Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Displaced Citizen Refugees of America
I hate to say that I'm homeless because I do have a roof over my head, but I guess technically I am. My family is very lucky. We were able to stay in hotels for two weeks, and now we are living in an apartment. In the next few weeks we will be moving into a trailer of our own. We will be surrounded by friends.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. Some poor souls had nowhere to go and had to stay in shelters. The conditions in some of these shelters were horrible. We were very lucky that our friends in Texas opened their hearts to us and gave people a place to stay.
Another difficult part of this whole thing is that some families have been separated. Either they evacuated to wherever they could or had to move because of a job. Right now my parents and I are near to my aunt and uncle and cousins. Not everyone is nearby, though. My other aunt and two of my cousins are still in Texas. Another cousin is near Baton Rouge because of her job. And the one that makes me saddest of all is that my sister is in Alabama. I miss her so much. There is one good thing about the trailer we are buying. For the first time in my life I will have my own bathroom. Yes, I grew up in a house with only one bathroom. I am actually excited about that! That's one thing that keeps me going. I think about what I want my new room to look like. I hope there's enough room for my scrapping stuff! It won't be a permanent home, but it will be ours. That means a lot these days when so many people still don't know where they will go.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Angels Among Us
Since Hurricane Katrina struck nearly three weeks ago, it has been quite easy to focus on the awful things that have happened and the way my life has been changed. Well, I've done enough of that, and now I want to focus on the positives. Yes, there have been some positives during this awful time. My family and I have been blessed by many angels we have met during this journey.

We met our first angels the day we evacuated. My sister called our hotel as we drove into Houston only to learn that they did not have our reservations. We were crushed. What were we supposed to do? We stopped at several hotels along the way, but no one had available rooms. Finally, as we walked out of yet another hotel, near tears, two young men approached us. One was originally from New Orleans, and the other was his friend who still lived there. They had a room on hold at a nearby LaQuinta, but they no longer needed it. Did we want it? We excitedly followed them to the hotel, where the staff happily welcomed us and our cats.

We met many wonderful people at the LaQuinta. There were many evacuees there, and we formed a very tight-knit group. Lots of angels from the area came by to take care of us. Churches and restaurants delivered food daily. Donations poured in from all over the community. Restaurants offered free or discounted meals to evacuees. I had my oil changed at Wal-Mart, and the lady at the register gave me a discount and came from behind the counter to hug me. Perhaps the biggest angel of all was Giovanni, the manager of the LaQuinta. He took us under his wing and took great care of us. He is a wonderful, friendly, caring person. When we checked out, we only had to pay for one night's stay. The corporation took care of the rest. He cried with us and hugged us as we left to head back to Louisiana. If you are ever in the Kingwood, TX, area, stay at the LaQuinta. You won't regret it!

We met another angel in Texas, in a Target parking lot of all places. A gentleman in scrubs noticed our Louisiana license plate and asked if we were from New Orleans. He was a doctor. My dad had been bitten by one of our cats as we prepared to evacuate, and his hand was now infected. The doctor walked in to Target with us and went to the pharmacy to write a prescription. He also insisted on paying for it. What happened next was unbelievable. He had an apartment in back of his home, and he wanted to let us live there for free! We followed him to his beautiful home on Lake Houston. The home was amazing, and his family was lovely. Sadly, the apartment was too small for all of us and our cats. I will never forget his kindness, though. Not many people would open their homes to total strangers.

We returned to Louisiana over the Labor Day weekend and checked out some apartments. While in a drugstore in our new community, we met a fellow St. Bernard resident. She told us of a group of volunteers who was doing what they could to help evacuees. They weren't affiliated with any group, just concerned citizens who wanted to help. We stopped by and were whisked off my volunteers. They gave us everything we needed: groceries, personal care items, linens. Their kindness was overwhelming. If you ever pass through Moss Bluff while in Louisiana, stop by. The people are very friendly there!

I also have many angels from around the country watching over me. My online scrapbooking friends have rallied around me and taken such good care of me. I have been receiving care packages daily for the last week. I've gotten some very sweet e-mails as well as some phone calls. These amazing women have totally rallied around me. I hope they know how much I love them and how much I appreciate everything they do for me. Their love and prayers have kept me going even on the toughest of days.

So yes, there is still a lot of good in the world. People still do love and care for their fellow humans. I only hope that one day I can return the favor.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina The last two weeks have been the most awful and most surreal of my life. You've all seen the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Well, my home was one of the ones that was destroyed. It wasn't just my home. It was my friends' and family's homes, the school where I teach, the stores I shop in, the restaurants where we eat. The worst part is not being able to go home. We haven't even been able to go in yet to survey the damage. We know that the water got to within a foot of our ceiling. But I want to see it for myself. I have to. I need this closure so I can put all of this behind me and start over.
Will we go home? Of course. My family and I can't imagine living anywhere else. It's our home. Our roots are there. It's going to be a long rebuilding process though. More than likely we will not be able to start rebuilding our home until next summer. But you can bet that when it's all over, we will be stronger than ever.