The five-year Hurricane Katrina anniversary has given me a tougher week than I expected. I started off watching Brian Williams’ “Dateline NBC” Katrina special last Sunday night all steely eyed and acting like, as one friend noted, “a tough woman who’s been through some shit.” But I’ve sorta crumbled under the weight of it as the week has progressed and I’ve written and talked about my Hurricane Katrina experiences a lot.
The thing that has struck me are the odd melange of memories. It’s not the big, overarching fear and sadness and anger of it that have stayed with me. Those have faded. It’s a hundred small moments like these, frozen in time:
* The evening before Katrina was due to come ashore, I had taken Tanker, my 80-pounder, to do his business in a big grassy field next to the Days’ Inn near Shreveport where I’d evacuated. There were lots of beefy guys in fatigues walking their dogs too…mostly Labs. I overheard somebody ask who they were, and the one nearest me said they were with an Army Search & Rescue unit and were standing by till the storm came ashore so they could take their dogs into New Orleans to look for bodies. It scared the shit out of me, and I think that was the first time it dawned on me that this was really happening.
* Finally calling my best friend a couple days after the storm and realizing everyone was freaking out because nobody knew how to reach me–I could call out on my cell phone with the 504 area code, but until then I hadn’t realized nobody could call me.
* Talking to my friend Dave just before the storm hit, and being horrified to learn he hadn’t evacuated. He ended up trapped on the upper level of his house for a month before his brother finally went down from Alabama with a boat and got him out. Till then, since all communications were down, we didn’t know if he’d lived through it or not.
* Going back to work on November 1 and seeing my desk calendar sitting on August 26, with the phone number of the Days Inn written on it where I’d made the reservation “just in case.”
* Aaron Neville coming on the televised Katrina benefit concert on TV, and bursting into tears as he sang “Louisiana 1927.” I still can’t listen to that song.
I’m sure I’m alone because we were all some tough folks, and we’d seen some shit.