Most societies have this funny habit of bisecting its collective life around a single traumatic event: wars, famines, disasters. There\'s always a \"before\" and an \"after\". For New Orleans, and certainly for myself personally, that event would have to be The Storm, Katrina. I must note that it is also peculiar that we attempt to humanize an oncoming tragedy like a hurricane by giving it a name, but I digress...\r\n\r\nI was 14 when it happened, barely two weeks into my Freshman year of high school, and lived in the suburb of Gretna, LA on the Westbank. We packed up and headed to Plano, TX the day before The Storm. I remember that car ride distinctly, not because of the length or immense traffic jams, but because we were listening to the news on the radio during the ride. \r\n\r\nI can\'t remember exactly who said it, and I may be paraphrasing a bit, but I remember some government official came on the radio and told people to write their social security numbers on their bodies in indelible ink if they were staying behind, so as to make identifying their corpses easier. You just don\'t forget things like that when you hear them.\r\n\r\nIn the weeks immediately following Katrina, we traveled from Plano, to Dallas, then Houston. I think we mainly did all of that traveling to keep ourselves from watching the continuous coverage on CNN. The people of Texas were largely kind and very charitable, save for some belligerent Houstonians at a bookstore who told a crowd of refugees to, and I quote, \"Swim home, New Orleans trash!\". Just one of those things...\r\n\r\nAfter the Houston Incident, we stayed with some family friends in Lafayette for a while. It was nice to finally be in Louisiana again, but it still wasn\'t home. We were finally given permission to return to the city of Gretna sometime in late September, thanks to my grandpa pulling some strings with his government friends. The drive home was eerie; everything was silent and still. Fallen trees, light posts, and debris littered the highway. I remember we were just about the only people on the streets when we got back, and a lot of the street signs and lights were missing. Thankfully, our house did not sustain a lot of damage, we still had electricity and running water, and most importantly, cable television. A lot of time was spent cleaning and watching whatever was on cable tv (pointedly avoiding the coverage again) during those first few weeks back because there was nothing else to do. The only trip we made outside of the house was to the national guard base that was set up outside of a closed grocery store to pick up our supply of army rations and water. Never thought I\'d say this in my life, but some of those MREs were actually not bad.\r\n\r\nSurprisingly, school was back in session by early October-- October 3, 2005, to be exact. I only specifically remember that date because my school gave us commemorative t-shirts to celebrate the occasion. Archbishop Blenk High School was one of the first (maybe THE first) high school opened after the storm, so we opened our doors to students from other schools (but only girls, since we were an all-girls Catholic high school). It was interesting to be in a school where everyone wore a different uniform and had a different story to tell. Eventually, all the girls returned to their respective schools, but I don\'t think I would\'ve even met half of my friends if not for those strange, mishmash school days after Katrina. Unfortunately, ABHS was closed down in 2007 after a merger with our rival, Immaculata High School. Downsizing and the archdiocese\'s budget restraints post-Katrina played heavily in this decision. It took a while to get used to each other at The Academy of Our Lady (the school created from the merger), but everything worked out in the end. \r\n\r\nMy high school experience was bookended by Gustav in my Senior year, but that\'s another story for another time (and maybe another Digital Memory Bank). Katrina caused a lot of human and physical destruction, the shockwaves of which we are still experiencing. It\'s weird to think that a lot of the things you grew up with are no longer there; sometimes New Orleans feels like a completely different city. But New Orleanians are a resilient people and we\'re coming back, slowly but surely. For everything we lost, we have gained so much. \r\n


“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed May 27, 2024,