Like many in our nation, I have the Weather Channel on, watching the effects and path of Hurricane Isaac. A few minutes ago, I actually had to use Google Maps to find out if my uncle was a part of the newest mandatory evacuation in Belle Chasse due to waters topping the levees and then a planned breach of the levee to relieve the flooding. He is merely miles away from the evacuation cutoff point. Across the river from him, another uncle and his family seem to be safe, but of course are without power. Numerous family members and friends live in the New Orleans area and in the rest of Louisiana, too. As we watched and waited to see what Isaac would do to South Florida, we now watch and wait to see what happens to our loved ones in its path.
I’ve lived in the South for my entire adult life: 10 years in New Orleans, including four years of college, and seven years in south Florida. In that time, I’ve somehow avoided many of the big storms. We moved from New Orleans three months before Katrina with our then newborn son. I think often of what life might have looked like if we had still been in the city at that time. All I could do when Katrina did hit was watch from the safety of my home in Florida. It was almost unbelievable, because of course it was so much more than a natural disaster: it was a commentary on deeper problems of New Orleans, like poverty, justice, corruption, and social divide. Speechless, we prayed, we sent what aid we could, we watched and waited to see what would happen in the weeks, months, years after the storm. We even made it back to New Orleans once since moving away, the summer before our daughter was born. The house we had lived in for my husband’s four years of med school was still standing, but its structural integrity was up for debate even when we lived there. Eerily, though our visit was about four years after Katrina, the most heavily flooded areas of the city still looked as if the storm had just happened.
New Orleans clearly holds a very special place in my heart. My parents grew up there, fell in love there. I grew up visiting family there. I went to college there, fell in love there. I learned how much Jesus loves me and has plans for my life there. I met some dear friends there. My husband went through med school there. Our son, our first child, was born there. I ache for this city, I miss it, I love it, I am confounded by it, I pray for it, I wonder what the future holds. More immediately, I wonder what this hurricane holds. Friends and family from Louisiana and Mississippi who were faithfully updating on Facebook have been very silent for the past 12 or so hours–for they are most certainly weathering the worst of it and have no power in their homes. As I hear names of places on the Weather Channel, I think, “oh, so-and-so lives there,” or “I wonder how so-and-so is handling all of this,” or “I can’t even picture that place under floodwaters.” In fact, my mom just texted me that Audubon Park, where I used to run daily, has already gotten 19″ of rain. Parts of the park would regularly flood during summer thunderstorms; but 19″? Audubon Park is in a pretty affluent area of the city–I can’t help but think of those with very limited resources. How many were able to evacuate? What houses will remain, which will receive storm damage, which will disappear? I watch and wait. And I pray.