(c) by Mary Griggs
I evacuated from New Orleans around 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 27, 2005. On that Monday, while the storm was making landfall along Pearl River, I was in Alabama watching the waves from Wolf Bay crash against the pine trees in my parent’s backyard. I was almost two hundred miles from the epicenter of the storm and there were still hurricane force winds and a storm surge that brought water to within three feet of their back door.
When I left, I had only taken my dog and enough clothing and supplies for three days. I fully expected to be back in the city that care forgot by the end of the week. But the next morning, the reports started to trickle out about some flooding near one of the canals.
Not knowing was hard. It took me until the beginning of October to finally make my way across Lake Ponchartrain to see the damage for myself. The only hurricane damage was from my neighbor’s tree falling on my roof. It took out a chimney and the gutters and tore through some shingles. If that had been the only damage, it would have merely taken a blue tarp for me to be back in my home.
Unfortunately for me and the rest of the city, it was broken levees that caused the real destruction. The water rose and it sat there until what was wood collapsed, what was metal rusted, and what was left was covered in mold. My house was on three foot piers, so the five feet of water in my neighborhood translated into two feet of water inside.
Today is five years since landfall. I was lucky and well insured. None of my family or friends died or were injured. With an outpouring of support that still brings tears to my eyes, I was able to complete the restoration of my house by the end of October, 2006.
Even after the city has come so far in her recovery, there are still people who want to know why I ever came back. They are perplexed about the lure of a city that has proven to be vulnerable to the ravages of nature (odd given that plenty of them live in cities that are very near fault lines). They wonder about health and safety issues and the economics of trying to work in such a vulnerable place. They question about what will happen when the next storm or next spill comes.
I don’t have any answers.
I just know this is home.