No one has escaped Katrina’s wrath |

No one has escaped Katrina’s wrath

Steve Katz
AP Photo/Dallas Morning News, top, Tom Fox, bottom(TOP) Texas National Guardsman Spc. Brian Jimenez of Richardson, Texas, is fully armed as he and his North Texas platoon went searching for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in an area west of downtown New Orleans on Sept. 10, 2005. (BOTTOM) Children ride bicycles through the same area on Aug. 16, 2006. The neighborhood is now only partially inhabited

Note: Mary Sue and Steve Katz are part-time Vail residents whose home in New Orleans was severely damaged and flooded by Hurricane Katrina. They have been traveling back and forth between Vail and New Orleans since the storm, and writing about their experiences.

NEW ORLEANS ” A year ago, Katrina did to a region what nothing else has ever approached in the United States. The winds blew, the water rose, the levee broke, the city flooded ” that was just the beginning.

I can approach Katrina from a very personal side ” after all it’s effects are personal. At first I was so proud that I had been careful and lucky.

I had some older relatives, including my mother and grandmother, who were in harms way. I tried to evacuate them, but they did not cooperate. My wife, children and most of my friends were gone and as I watched the flooding and looting, I felt somewhat ahead of the curve.

After the storm, I made several trips to New Orleans in a damage control effort ” from a personal, family and community concern (in that order). Being lucky enough to have an alternative residence, I thought we were out of the fray and would just wait until things returned to ‘normal.’

But normal has been redefined. For those of us who were materially and/or emotionally affected normal will never be the same. The timeline of our lives is dissected by the perpendicular line of Aug. 29, 2005 ” the day Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

It is like deja vu to the World War II generation ” one event, and bam, their lives are different. The school kids have been interrupted as never before. They have been forced to leave their teachers, classmates and familiar surroundings, and although they may return, they will return to different teachers, different classmates and modified surroundings.

Older citizens left homeless move in with their children or accelerate their flight to assisted living. Yuppies and Generation Xers have become a confused, upset “Generation WHY.”

I look back at a city very different than the one in which I grew up. There is potential for improvement, there may be a silver lining, but the overall damage has been monstrous.

In the last year, I lost a house, moved an office and watched my children gawk when viewing the remnant of the only home they’ve ever known. I lost an aunt and a grandmother and sympathized with all the others I knew who also lost loved ones.

My wonderful secretary of 11 years is no longer with me, and my mother, who remains homeless, is still regrouping a full year later. I long for the pictures and souvenirs we collected, and the special parts of a home that may be duplicated but never replaced.

So, a year after Katrina, and a year after thinking how favorably I had fared, maybe I jumped the gun.

All the important parts of life are modified and damaged: families have changed, homes were destroyed and livelihoods were shaken. New Orleans is experiencing a horrible crime wave, the repairs of the levees have been delayed, the labor force is insufficient labor and some of the city’s best and brightest have moved away.

Suicides, bankruptcies and divorces have skyrocketed.

In retrospect, all of this should have been expected. Year two is the year the repairs should begin, but the memories will prevail. How naive was it for me to ever think I had escaped the wrath of the storm.

Katrina’s wrath was and is the wrath of an octopus ” no, a giant squid whose tentacles are ever extending, reaching out to all New Orleanians and all of its residents.

None of us really escaped Katrina’s wrath, and none of us ever will.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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