This in from Ruda in NOLA East and (hats off for being the first New Orleanian to use “geaux” in lieu of go!)
I’m from New Orleans East, right around the corner from Castnet Seafood on Hayne Boulevard. That Sunday before the storm hit, my grandmother, 3 of my aunts and uncles, a few of my cousins, and I evacuated to Alabama. We watch the storm from hotel rooms and just waited to see what would happen. My mom and siblings headed to Houston, Texas catching up with a lot of the traffic headed that way.
We didn’t run into traffic like that even though we left later than they did in the evening. We stayed in Alabama for maybe 4 or 5 days and thankfully found everyone one in our little clan was safe. A friend of mine from school urged me to join her in Arkansas. She had evacuated to Alabama too and her parents were coming to get her. Nowhere was home and moving was better for me than sitting around an air force base hotel. Within three weeks I had been adopted as a son of friends family, transferred to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, gotten an apartment, furniture, and maxed out my credited cards so I could have some collared shirts and wouldn’t have to wear the same two pair of jeans and three pair of underwear anymore.
As soon as they allowed people back in the city I rented a car to go down and collect anything I could. The city was scary for the first time in my life. My girlfriend and I slept a couple nights in my mom’s bed with no electricity. That was the quietest and darkest I’ve ever known my neighborhood be. Nothing was the same, the city was so empty, speed limits didn’t matter, and “We Never Close” was. I made that trip from Little Rock to New Orleans so often over the next 5 years that the 8 hours it took to drive back and forth because autonomic.
Now I live in Washington, D.C. and caught some of the wind and rain from Sandy but I wasn’t too worried. From Katrina though, I still haven’t fully healed. The ghost that chase me sometimes catch up with me and I get overwhelmed with emotion. That’ll happen sometimes. Being ripped away from home is traumatic but if you have to leave to put your life back together, geaux back as much as you can. It helps.