If you don’t remember where you were and what you were doing 10 years ago today, then you weren’t here, not in southeast Louisiana.
For me, at dawn, it was trying to remove a very large red oak from the corner of our Broadmoor home, then trying to find someone to make repairs, and breathing a sigh of relief that my parents’ home in Gentilly was spared, then making my way to our office in downtown Baton Rouge.
It was quiet that morning, that day after Katrina, but not for long. Levees were breaking, and within hours it was more than dreadful knowing mom would not be able to move back into the home she shared with my dad since 1952, a place they raised eight children, supported St. Raphael, and made life-long friends.
It was odd when the news that both the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal levees failed in the exact spots the Corps of Engineers had completed repair projects within 18 months before Katrina came calling. It was the London Avenue Canal that flooded mom’s home and the homes of my boyhood friends.
The 17th Street Canal levee collapse was responsible for the unimaginable destruction that affected so many in my family and many more friends.
Three days after hearing that news, the job was to ride with Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agents on rescue sorties into Lakeview and Lake Vista.
Today, we’re getting the 10-year national news stories. Heard one of the talking heads mention the “commemoration” of Katrina. Well, there’s nothing around here to be commemorative about, unless you thrive on years of misery, sorrow, displacement and knowing there were far more fatalities than the 1,800 lives lost during that tragic storm. Most of us who knew older residents know their days were shortened by years under the unbearable burden Katrina wrought and brought into their lives — lives that had survived the Great Depression, World War II, the many problems life brings and the double handful of previous hurricanes.
One impression lingers: Working those days with Wildlife and Fisheries personnel sent a strong message about the people who call south Louisiana home.
The five agents working the Lakeview rescue lived in St. Bernard Parish. Thank God they got their families out the weekend before that Monday storm, but their lives were disrupted by far more than having to spend long, hot hours pulling stranded residents from rooftops and attics.
These men knew full well their homes were under more water than they were seeing lapping at the eaves of the New Orleans homes they patrolled.
It was sad for them, and sadder for my mom, who, like many of her friends, would never return home.
And while it’s hard for some folks to believe, we’re still here, memories and all, and wouldn’t have it any other way.