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Hurricane Ida storm debris awaits pickup along North Oak Hills Parkway near Twisted Oak Lane, in the Oak Hills Place subdivision off Siegen Lane on Monday, just over a week after Hurricane Ida blew through the area.

One of my biggest memories from Hurricane Katrina was the many helicopters that flew by my house on their way to help those in urgent need. Our family was lucky to survive that epic disaster with a house intact, but the rescue craft that passed each day were a frequent reminder of the many others who hadn’t fared as well.

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Some days, clearing debris from my lawn as choppers darkened the sky like locusts, I felt strange about worrying over yard chores with so much agony across Louisiana. Like just about anyone else who lives here, I did other things in those months after Katrina to help ease the suffering. Even so, the yard work seemed off-key. In the midst of a tragedy, should I have been focused on raking leaves and picking up branches?

All of this came back to mind this month as I joined thousands of other residents in hauling the litter of Hurricane Ida to the curb. Once again, our family was lucky enough to survive the storm with nothing more serious than a loss of utility power. We live among many trees, so branches covered our lot. Trotting one wheelbarrow of vegetation after another to the street, I thought again about the meaning of it all. Amid grave loss for so many others, was my little stab at domestic order a worthy use of time?

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Over a week, as a huge pile of brush grew like an anthill at the edge of our place, my thoughts returned to “The Splendid and the Vile,” last year’s bestseller by Erik Larson about the German bombings of London in World War II.

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What Londoners faced in those grim days of the war was far graver than the challenges for Louisiana. Even so, London's success in rebounding from widespread destruction seems a useful model for answering disaster.

Larson writes about many big things the British did to boost their resilience. But ultimately, as he also points out, the seemingly small things that Londoners continued to embrace in the aftermath of tragedy ended up helping, too.

One example was tea, that iconic British beverage. “The one universal balm for the trauma of war was tea,” Larson tells readers. “It was the thing that helped people cope … the making of tea became a visual metaphor for carrying on.”

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Such small rituals can be an important source of continuity amid chaos. This month, joining my neighbors in carting away yard waste, I felt as if we were all raising the flag of the familiar, reclaiming routine from the ruin of a broken season. I was heartened to see so many others out in their yards, like groundhogs emerging from their burrows, intent on turning a page toward a better time.

One branch I brought to the street held a cluster of acorns. Even after a hurricane’s fury, it seems, the world bends toward renewal.


Email Danny Heitman at danny@dannyheitman.com.