Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Notes From Katrina: Evacuation - August, 2005


I woke this morning thinking about Hurricane Katrina. I don’t think about it too much anymore. Seven years has muted the intensity of that storm a little bit.

I didn’t think about how maybe we should have been better prepared, and how dumb we were to not own a car of any kind, and how stupid it was to not leave when we had the chance because I didn’t want to lose my $5 an hour job at Tower Records.

I didn’t think about how goddamned lucky we were to have a neighbor who happened to have a cousin who left their car behind and given us permission to use it.

I didn’t think about the mad dash around the house, or the realization that in order to bring my three cats, the neighbor’s dog, cat, and the neighbor, my roommate, my sister, and me, we would have to leave behind almost everything we owned.


None of that.

What I was thinking about this morning when I woke up was a single moment on the side of the road at the beginning of our 14 hour, 100 mile trip out of the path.

The Toyota two-door Ark was almost out of gas, and all of the stations were out.  Of gas.  Empty.  It felt very end-of-the-world.

Neighbor, Roommate, Sister and I were in a parking lot about three hours and less than 20 miles from where we’d started. There simply wasn’t enough road to empty out a quarter of a state in less than 24 hours.

Neighbor was talking to his mom on the phone, trying to come up with a solution for the gas issue, and my sister and I sat on a curb, smoking. We watched the traffic.

We couldn’t stay out here.

My mind leaped to the only alternative I could think of: Heading back into town and hoping for the best.

I felt tears welling in my eyes as I took another drag, and tried to will myself not to cry.

It was a very real possibility that we would die if we went back to town, but I felt sure we would die out here with no shelter and miles of bridges ahead of us.

I stared at my phone. Should I call my parents now? There wasn’t a whole lot they could do from Colorado, would it just be cruel? Maybe I should wait until we were back in town… Maybe… we could go back, siphon gas from someone, and come back… Maybe…

I glanced at my sister, her outside blankness a mirror of my own.

Roommate sat down with a sigh. He knocked a cigarette out of his pack, put it in his mouth, and lit up with a big, dramatic drag.

“Well,” he said, pulling his cigarette out of his mouth and looking at it. “Guess I beat cancer.”

My sister snickered. I covered my mouth and chuckled. Within moments, we were all gasping as we struggled to breathe through the laughter. It was that ridiculous laughter, that doesn’t make sense. The kind that keeps starting up again for no reason, the kind makes you look away because every time you look at anyone, you start up again.

Just as suddenly, we stopped, like a switch was flipped.

“So,” I said to Neighbor, “Anything?”

We did eventually find gas, and get food, and at about 4AM, we landed safely in north central Louisiana.

That moment was only a moment in a long, long traumatic day.

But that’s what I was thinking about this morning:

Sitting on the side of the road, laughing death with my neighbor, my roommate, and my sister.


Angie said...

It's amazing the tiny little moments that stand out in the frantic moments. The little quips are often all it takes to break the feeling of dread that seems to be pulling us down. Regardless, I'm glad you made it!

MakingSpace said...

I'm glad you're here. Stay safe this go-round.

Leauxra said...

Angie: Gallows humor is humorous for a reason. It even has a name!

MakingSpace: I now live in the relatively safe state of Colorado. Hardly any hurricanes here. Just tornadoes, blizzards, and probably volcanoes (not sure about that last one, it's just a rumor I heard once).

Anonymous said...

Well, I for one am glad you made it out. Purely for selfish reasons, of course. Because if you had perished, I never would have known you! So, um, thanks for not dying and such. :)

And I think for self preservation reasons, our mind blocks the harrowing memories and stress of those moments after the fact. Although you surely remember all of it, what comes to mind is that moment of levity. Your brain is tying to protect you from the pain.

Leauxra said...

Misty, I believe you are correct... our brains don't like being reminded that we aren't immortal.

And thanks. :)

P.S. Working on more blogging. Been remiss. Again. Can't quite seem to get on the writing bandwagon lately.

Heather said...

Wow. Axing you in your lifetime you happened to live right there, right then. That is bizarre. And fascinating.

Stephanie said...

This gave me chills. Beautifully, beautifully written.

StephanieC said...


Makes my dog drama seem pretty fucking insignificant.

That must have been horrible. Truly horrible, but good you were able to laugh despite the hopelessness of the situation.

karensomethingorother said...

wow Leauxra, ignorant being that I am, I didn't know how intimate your experience with that terrible event was. I'm sorry you had to live it, but you wrote it so compellingly.

Heather said...

PS-Don't listen to me when I comment from my phone. DYAC!

Leauxra said...

Heather: It really was bizarre. I moved to New Orleans the day after the giant Tsunami in December of 2004, and I remember thinking, "well, we would have more warning". Kind of strange.

Stephanie: Thank you, Stephanie.

StephanieC: At the time. it seemed like just a thing. It took me a few months to realize I was exhibiting a lot of signs of PTSD... I moved back to New Orleans the January after Katrina for two years. It helped.

And don't discount your own drama. The only difference is that mine was shared by a lot of other people... it doesn't make yours less significant.

karensomethingorother: Most people don't... I've been back in Colorado for 5 years at this point, but I think I'll always have a little split in my brain for my life before Katrina and after.

Heather: Ha ha, don't worry about it! Lol.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you made it out! What's there to worry about in Colorado? Falling off a mountain?

Leauxra said...

Thoughtsy, there are forest fires, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, zombies, trolls and bathrooms. Colorado is a dangerous place. :)

Sandra said...

And I would have been sobbing, the wet blanket in a sea of anxious giggles. You are all so very brave...I can't believe I keep bellyaching over a fender bender. What a story! And why aren't you blogging more?

Leauxra said...

Sandra: Believe me, I THOUGHT I was going to cry, but I ended up laughing instead.

And don't dismiss any of your own drama simply because you didn't share it with a lot of other's still a big deal. There is a lot of momentum in cars!

Also... I am trying to illustrate a blog... and it's taking much longer than anticipated. I will have it out before the end of the week, I promise!

Eneh Akpan said...

Leauxra, a damn frightening experience you had there. Got me thinking after a while if one of the guys stuck with you didn't catch up with Katrina or the other way around.
Thanks for sharing!
And keep your pen bleeding!

Leauxra said...

Thanks Eneh. Really a strange time in my life. I wasn't the same for quite a while after. But it makes me hopeful that I can laugh even in the worst situations.