August 23, 2016
A lot of rain and tears have fallen here. Another 500 year flood. Eighth on earth in the last year I read somewhere.
Not unexpectedly, one of the first people to check on us was a friend who had eight feet of water in Katrina. She mentioned feeling a bit of PTSD seeing news of the Baton Rouge flood. It wasn’t until AT&T cell service crapped out and Black Hawks started passing overhead that I felt that way too.
However, social media connectedness, electricity, and no wind are some ways this differed from 2005. Also, the fast and smartly organized citizen army response. I am in awe of all those who stepped up and took the lead. Many of these people fall into that often discussed and maligned age range of 19-36 years old. Maybe the reason their flood response has been so right on and intense and successful is because they witnessed Katrina and its aftermath as kids. Sort of like the influence of WW2 on the music of the Beatles, Stones, and Who.
The incredible citizen response is that Chinese proverb in action: “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
I’ve felt a bit of survivor syndrome because we are ok but after seeing the water at the door of a neighbor’s house and then helping friends pack mud-slimed possessions, thankful and ready to help is what I feel even more. I am immensely grateful for a dry home.
Sometimes you see change in the distance and the transition is slow and considered. Other times life kicks you hard into change. On Friday night we helped neighbors move their worldly goods higher to escape the inevitable rising water. In the process my friend confessed the need to get rid of some stuff. Well that’s done.
Life. We never know where you will take us.
What we do know is we can deal with whatever you bring. Katrina, our first curveball taught us well. We learned that if you are not hurting, you are helping. Just like post-Katrina, a need exists for everyone’s special gift. If you are back at work, you’re doing the work of two or three people because co-workers are cleaning out flooded homes. If you’re helping, you are aware of a half-dozen opportunities each day so it is easy to match your strengths and resources with needs. It is hard to sit around doing nothing.
In South Louisiana, people know about digging deep and are very good at it. The worst of times bring out the best in people. Strangers are sincerely concerned about each other regardless of color or status. Labels fall away in a life and death natural disaster which is a wonderful way to live (not the disaster part but the absence of labels). Along with 12 others, a wealthy, community leader perished in the flood which was utterly unconcerned about anyone’s status, race, or gender.
Also, it’s good to have a backup. The Livingston Parish 911/communications center went underwater during the storm. Something else to note is how quickly and unexpectedly it all happened. The more time passes, the greater my respect for mother nature.
The flooded neighborhoods are surely similar to a war-ravaged country. Except of course, for the food, which in disaster zones has been pretty epic. Amazing to live in a world where SO many people have the skill and tools to whip up a pastalaya for 150 people. Last week in any given area, there were multiple options for something delicious and free. The food has sustained many people so thank you.
A closing thought from Brene Brown:
“You can’t skip the second act. “People don’t recount the middle of the story often,” Brown says. “[It has] the most potential for shame. But it’s where everything important happens.”
Laura Wolfe is a friend of Bayou Time. We love and respect her work. Want to check out more of her blogs? Visit her website and show some love at http://laurawolfephd.com