on hurricanes and hindsight

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Katrina swept into the Gulf. Maybe that’s because a lot tends to happen between 15 (the age I was when Katrina flooded my childhood home) and 25. I have so many weird memories of that time… the fog we lived in for a few days before we were reunited with my dad and other siblings. Buying things strategically (granola bars, gas cans) at a Wal Mart in Tallahassee, Florida because we knew there would be nothing back at home. Gutting our basement. Sleeping on the floor because it was coolest there. The burglar alarm that my dad rigged out of a variety of kitchen items. The joy that spread throughout town when Sonic opened back up. Finding my baby book, soaked with water. My parents celebrating their anniversary with a plywood card. Driving through neighborhoods and talking to friends, seeing and hearing stories of people who had lost everything, over and over and over again.

After the storm the only article I remember reading that made any sense was John Grisham’s piece in The New York Times, called “The Gulf Will Rise Again.”  In it, he says:

The task of rebuilding is monumental and disheartening to the outsider. But to the battle-scarred survivors of the Gulf Coast, today is better than yesterday, and tomorrow something good will happen.

When William Faulkner accepted the Nobel Prize in 1950, he said, in part: “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice and endurance.”

Today, Faulkner would find in his native state a resilient spirit that is amazing to behold. The people here will sacrifice and give and give until one day this storm will be behind them, and they will look back, like their parents and grandparents, and quietly say, “We prevailed.”

Ten years later, I’m still so sorry for all the things that were lost in the storm–lives, homes, history, memories–but I’m thankful for the gains, too. The things that a storm taught so many of us about digging in our heels, working hard, being resilient. Lessons about hope, about community, about belief that broken things can become beautiful.

Because I don’t know if I could walk into a classroom everyday ready to sacrifice and endure if it weren’t for a storm ten years ago. I don’t know if I could wake up in a marriage ready to give and give if it weren’t for a storm ten years ago. I don’t know if I could look at desperate situations and see possibility if it weren’t for a storm ten years ago.

So when there are storms in my life today (hopefully more metaphorical and less muddy), I want to remember all this. I want to remember that storms can refine us. I want to remember the beauty of hard work. I want to remember that “today is better than yesterday, and tomorrow something good will happen.” I want to remember that, by the grace of God, we will prevail… over and over and over again.

Happy Anniversary, Katrina. Thanks.

photo by my cookie-sheet-burglar alarm creating dad, Reggie Broom.

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2 Responses to on hurricanes and hindsight

  1. Diane Bohlen says:

    Love this. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d been hanging out with my thoughts and heart!

  2. sarahbeaugez says:

    What wonderful word pictures you paint… the cool basement floor that had flooded, gas cans and granola bars, and the cardboard anniversary card. I am from Ocean Springs (I grew up with your sweet mother) but was not here during Katrina. Thank you for sharing the story and making the point that there is always something of value to be found after all storms if we look hard enough. It may “only” be all the colors of the rainbow!

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