After Five Years Katrina’s Scars Are No Longer Visible but the Pain Still Lingers
The Helicopter shook violently as the rotors gained speed and the chopper slowly lifted off the roof of the school. I sat speechless on the floor of the chopper as its engine roared louder as we gained altitude. I thought of the people whom I had left behind and I wondered what would be their fate. The group that I had left behind was a stubborn bunch and I knew they would not leave the city without offering some resistance. But I had to follow my heart. It was both a sad and happy moment for me; sad because I was leaving my friends and the city that I loved, and happy because I was finally leaving the pandemonium of Katrina’s aftermath.
The sun was breaking its first light of the day over the smoky horizon as we lifted off. The sky was filled with smoke from the many fires that burned out of control below. Some say the fires were started by enraged survivors who burned buildings and stores they looted but no one will ever know what really happened.
We ascended higher and although visibility was poor, I could see the huge hole in the roof of the Superdome and the crowds of people on the ramp that surrounded the massive structure. I was amazed to see how much damage Hurricane Katrina had done to the city. Everything I had imagined was nothing compared to the horror I saw as I looked down from inside the helicopter. As far as I could see I saw submerged houses, some submerged to the rooftops and some hardly recognizable as the apex of their roofs could barely be seen beneath the brownish swamp colored water. Until now I had no idea that the entire city had flooded.
It was September 5, 2005 when I left New Orleans, having been rescued by the U.S. Army and airlifted to Louis Armstrong International Airport. Scenes from that terrible day of the horror I experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still live in my memory.
Though I thought about it several times, I could never find the courage to return to New Orleans to live because somehow deep within I knew life in the Crescent City would never be the same. But after five years Katrina’s scars are no longer visible, and though time has healed much of the torment I endured yet the pain of leaving behind a lifetime of memories still lingers. Nothing can describe the feeling of having your life swept away and being involuntarily exiled from a city and a culture that you’ve known since birth.
Relocating to Fort Worth, Texas has in many ways been a blessing and I am slowly regaining many of the material things that I lost to Hurricane Katrina. But my heart is still saddened at the loss of the irreplaceable things of great value like friendships and family photographs.
I still get home sick for the many things we call “Naturally New ‘Awlins”. I miss Cajun delicacies like boiled crawfish, crabs, shrimp and Gumbo, red beans and rice. I long to see a good ole “second line” parade featuring Mardi Gras Indians in full head dress. To this day I still dream about taking a Sunday afternoon walk in Audubon Park watching squirrels play in moss laden oak trees, some of them several hundred years old.
As a native of New Orleans I know the people who chose to return will overcome the odds against them and rebuild because by nature they are a resilient people. I also believe rebuilding the ravaged city will be a long struggle and a very difficult challenge. As for me, I will always be a New Orleanian at heart and I will continue to pray for my people and root for the Saints from my Fort Worth home away from home.