August 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana~
Even the newspaper and the media was telling us to get ready; this was the Big One. And she would be paying us a visit in a matter of days, yet we really never took it seriously until just days before the shit hit the fan.
I was living in the Lower Ninth Ward with my elderly grandmother, my parents, and my little girl, Shavonte', who was a few months old, just a li'l thing. I was off work that day, as I remember, and I recall everyone being silent and scared. I was concerned too. Katrina was a full-fledged Cat-5 storm: the baddest of the bad, and she meant business as she beared down upon the city we called home: New Orleans, built below sea level. All we could do now was get out if we could and pray that the levees held and did their job.
The sky was turnin' mighty ugly fast, and the winds were starting to pick up, giving us all a sense of foreboding. It was terrifying. We knew we had to get to shelter --- but how? We didn't have any reliable transportation (we walked everywhere, or in the case of grandmere, rode; she was in a scoooter), and my parents weren't no spring chickens either.
We decided to ride out the storm in the comfort of our little home. If the home survived, graat; even better if we did as well. It was up to God whether He was ready to take us or not.
We boarded up the windows, tied up everything that would more'n likely move; in winds like Katrina objects like cars, garbage cans, tools, etc., would become flying missles that could kill any suspectin' person that would be caught in their way.
All that next night, the winds increased, and the rains got heavier and heavier. We peeked beneath the cracks of the boarded up windows, watching the water rise. It was terrifying, to say the very least. As I was watching the rains, I recall thinking: maybe it'd been best had we gone to shelter!!
Now was too late. Katrina was comin' fast and furious ... and she was still hours away: the bitch wasn't even done. It sounded like a million ghosts were screaming in unison, and you could hear objects slamming or hitting the house (or was that the rain??). All I could do was hold onto little Shavonte', my parents, and my grandmother, and pray we make it through.
As the waters began rising in our house, we tried to move to higher ground. Eventually, we ended up on the roof, but that was after she got through visitin'. The house was, by now, submerged in water; the only part of our home that showed was the roof and the upper floors. The water had to have been several feet deep (at least ten or more, the way it looked). And it was nasty water, too. Full of shit, debris, and stinkin' like swamp.
We were tired, hot, and extremely hungry, not to mention, frustrated. Would people find us?? Would we get rescued, or would one of us fall off the roof and end up drowning in the nasty water below us?
Thank God the weather held that week, but if it wasn't the hot hellish sun during the day, at night we got chewed up by mosquitoes. Bats flew around us, and so did big, green moths.
By the time the National Guard and the Red Cross people came, we were all near exhaustion and heat prostration. Grandmere Lillian was unconscious and in a coma, and baby Shavonte' wasn't in much better shape: she was deathly quiet, too. Soon, we were loaded up on a medevac helicopter and airlifted to Alexandria, well north of New Orleans, where we were all checked in to the hospital. Surprisingly, despite all that we'd gone through, most of us survived. It ended up that Grandmere' Lillian passed on; the ordeal was too much for her frail health to withstand.
Flash forward, August 2010~
Now, five years later, we are no longer in Louisiana, although New Orleans is coming back (slowly, yes, but surely). We are in Colorado instead, living with relatives, meaning Mama and Papa, Shavonte' (who is now nearing the age of six and just entering kindergarten in a few weeks), and myself. We are staying with my papa's sister, Cayenne, who moved to Colorado a week before Katrina hit. She'd been through hurricanes before; she knew Katrina was gonna be a huge sumbitch, so she didn't want to stick around.
I don't blame her for fleeing. Maybe we should have done the same; otherwise, we would probably still be in Louisiana. We might not be in the same area as we were, but we'd still be living in the Bayou State!
I have turned my life around myself. I just finished with school; I am now a licensed beautician. I fix and style people's hair, make 'em real purty. I also have enrolled Shavonte' in a private Christian school, and I am makin' real good money; already landed a good job not even three months after I'd graduated. It's like livin' the high life: a far cry from the streets of poverty we faced in Louisiana!
Mama and papa are older but still enjoy relatively good health. They still miss Grandmere' Lillian (I do too); I tell my daughter all I can about her, so she can get to know her (through pictures and stories) as well as I and her MeMaw and PawPaw do. Little Shavonte' refers to her great-granny as G.G. Lillian (G.G. stands for "Great-Grandmother").
I still have hurricane dreams; now that the anniversary of Katrina (five years! Can you believe it??) is upon us once again, I find myself having them more frequently. I have also been depressed, more than usual. Still going through PSTD; guess I always will. Kinda hard to forget something like a monster hurricane rippin' your very life from right underneath you!
This is the first time I have been able to write about my Katrina Experience without breaking down in a torrent of tears. Maybe now that I have accomplished this, I might put my story into words, into a book, perhaps, to share my survival story. I want to teach people that they, too, cn survive whatever life throws your way. I did; I survived Katrina, and I am still here to talk about it. It ain't easy, but it will get easier in time. I am puttin' all my faith in the good Lord above.