Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five Years Out

Today marks the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina smashing into the Gulf Coast. I have neighbors because of this tragic event - two folks who were moving to the area anyway, but decided to move up their plans somewhat. I'd like to think that we as a country learned a few things from Katrina and maybe we did. Then again, we tend to be rather thick, so maybe we'll have to learn these lessons all over again. The one thing I know for sure is that Mother Nature will bring the lessons to us - whether it's a simple brush-up refresher or a total re-taking of the course is up to us.

When I was in my freshman year of college - the first time I was seriously away from home - my college was flooded. Really flooded - something like a dozen feet of water. Cold sandwiches came to us from the college kitchen via the outdoor club's canoes. This was prior to cell phones (yeah, I know - I'm old, deal with it) and phone lines were down, so it was several days before any of us could get to a phone and tell our parents that we were okay. The school was closed for about a month and it took ten years for the college to fully recover - the library was hit hard and while a great number of books were saved through the frantic efforts of volunteers, many were lost. But there was no loss of life, despite my own stupid idea of going for a walk to gawk at the destruction when there were live power lines down and lots of lovely electricity-conducting standing water around. I was young - it was an adventure, instead of being a crisis.

With that experience, until Katrina, I'd never really thought about being able to throw a few belongings in the car, whistle for Spooky and high-tail it out of wherever I was as a blessing. I have family and friends who will gladly loan me a couch and the property is insured, so replacing things would involve a painful amount of paperwork, but ultimately, it'd be mostly okay.

I'd never thought about not having that option. About being so down and out that staying was a bad option, but there was no way to leave. About not having the supplies you need - clean water, canned food, medicine - to ride out six or seven days until help might (just might) be able to get to you. Think about it - can you make it, totally on your own, for a week? No power, so no lights, no refrigeration, no computer, no air conditioning. Your house is flooding, so you seek shelter in the attic - can you chop your way out to the roof if need be? What about your kids or animals? Can they get up there? Can they get to the roof? Do you have food and water? Do you have a first aid kit to bind up the hand you cut open swinging the axe to smash through your own roof? Do you have anything to rig up as a shelter once you're out there on the roof? What about medicine for your allergies or your mother-in-law's asthma? You can't run to the drugstore to get a prescription filled. Did you grab a bucket to take care of certain personal hygiene issues? And I think we can forget about abiding by Clinique's three-step skin care regime.

Say a prayer for the Gulf Coast. And add into that prayer a little breath of thankfulness that it wasn't you having to answer those questions.

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