New Orleans was and will forever be my home. No matter where in the world I may be living, New Orleans will be my home. Some of my closest friends live there. The first house I ever bought was in New Orleans. That’s where I belong. I love New Orleans.
On August 13, 2005, the National Hurricane Advisory Center issued the first advisory for the season’s 11th tropical storm. On August 28, Hurricane Katrina reached a Category 5 status.
Back in 2005, I was living with my parents and brother in Madison, MS. If you draw a line through the state, we would be near the line. My brother received a full scholarship to a few universities, one being the University of New Orleans.
August 29, 2005 was a warm, clear day. It was sunny with a slight breeze. The day Hurricane Katrina hit was a pleasant one. Even in central Mississippi, we were bracing for a hit. All of the local schools were shut down in preparation. My family and I kept checking the weather for updates. The highways were full of evacuees. The stores were empty of supplies.
On television, we watched people evacuate from New Orleans. We saw worried parents go pick up their students in the Big Easy. Tulane University called my dad to ask if he could help them relocate some of their students.
The night Hurricane Katrina was to make landfall, everyone felt uneasy. So many people decided to stay instead of evacuating but this storm felt different. The electricity in Madison went out so we could not get our updates from the news television channel. (Guys, it was 2005.) We listened to the radio. I sighed a huge sigh of relief when the radio announced that the storm had turned and become weaker. It was now a Category 3. I was still concerned. I had no idea how hard it would be.
The next morning, my family and I rushed to the car to listen to the radio. We had endless announcements that everywhere nearby was out of water and gas. Our mayor gave a speech. Then the Mississippi Governor spoke and said southern Mississippi was devastated. More than 60% of single-family dwellings were destroyed or inhabitable in the southern half of Mississippi.
The news said that New Orleans was flooded. Eighty percent of the city flooded. We were told the levees did not hold and some of the city’s pumps had failed or were not working. They were getting images from the International Space Station showing the devastation. Most of the 350 miles of levees survived the storm. In fact, the levees were built to withstand a Category 3 storm. However, nearly all of the levees that were breached were compromised before the storm due to construction failures.
We drove to the mall where we watched the evacuations in horror. This was the United States. How could our American citizens be in this position? I was waiting for a huge rescue effort. There were people stranded on roofs waving at the news helicopters for help. The Cajun Navy, a group of concerned Louisiana citizens with boats, organized and began rescuing citizens.
The news showed images of children and the elderly stranded. Some at the Superdome and some at their homes. I can’t imagine what they saw in the water. They showed people stealing televisions. The news showed a former president’s wife saying, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”
It was such a heart-wrenching disaster. I wanted to help but I didn’t know how. Those were/are my people but I felt so helpless.