I was not in New Orleans on August 29, 2005. In fact, I was far, far away, in Natchitoches, LA., safe and dry in a cozy but cramped apartment with my stepdaughter, her two roommates, my husband, my daughter, my husband's ex wife and her husband.
I don't even live in New Orleans, but in a suburb. A nice, safe, high and dry suburb that escaped the wrath of Hurricane Katrina unscathed.
I only spent a week in my self-imposed exile. I returned to my house five days later, cleaned out the fridge, spotted the mouse that had moved into my kitchen and went to a friend's house for a few hours until the turned my electricity back on. That night I slept in my own bed. But I had to go days without cable.
I did not lose everything I owned. In fact, I did not lose anything I owned.
Well, does one's sense of security count?
I now spend my summers making mental lists of what I must pack when there is a hurricane in the gulf. I find myself mentally filing away the names of hotels along the way when I drive out of town. They are potential places of refuge. I have spent two years scanning in my old photos onto my computer. I have bought a DVD recorder but have not yet begun transferring all the video to disk.
I have Lora Leigh's special things in a stack so that I can snatch them up quickly -- her Lora Day Box which contains all the keepsakes from her finalization day, her baby box, her baby book, her two scrapbooks. She's only 6. She hasn't accumulated as much -- YET.
I have prioritized my own -- the lock box, the bill basket, the hard drive, the wedding album, the one photo album that has pictures of my brother and me as children, the two books I've written but haven't published yet, the French silver, the silver tray, the videos and as many photos as I can cram into whatever space we have.
I also have a brand new canvas luggage holder for the top of my car -- so I can pack more stuff.
And I have a 6-year-old who is still traumatized. She is terrified of the daily average thunderstorm. She plays "evacuation" with her friends. She has nightmares about the day another storm comes our way and we have to leave. She won't let me watch any of the anniversary stuff on TV.
It is two years today since Hurricane Katrina tried to destroy the city of New Orleans, the mother ship of us suburbanites. We who are counted among the metropolitan area's population, and who count ourselves, count on that city for much of our existence. We count on it for our culture, our way of life, our uniqueness in this world and, well, for our jobs. It is our tether, our home base.
Katrina cut us off for a while, but the ties have not been severed. I have been there. I am not afraid to go there. I just don't like to drive there.