This has been a week of remembrance. For most, those memories are of Hurricane Katrina. For others, those memories are of Hurricane Isaac. For some, those memories are of both life-changing storms. Some suffered great physical and emotional loss during both events. For my family, Katrina’s effects were minimal, at least in the physical sense. There was no damage to our home. We lost a refrigerator and its contents and were displaced for roughly three weeks. I lost my job with a consulting firm, but received three months of my salary as “bench” pay while I sat simply waiting for a callback. Those three months had no sooner ended and I was blessed to receive another job offer, but that unexpected “paid vacation” allowed me to help my parents and brothers and other family members and friends who had lost everything and were living in trailers while they were in the process of rebuilding. I was able to start a website, KatrinaWishList.com, where we told the stories of the victims (vetted for legitimacy) and posted links to their wish lists with Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. This gave donors an opportunity to directly help families who were affected by the storm without any concern that a portion of their donations would be eaten up in organization fees.
Five years later, life was fresh and new again for most. All of our friends and family members had started over and were thriving. After helping my parents rebuild, we had purchased a gutted home in Braithwaite, Louisiana and were excited at the sweat equity we’d earned. The likelihood of the area ever flooding again seemed minimal. Then came the “Great Wall.” With the 26-foot high Caernarvon Floodwall to the north and the 17-foot high federal levee to the south, Braithwaite became the bull’s eye for any strong storm surge. Our home owner’s and flood insurance immediately shot up from a combined total of roughly $3,500 per year to a whopping $10-12,000 per year depending upon our deductible and our coverage. We elected to remove our contents coverage and drastically raise our deductible to get our costs down to a barely affordable amount. What could we do? We had a mortgage and had to carry insurance, but we could barely afford to live.
Two years after that, on August 29, 2012, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac brought a beating to our small community and pushed fourteen feet of water into our beautiful home. We will never underestimate the devastation and level of suffering those in our neighborhood and other affected areas endured. Lives were lost, lives were saved, and lives were dramatically changed. It was Katrina all over again for some. For our family, what we salvaged from both floors of our home fit into the bed of one pick-up truck. What we lost was stuff. That’s it, just stuff. We had learned a valuable lesson in January of the same year, when our son was burned over the majority of his body in a tragic accident and nearly died. But at the time of Hurricane Isaac, he was still recuperating safely in the burn unit at a Baton Rouge hospital, and my husband and youngest son and I were safely waiting out the storm at my mother’s home. We had been through so much during the previous eight months of P.J.’s recovery (read more under P.J.’s Journey), that this seemed like small potatoes (at least after the initial shock wore off). Some felt it would be the nail in the coffin for us, but we took it for what it was… another new beginning.
We were incredibly blessed that those who had “been there, done that” with Katrina were quick to offer advice on everything from how to argue your claim with the insurance companies to where to go to get family photos restored. They were filled with empathy and caring. As random people handed us household items, gift cards, and checks, some of them reminded us that we had been there for them following Katrina. People from all over the country offered their support. We couldn’t have had more or wanted less. I likened our rental property to Joseph’s coat of many colors. It was filled with mismatched furniture from multiple sources, but it was the nicest, most comfortable furniture you could imagine because it was donated with love. The opportunity to finance another house at a low interest rate through the Small Business Association was a huge blessing, and by May 2013 we were the proud owners of another beautiful home, different from our Braithwaite home, but with it’s own certain benefits.
I will always pray for our friends who have been through Katrina, Isaac and other similar events. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. We each have a story of our own. But while there are glimpses of sadness, there is hope for the future. Katrina and Isaac may have taken our memorabilia, but we still have our memories. While our spirits were wounded, we are one in the spirit of the Lord and NOTHING can separate us from His love! Revelation 21:5 reads, “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” All things are new. God is true. God is faithful.