Disclaimer: I feel for all who suffered loss during Katrina, and I absolutely know I didn't have it the worst in anyway. This is a story about a part of my life with my own personal feelings and experiences during the horrible catastrophe. Do not expect a story filled with violence, rape, and looting here. This is merely my personal journey as a middle class white teenager.
Unlike many, I was very fortunate.
During Katrina back in 2005 my family (Mom, Grandma, Dad, 2 brothers, & 1 sister) and I lived in a suburban town outside New Orleans called Mandeville. When the storm was heading our way my dad took my brothers up to his sister's house upstate. My sister, Grandma, and I decided to stay with my mom who is an RN at a big local hospital because they were short on staff since everyone was evacuating. We packed up a few things such as batteries, DVD/CD players, gameboys, clothes and sleeping bags and waded over. We were crammed in a conference room with other employee's families (about 40-50 people.)
That was the night Katrina officially hit town.
We watched the news and took in any information we could about what was going on outside. At around 2am the power went out for a few seconds until the hospital's backup generators kicked in. It kind of felt like the Zombie Apocalypse was hitting for a bit there.
The day after was still stormy so we couldn't go check out the damages. (We were told not to anyway because power poles could be down and active.) I eventually met friends there around my who brought guitars & a few laptops. One guy had a Counter-Strike 1.5 disc in his car so we installed and LANNED up one night in a break room (internet was down of course!) It was funny how all the snack machines were completely dried out in 2 days there. A week in some kids and I decided to be a rebel and sneak outside. There is a neighborhood next to the hospital in which we wondered about. I felt like I was in a forest made into a jungle gym.
Since food was scarce in the supply room and everyone inside had no idea if the water towers were down in the city we weren't allowed full showers (Italian showers for 2 weeks eww!). My mom was awesome and sneaked us up to the women's locker room one night and let us take one. Remember the scene in the Walking Dead when they hit the CDC and have hot showers? It felt like that. Cafeteria food was great as this hospital is one that has a great menu - shocker! We fortunate to be given 3 meals a day, unlike many in the city.
Lesson learned: It truly helps to have a parent on staff at a hospital in these sort of times.
The day finally came where the doors were unlocked where we could go home (all the road ways were covered in fallen trees that took a while for the city to clear.) We left after my Mom's shift driving home at night to our home. Driving home was mad intense because you know you are driving through your city and 100% of the power was out so it was rather disturbing driving through the darkness. My dad and brothers had returned that day to secure the house. Thankfully, our house is on a hill and only took water damage in our garage compared to 90% our neighbors. Only one tree nipped our house which only took out a chimney.
The first night home sucked because we only had one generator who only controlled showers because it was so muggy inside from the heat anyway. I lived off my burnt CDs & started up a new Pokemon Yellow game on my old lime green Gameboy Color. Nights were so creepy from hearing on the news of looters so my dad kept guns out just in case someone wanted to break in. I'm not certain if he would have actually shot someone but it made us feel safer.
Soon after my best friend in the whole entire world, Chris, was home alone and scared to stay there so he bunked up with my family and me which was fun. Another neighbor who is also my pal who worked with me at EBGames knocked on the door one night.. My dad answered the door to find him holding 2 samurai swords asking if he could bunk with us as well because he was scared alone too. I informed him that there were looters out there, not ninjas, and he joined our party. It was like people were joining our JRPG adventuring party.
A couple days in we picked up some good old MREs (military food) that FEMA dropped off at a local Target. Those are quite delicious and fun to eat as we were always fighting over the red beans & rice. (Yes, I liked them AND the hospital food.) Each one comes with a tiny Tabasco sauce for extra flavor and they had a bag of chemicals cooks your food when water is added. TECHNOLOGY! We all kept busy for those 2 weeks by helping clear our streets of trees and debris. Yayyah little miss me used a chainsaw and didn't lose any limbs, although if any looters showed up I would have chainsawed them.
It was one unique trip we had to make through as a family. We did have one loss, however - our great great great great grandfather's family vacation house which was located on Lake Pontchartrain was destroyed in the storm. For us, it was a place filled with memories of summer getaways and family reunions. Sadly, all that was left was the washer, dryer, and refrigerator that had sunk to the bottom of the lake. And, according to Louisiana law, if your house rests off water of any kind you can not insure it. To this day we are still trying to build up money throughout our family to one day have it rebuilt for all the future nuggets in our lives!