Half of my family was from New Orleans; I spent a good deal of time there as I was growing up. I\'d heard the warnings about how someday a hurricane was going to come along and sink the city shaped like a bowl. It just seemed like one of those warnings that doesn\'t ever actually come true in one\'s lifetime. The city had seen big hurricanes before, hadn\'t it? It was still there. \r\nA few days after my birthday in 2005, my dad called to let me know he was keeping an eye on this new hurricane coming across the Gulf. It looked bad. We were both in the Northeast, but my grandmother was still in New Orleans alone. Her children were scattered across the country, and none of her immediate family was in the city with her when Katrina started to bear down. \r\nMy dad kept me updated. Grandma refused to leave the city. We begged her housekeeper to take her to the airport, but she wouldn\'t budge. When, after new reports became more dire and calls from family members became more frantic, the housekeeper told her he planned to flee the city himself, she finally relented. I think she was on the last plane out of MSY, headed to Miami to stay with my Aunt. My dad called to let me know she made it out, and my husband and I turned to the news reports on television to keep up with reports. \r\nThere was such disbelief on my part. Even when I heard some venerable meteorologist come on to say that this was it, this was going to be the big one we\'d heard about all our lives, I didn\'t believe it. We\'re all so used to hearing dramatized news that maybe I\'ve become desensitized. My husband and I chuckled at the reporters in rain gear filming shutters flapping in the French Quarter; it all seemed like it was just a bit of a tropical storm that would pass with no trouble. I do remember vividly the discomfort I felt in seeing long lines of people marching into the Superdome. Just the idea of spending a night in there with hundreds or thousands of other people seemed completely intolerable.\r\nI don\'t remember when it became apparent to me, so far away, that Katrina had indeed been the one to sink the city. Maybe it was later the next day as reports of the flooding began to trickle in. Reality crept up on me slowly as I surfed from blog to blog and refreshed online news reports as they updated. \r\nThe city had sunk. I remember so many images from that brutal disaster, though the one with the man carrying his cats through the waist-high flood in a large plastic box really hit home. I donated, I cried, but mostly I felt grateful that my grandmother had escaped to Florida. She never went back, and my ties to the city now feel severed. I might return, but it will be as a tourist and not as a visiting relative. \r\n


“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed May 27, 2024, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/42002.