event, has the right to express what actually happened to them, as a cathartic venting avenue.
Hopefully, after you have assimilated this information, you will have a better idea of what a catastrophic event like Katrina can do to average people. No one knows if they will find their self in a similar situation, so it is best to realize exactly what the possibilities are.
Our Initial Shock after The Storm
The storm had just passed over the New Orleans area, and the visible damage seemed to be no different than that of previous hurricanes. Myself and other residents who lived on our street were out walking around, checking out any serious damage, and just observing. Around three hours after everyone initially came out of there homes, a very strange event started to occur. It was still slightly raining, but not enough for the amount of water that was building up on the street. The water on the street started to rise at a very rapid rate, but at this point in time we had no idea what was causing it. During previous storms, the pumping stations would go off line and cause water to build up. Pumping station failures traditionally would lead to a build up in water on the streets and else where. However, we quickly realized that something was out of kilter, because the water was rising rapidly, like never before.
Even though the power was out, we were able to stay in touch with the outside world, through a battery powered combination TV / radio that I had. While scanning the stations, I heard that the lake levee had ruptured in a couple of places, which was causing the city of New Orleans and surrounding area to flood. Before night fall we had 20 feet of water surrounding our house. It was going to be five days before we were able to escape from that water trap. Well five days of being trapped in our house, floating in 20 feet of water past. We were right on the edge of loosing it, but some how we made it. We had no food, water, electricity, gas, functioning bathroom, and no way to escape the sight of floating dead bodies in the water around our house. The smell was sickening; We had to wrap home made mask around our mouth and nose to avoid the stench. This went on for several days.
The Katrina Exodus
On the fifth day our prayers were answered. Some guys from Northern Louisiana pulled up in a boat, out of the clear blue. They loaded my family and myself into their boat and took us to a staging area. This area was for all rescued residents, who were trapped by the 20 feet water surge. About three hours later, we were air lifted by national guard helicopter to Greater New Orleans International Airport. About five hours after arriving at the airport, our exodus went into operation and we were transported by jet to San Antonio, TX. There were thousands of residents from New Orleans, who were transported and relocated to a “Old US Air Force Facility”. During this time we were able to see our first newspapers. The headlines labeled us as ” New Orleans Evacuees”. The people of San Antonio were very gracious and accommodating towards us, but just the same we were labeled as ” New Orleans Evacuees”. Based on the labeling, was how the people of San Antonio and Huston came to look upon us.
After being indoctrinated into the evacuation center, the individuals that had money or credit cards were able to leave and check into hotels. My family and I left and checked into a Family Inn Residence for about one week. With the help of family members, after the week was up we were able to relocate to another city. We decided to move to the Louisiana State Capitol of Baton Rouge.
Katrina Storm Victims are Labeled
Once we arrived in Baton Rouge, it was apparent that a huge chunk of the New Orleans population had relocated to the state capitol also. Ironically the headlines on the newspapers, depicted us as ” New Orleans Evacuees”. Prior to Hurricane Katrina there was a very high crime rate in New Orleans. After the relocation of New Orleans residents to Baton Rouge, there was a high crime rate increase in that city also. Anyone with common sense, had to realize that the spike in the crime rate of Baton Rouge, was directly correlated to the influx of New Orleans residents to the state capitol.
When we first arrived in Baton Rouge, it seemed like all negative activity going on in the city was attributed to ” New Orleans Evacuees”. Newspapers and radio commentators seemed to be waiting on the next negative event to occur, in order to pounce on a story about ” New Orleans Evacuees”. After a period of time, this type of rhetoric died down and the two populations seemed to assimilated together. However, the crime rate of Baton Rouge is almost identical to that of New Orleans, at this point in time.
Flash Backs of Suppressed Events
There are many defense mechanisms that takes place in the human mind, as a effort to try to cope with adverse events in life. I can only relate to the events that my family and I experienced during Katrina. I would say that consciously and subconsciously, we made attempts to suppress the visions of dead bodies floating around our home for days at a time. Every now and then, when we are watching a TV show or in a dream, the deep suppressed memories of those awful days creep into our thoughts. In a way, I believe a great many of the displaced New Orleans residents developed a form of post traumatic stress disorder.
The Effects on Children’s Minds
The entire ordeal of Hurricane Katrina had diverse effects on the minds of children. A lot of factors dealt with the different experiences of the individual child. Their family support, along with their psychological reaction to high stress factors usually weighed in heavily. The children of various age ranges, who settled in my community had different reactions. Many had to go to counseling sessions for depression, anxiety disorders, and aggressive reaction tendencies. There were many who were able to channel their displaced aggression and pent up emotions into constructive avenues, like school sports. My daughter, for instance channeled a huge portion of her energy into track. As a result, she took state titles in two events, two years in a row. She also wound up receiving a full university scholarship for track, while making the honor roll. The way a child’s mind bends has a lot to do with predisposition and reaction to their environment.
Realization of a “Chance for a Fresh Start”
Some individuals viewed Hurricane Katrina as a all consuming evil. Quite a few residents could not wait until New Orleans was habitable again, so that they could move back to a “less than desirable atmosphere”, with the same old high crime rate. Other individuals like myself took advantage of the negative event of Hurricane Katrina, and used the event as a opportunity to make a fresh start.
How Time Heals All
Through out history we have heard the term that history repeats itself. For the most part, this statement is very true. However, as time goes on negative memories tend to fade away. There is a old universal saying, which is “out of site out of mind”. I found this saying to be very true. The passing of time has taken us from social insanity to functioning civility. Actually time is a cure all for the mind, but history does repeat itself, so it is best to be prepared for all contingencies of life. One never knows what calamities are waiting for them around the next bend. In our case, it was a killer storm waiting for us, that formed off the coast of West Africa.