Hurricane Katrina roared through southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf

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1 Hurricane Katrina Our Story Sunday, October 2, 2005 Hurricane Katrina roared through southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 my cousin DeeGee s birthday will never be remembered in the same way again. The huge storm s eye narrowly missed New Orleans, lashing its most extreme fury along the towns of the Gulf Coast Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis. Oh sure, the Crescent City had its problems, but the worst was yet to come. Several levees broke after the storm, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans. Since the city is under sea level, this just compounded the problem. Toxic floodwaters sat in the soup bowl for days, fouling everything in their path, destroying homes, businesses, livelihoods and life itself. Where do we go from here? Sometimes, we think this is all a bad dream, albeit with visits to family and friends around the southeastern United States. Surely, we ll wake up safe and sound in our dry home on West Lakeshore home, none the worse for wear. As in previous storms, we ll clean out the refrigerator and freezers, replenish our stores with fresh food, and go on. The reality is far different. We have been away from home for five weeks. We ll return briefly at the end of this week, long enough to assess the damages, bring out whatever is worth saving and head back to the relative safety of Fort Lauderdale, Florida a place still in the hurricane 1

2 belt. We somehow believe that surrounded by dear friends here, we will be able to feel safe and secure wherever the wind blows. How long will it take to make a decision about our next move? Who knows? On Friday, August 26, we were looking forward to the weekend, although we were watching the path of Katrina very carefully. I met friends at Touro Synagogue for Erev Shabbat services; then, my husband Mark met all of us for supper at Tower of Pizza in Metairie. Seven of us sat around the table in the restaurant, talking about where we d go if evacuation orders were issued. Mark and I were fairly certain that we would drive all the way to Louisville, since we were scheduled to visit there over the Labor Day weekend anyway. While we were not enamored either with the idea of driving 750 miles in one day, or with the thought of having to put Zena in a kennel, we knew that we could be with family. We went home and to bed that Friday night; Mark planned to be up early to check the weather forecast. He woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday, and upon checking the storm s path, said to me, Start packing. The storm had moved as far west as it was going to, putting it on a collision course with New Orleans. After a previous evacuation, I had made a list of what to take with us. I remembered that it was on a rather small piece of paper. Unfortunately, in our mad dash to pack for this evacuation, I couldn t find it. So we guessed at what we would need. We packed two large duffel-type suitcases of clothes, a bag for the dogs, Zena s dog bed, 2

3 medicines, several photo albums and that was about it. Mark remembered our passports. Our son, Michael had gotten home late the night before, and although we tried to convince him otherwise, he wasn t interested in evacuating with us at that point. That was VERY frustrating, as he was still sleeping when we left. I quickly made phone calls to my parents and our daughter Katy, urging them to nudge him by telephone until he got on the road. Mark, Zena and I made it to Louisville that evening a trip we said we d never again make in one day unless we had to. Michael followed later - he left that day, after helping his employers secure their business. He stayed with friends in Hattiesburg and then in Tuscaloosa before arriving in Louisville on the following Wednesday. We breathed a sigh of relief when he finally showed up he had taken his own sweet time, and the trip had gone fairly smoothly. He told us about his time in Hattiesburg -- something he s like to forget, I think, and about meeting his friend Jessie s University of Alabama sorority sisters in Tuscaloosa. After Mark and I arrived in Louisville on that Saturday night, we watched and waited We operated in a fog glad for the embrace of family and friends, but were later heartbroken at the news coming from New Orleans. Glued to CNN, the Weather Channel and the Internet, we spent hours each day trying to get our arms around what had happened. 3

4 Parts of these past weeks have been wonderful visiting with family and friends, the outpourings of support from virtual strangers. But the painful realization that our lives will never be the same again has started to sink in and we are desolate. Family and friends in the New Orleans area are scattered all over the country. Baton Rouge is now the largest city in Louisiana with all of the attendant problems that come with an inadequate infrastructure in place horrible traffic, long lines at the gasoline pumps and the supermarket, etc. We spent four weeks in Louisville. When I look back on the time, I am grateful that we spent it with family and friends. Although numerous suggestions were made for things to do tourist-type activities, we didn t do any of them. I did buy some new clothes. We spent as much time as possible with Katy and her fiancé, Wes. I went to water aerobics with Mom. One day, we swam laps at the JCC; on another, I took a pilates class there with my friend, Amy Benovitz. I got to attend the Bell Awards dinner, where Amy was one of the honorees. I spent a Shabbat morning at Temple Shalom, and shared a Kiddush lunch with their Sisterhood. Carol and Mick Savkovich had us over for dinner. I spent time with my sister-in-law, Holly Holland, at a paint-the-pottery place we made a birthday gift for Dad, which we presented at a family birthday celebration also the first time all three grandchildren were together in years. Our honorary nephew, Treavor, was at college and couldn t come home. Despite the bleakness of our situation, there was joy. We looked at two apartments, wondering when and if we could make a move to Louisville. That is a possibility now. Then, we moved on to Macon, to the home of our dear friends, Joan and Garry Mitchell. We spent several days with them, eating, going on boat rides, playing with the 4

5 dogs and visiting. Joan became like my younger sister when she and her ex-husband John and son Jason lived next door to us years ago. We could laugh again at long-ago adventures as well as the here and now. Now, we are in Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach with Wendy and Bruce Autenrieth and our Temple Bat Yam family. We are hearing greetings of Welcome home. And, we wonder, could this be home some day? We are planning to be here for awhile after a quick trip home to assess our situation this week. As I write this, I have received a call from Michael. His job took him to Houston for several weeks, where his company has an office, and then to Kenner. He is living in a FEMA trailer, procured by his employers. The call was one we ve been dreading as he has been the first one back to the house. There is mold all the way up to the ceiling he couldn t tell where the water line was. He says everything is ruined. Clothes may be washed or dry cleaned, but he was even afraid to call me from inside the house in case his cell phone was exposed to mold. I asked if he was wearing any protective clothing. He was wearing only gloves and now I fear for his health. Mark bought protective clothing, gloves and goggles to wear when we go in on Friday. Who knows what else we might need or what we can save? What do we save? What do we pitch? What do we want? Those are the next questions we ll try and answer in the days ahead. 5

6 In the meantime, we feel another loss very keenly our friends and family are scattered across the country. Who knows when we ll see them all again? Saturday, October 15, 2005 After Visiting Home I We have been back in the Fort Lauderdale area for nearly a week. Our quick trip home to New Orleans was bleak, heart-wrenching and very sad. It s a two-day drive each way from Fort Lauderdale, and Mark and I filled the time with more discussion of what ifs and whens. Life, as we once knew it, will never be the same again. We left for New Orleans on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Wednesday, October 5 th. We spent the night in Tallahassee, and drove into New Orleans the next day. As we drove into Mississippi, we could see sings of Katrina s wrath. Trees were down, and billboards were either knocked out completely or out of date. It was sad to see casino billboards advertising celebrity acts that should have appeared in September. As we approached New Orleans on Thursday, October 6, the view became increasingly depressing. We had to enter the city via the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, as I-10 over the twin spans was impassable. Anyone who believed that Jefferson Parish was spared should be in for a shock. We found debris piled high everywhere. Houses seemed to have vomited their contents onto the street curbs visible evidence that they had experienced flooding. Gray and tan piles of mattresses and furniture rose skyward; the bleak landscape was sometimes broken by brightly-colored, cast-off child s toys. 6

7 The wide expanse of neutral ground between West End and Pontchartrain Boulevards was a wasteland. In fact, workers had built an eerie landscape of dead tree limbs, piling them several stories high. Machinery ground the limbs into more manageable, moveable mulch. But instead of potential weed cover, all we could see was the decimation of what had once made our area so beautiful. Houses along West End Boulevard were in various states of destruction. The once-varied charming architectural styles of Lakeview were reduced to piles of rubble in some places, great pieces of homes missing and a general feeling of desolation. Very little green grass or verdant plant life was evident the foliage (where any vestige existed) was brown. We decided to visit Sunday and Dave Delger at the Caribbean Dive Shop in Bucktown we had some things to take care of before our Fiji trip (a long-anticipated vacation in mid-october). We were warmly welcomed there, and heard their stories of dislocation and the beginnings of recovery. Dave had been by our house, and told us that we had definitely had water, confirming what Michael had already said. He could tell that Mark s car was a goner. While at the dive shop, we decided to sign up for the Mardi Gras trip to CocoView Dive Resort in Roatan, Honduras the same place we went last year. I suppose that was in a burst of optimism. Since we were so close, we decided to go to the house and check it out. Nobody was exaggerating. There were broken limbs everywhere; we had to fight our way to the back door (the front door was too swollen to open). Upon entering the house, we experienced the 7

8 horrific stench of rotting food and mold (we did wear gloves and masks). The wet carpet squished under our feet, and in the back of the house, the wood floors had buckled badly - in some places, it was like walking uphill. Black mold covered the walls and had begun to overtake some of the ceilings. It was dark (no electricity) and quiet. We were too numb to do anything but look around. But happily, we saw our next-door neighbor, Kirk Groh. He had returned to his family s home for the fourth time, again fixing what he could (for the time being) and taking anything worth saving. His wife Holly and their four children (including baby Cait) were in their new home in Baton Rouge. They suffered severe roof damage, which means their house is totaled and they can decide whether to rebuild or leave. We also saw activity on the other side at Vivian and Harry Hoskins house. Their daughter, Virginia, had come down from Atlanta to supervise the gutting of their home (they plan to return eventually). A little later, we called Michael, who met us for dinner at Royal China, our favorite Chinese restaurant. He had warned us that restaurants were very crowded starting at 5:00 p.m. He wasn t kidding. Royal China was very busy and surprisingly, they were offering their full menu. Their Tong Chow Oysters (one of our favorites) was prepared with Northeastern oysters instead of the Louisiana variety. We spent the next two nights at our cousins, DeeGee and Robert Liniado s house, which seemed like a palace compared to what we found at 7311 Cameo. Indeed, they suffered very little damage, and we were grateful to use their home as our base. Friday morning started bright and early, as the homeowners insurance adjuster was coming between 9 and 10 a.m. We had to start by clearing a path outside the yard 8

9 was strewn with fallen tree limbs. The next task was emptying the refrigerator and freezer. The huge, heavy white bags our Louisville friends, Amy and Lee Benovitz gave us came in handy for this gruesome task. We found maggots on the freezer s exterior, unidentifiable blobs in the refrigerator, and enough rotten food to provide visuals for a very bad science experiment. Between the rotten food and yard debris, we were making quite an impressive pile at our curb for garbage collection (and we wished they would come speedily and soon!). The homeowners insurance adjuster came and looked at the roof. That was about it he said the rest would be up to the flood insurance adjuster. We were quite surprised at his seemingly brief assessment. Most of the day s remainder was used to salvage what we could from the house. Mark got his scuba equipment; I got jewelry. We both took clothes that we thought could be laundered or dry cleaned. We took artwork to see if it could be salvaged. Michael came about noon to go through his things. He took out clothes and some books (he was hopeful they could be dried out). And we waited for the flood insurance adjuster. He finally came about 5:00 p.m., when we had about given up. He walked through the house, taking photos and measurements. Unfortunately, through a big misunderstanding or omission, we have not carried contents insurance on our flood policy for the past nine years. Thus, none of our belongings were insured just the structure. We were heartsick over this news, as we know it will take a lot of money to replace what we have lost. However, we have some 9

10 investments we can cash in if necessary, so we are more fortunate than many. What we mourn the most are things we cannot easily replace books, writings and photographs. Michael, Mark and I went to dinner at Fausto s Kitchen, still in our disgusting work clothes. The restaurant was very crowded and served from a limited menu. That is the common experience restaurants are packed and offer just a few choices. When we went for breakfast at Puccino s the next day, they weren t serving food at all, as their cook had a family medical emergency. So we moved on to another restaurant before we hit the road. As we drove back to Fort Lauderdale, Mark and I again pondered our future. Our house would have to be gutted at the very least before being habitable again. Our flood insurance will probably max out our policy value at around $248,000. We will get a little bit from our homeowners policy for roof damage. We are reluctant to rebuild in an area where another levee break could put us in the same situation with the next hurricane. We have decided to look at housing in the Fort Lauderdale area for research s sake if nothing else. Again, we were warmly welcomed back here, into a loving Jewish synagogue community. From this base, I know we could build a larger one. There will be many questions in the days ahead and perhaps fewer answers. But somewhere down the line, in the next few months, we hope to chart a course for our future. Our immediate plans include taking our long-awaited trip to Fiji next week. At least, we have somewhere to be for two weeks! After that, we will return to Fort Lauderdale for a week or so before we head back to New Orleans. This time, we plan to stay there about a week long enough to really go through the house to determine what 10

11 to pitch and what to save, and to assess our Canal Street property. Hopefully, Katy will be able to join us for part of the time, as we believe our children need to claim and take what they want from the house. After that, who knows? Between Visits Home January 1, 2006 Our last visit to New Orleans was in November, just before Thanksgiving. This time, we spent about five days there, trying again to salvage what we could. I suppose intervening events and inertia have prevented my writing before now. Again, the trip was very difficult on so many levels. It was good to have Katy helping us Michael was there, too, when he wasn t at work. Katy managed to save many of our photos. Michael helped drag more of the heavy stuff out to the curb. We assessed the condition of kitchen items many will still be usable after they are thoroughly cleaned, but so many more were thrown out. We saw friends Loel and Larry Samuel had us to their house for dinner, Gale Pick brought us lunch one day, and we met Richard and Yvette Warren at Royal China for dinner one night. Gale and Randy, and Loel and Larry are back to stay at least for now. Both guys are waiting to see what the business climate will bring. Richard and Yvette have bought an RV they re doing some traveling and dividing their time between the Atlanta area and Ocean Springs where her kids live and Metairie 11

12 Richard is helping with renovation efforts of friends and family. Their long-term plans are uncertain. It was very painful to see the desolation and destruction. This time, we drove into town via the I-10 twin spans one was open in both directions. This was our normal route, but there was nothing normal once we hit New Orleans East. The destruction of that area and the Ninth Ward is not to be believed. Splintered remains of houses and cars just go on for miles and Mark was nearly reduced to tears. It got worse when we hit familiar territory. Lakeview is just desolate. To add to the sadness, there was a detour in our route to and from Metairie that took us down Fleur de Lis Drive an area closest to the levee break at the 17 th Street canal, and the site of some of the worst destruction and biggest losses. To make this trip every day, following the same route, was like repeatedly pulling a scab off a wound. But, surprisingly after a while, we became somewhat numb. On the drive in, I kept busy talking on the cell phone with friends. That s how I found out that layoffs at WYES were imminent. In fact, they were in the process of calling people that day (around November 15). I never got a call, so the next day, I went to the temporary office on Phosphor Street in Metairie for information. Astonishingly, I was not on the layoff list maybe because I was part time and they didn t pay any benefits. However, I submitted my resignation, as it was clear that we wouldn t be returning to New Orleans. So, there was a party that Friday night for the laid-off staff members at Dawn Raymond Smith s house. There were laughs, but there was also the feeling that so many 12

13 felt screwed over even employees who had been there for 20+ years were let go. It was fun to see everyone, but it was also very sad. It was on our way back to Florida that Mark and I finally reached a decision. We decided to move to the Fort Lauderdale area, where we knew we had friends and could begin again. Mark didn t really want to move to Louisville, and I figured I could be happy either in Louisville or Fort Lauderdale. We just figured that we needed to move on. So, now, it s the beginning of 2006, and we have bought a house and made plans to move later this month or in early February. The house needs some work, and we want to get as much done as possible before moving in. The best thing is that it s just two blocks away from Wendy and Bruce in the same neighborhood! We are excited and scared all at the same time. Our house in New Orleans still sits in all its moldy mess. Michael is eager to begin gutting it (in fact, he s already done his room and the hallway), and hopes maybe he will be able to buy it from us. We ll see how feasible that is after a discussion of our family finances with Susan Simon, our accountant. I wish I could feel more joyful as we begin a new year, but it s so hard. Change is difficult, but change we must. We will travel back to New Orleans later this week to salvage what we can from the house for our Florida home. And then we ll move on. Moving On A New Beginning February 27,

14 As I sit in our bungalow at CocoView Resort in Roatan, what I am about to write seems so surreal. Come to think of it, a lot of things seem surreal these days. I have been back to New Orleans twice since early January. The first time, Mark and I went for the final pass through our house; the second time, I went alone specifically to attend a National Council of Jewish Women luncheon that honored two outstanding volunteers my dear friend Loel Samuel, and Inga Elsas. I have decided that my experiences bordered on schizophrenic characterized by mood swings not only in my psyche, but in the physical landscapes. The first trip was right after New Year s and was meant to be the last pass through our house. Before we left Florida, we amassed a stash of boxes, cushioning material (including two huge rolls of bubble wrap) and tape and a small collection of cleaning supplies. Our goal was to pack and take as much as we could salvage, leaving the rest to be thrown out when the house was gutted. Well, it was a busy week. We spent most days sorting, wrapping and packing, and throwing out much less than on our previous visits. That task would be left to the gutters, whom Michael said needed to come immediately, if not sooner. We examined his work so far he had gutted his room and the hallway to the studs. I did meet some WYES friends for coffee one day and lunch the next they were among the laid-off employees. The mood was somber, although we did share a few laughs. Once again, we shared meals with friends, glad for companionship during otherwise-bleak days. Our neighborhood was very quiet not many people had returned. 14

15 We did still have electricity, which made packing easier. However, we were always sure to be finished before dusk. After sunset, the mood gets really eerie, as there are no streetlights. Larry and Loel told us about New Year s Eve, as they rode out to gettogether at Rick and Tricia Kirschman s, who live in Lake Terrace. Fog had rolled in, and visibility was next-to-nothing, with the absence of streetlights. When they started home, Larry missed the turn onto Canal Boulevard which is a major street. Spooky, they said. After nearly a week, we couldn t pack any more boxes. We had rented a trailer from U-Haul, which could only hold a finite amount of stuff. So, we had to make some tough decisions about what to leave behind. I had packed up my pots and pans for the move and then Michael reminded me that he didn t have any. So, I figured I could replace mine, and left them for his use. We salvaged still more clothes, a few pieces of artwork, lots of kitchen items, china and glassware (Katy would get Mark s mother s crystal; Michael would get her china), and knick-knacks galore. We even packed bed linens and towels hoping they could be washed successfully. Unfortunately, we probably forgot some things I left behind two needlepoint purses that Nana had made, as well as her mother s sterling silver hand mirror. And then there were things we just couldn t take all my clips and writings, books I hadn t even read yet and so much more. 15

16 We were still in New Orleans for Mark s birthday Aunt Dot made a cake, which we enjoyed. We had a positive meeting with Susan Simon, our accountant, and determined what assets the kids could claim. They ll do all right. Based on her report, we decided to let Michael continue to gut and renovate our Cameo Street house. He is paying for the renovations, and will live in it after he s finished. We will consider selling him the house when he is ready and some of that depends on how stable the neighborhood will be and his continued employment. He is one happy camper! We all feel good about the decision he has something to work towards, and he is hopeful that New Orleans will come back. He still maintains that our West Lakeshore neighborhood is one of the area s best places to live. And, we are eager to see what he does with the place! Hopefully, he ll be able to pay insurance and taxes without going broke that s part of the deal, too. *** When we returned to Florida, the painter had finished his work on our house. Next, we had to make arrangements for installation of our bedroom carpet, then furniture delivery. Then, we could move in! I made a trip to Louisville in mid-january, as Mom had hip surgery on January 15 th. I stayed for about a week, during which our bedroom furniture and easy chairs for the den were delivered. 16

17 We finally moved into our home at 3405 Aladdin Way on January 31, We continued to work very hard nearly every day, unpacking and washing our stuff from Cameo Street then finding places to put it. We have spent an enormous amount of time and money at Lowe s, buying everything from the kitchen sink (literally) to light fixtures to vertical blinds to appliances (washer and dryer, refrigerator, range and dishwasher). I have also spent lot of time and money (but with coupons and gift cards) at Linens & Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond. We still have some boxes to unpack and we still need more furniture, but we are settling in. It s still hard. Even with fun things to do, we miss our life in New Orleans. We are eternally grateful to Wendy and Bruce for putting us up and putting up with us! We are happy to be with new friends, although we miss our Crescent City connections. New opportunities are presenting themselves. I discovered the community center in our area a place that offers Jazzercise, yoga and a writers critique group -- in addition to Mah Johng, bridge, drawing and painting and a world of other activities. I have found a good Weight Watchers group (now if I can just get back to my dietary routine!). Mark joined a scuba club, and has been on several dives. I am getting involved at temple, which has led to professional opportunities. I will probably be teaching Religious School in the upper grades next fall, and I will be a youth group adviser. These are paid gigs, and I am happy to be earning a little extra money. I also will be on the Ritual Committee (as a volunteer) and will help with Sisterhood activities. Our new life seems to be shaping up. My last visit home was so different from the first three. I stayed with Larry and Loel for most of the visit. As their Uptown home did not suffer any damage, once again, I 17

18 was staying in a normal place. And all around their area, it was increasingly difficult to tell that Hurricane Katrina had happened. The first clue: flowers were blooming azaleas and pansies normal blooms for late winter and early spring. A trip to Lakeview and our old neighborhood was entirely different. The huge piles of rubble on the neutral ground between West End and Pontchartrain Boulevards aren t as high, but they re still there. Destruction is still very apparent and not too many people have returned. Our block is desolate no one is back. However, on Jewel Street, some tenants are back in the second-story apartments, and a couple of blocks over, houses that didn t suffer much damage are occupied. Michael and his friends had gutted our entire house. I felt numb when I walked through, noting the spaces that marked each room. From the outside, the house looks untouched except for the downed fence and barbecue grill, and the brown landscape. We passed by Aunt Dot and Uncle Stan s house it had been gutted several months before, but a recent tornado in the area had done more damage. Windows were broken, and we know their roof was seriously damaged. This happened a few days after they put their home up for sale. Michael and I spent a lot of time together, which was especially wonderful. We ate oysters at Casamento s despite its longstanding reputation as a New Orleans culinary fixture, I had never been there. They were serving from a limited menu, but we didn t care, as long as they had oysters. We met the plumber at the house Michael is having the plumbing replaced. Then we went to Lowe s, where we bought fiberglass bathtubs. It was déjà vu all over again as I had spent so much time in the Florida 18

19 Lowe s that I knew where the restroom would probably be in the Metairie location! He made contact with an electrician, who will replace all the wiring. Michael and I talked a lot about his plans for the house including sharing some decorating ideas. And we talked about his teenage years, which were rocky and for me, sometimes devastating. He has really changed for the better, growing into a resourceful, independent and nice young man. The luncheon in Loel s and Inga s honor was fun not just for the awardees, but for the chance to see so many people at one time. It was truly bittersweet I found out that Janie Kreisman is engaged to her longtime beau, Neal Soslow. I also learned that many are unsure about what their long-term plans are. Wendy Good said that she and her daughters are living in rented quarters in the New Orleans area, while her husband shuttles between New Orleans and Atlanta, wondering if he will be able to rebuild his insurance and financial planning business. Larry s law practice is very slow except for a couple of lawsuits filed by the teachers unions, there s not much activity. Loel is teaching three-year-olds at the JCC nursery school. They don t know if they ll still be living in New Orleans in a year or two. Randy Pick is hoping his door manufacturing business will come back and he s making that his first priority, waiting to repair the minor damage to their home. He s also helping his mother rebuild her Old Metairie house, which suffered severe damage to the first floor. Tom Wolf was furloughed from his job at LSU, and he has retired, but is considering other work options some of which would take him away from the area. Ed Smith continues to apply for jobs in health administration, after losing his job at WillowWood/Woldenberg more than a year ago. He hasn t gotten anything yet, but he and Betty will most likely be moving eventually. 19

20 Robert and DeeGee continue their separation, because their daughter, Millie is enrolled in a Richmond, Virginia school for the year. Robert s Fact-O-Bake car painting and repair business was totaled in the hurricane. He is trying to work out a deal with FEMA to place trailers on the property he could collect rent. But long-term opportunities may be elsewhere for him. My cousin, Rick has two FEMA trailers on his property one for him and the boys (when they visit) and one for Aunt Dot and Uncle Stan. There are huge delays in getting them connected to electricity, water and sewage lines, but I suppose they all will be moving into trailers eventually. Rick will fix up his house, but his law practice is taking him around the state he does a lot of collections work. He has bought a building in Metairie for his local practice hopefully, business will pick up. Everyone seems to be in states of flux or transition. We count ourselves among the lucky ones able to move on to a new home and new beginnings. It s so hard starting over, but we will prevail. And hopefully, with the addition of hurricane shutters on our Aladdin Way home, and with the repair of our roof, we will be ready for the next hurricane season and hope for the best. September 12, 2006 The first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has come and gone, and I m just getting around to writing about it. Avoidance? Perhaps. Between the first anniversary of Katrina and the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 disaster, this has not been an easy time. Too many memories are still so raw. 20

21 We were back in New Orleans last month. Mark went diving at the Flower Gardens on the Louisiana/Texas coast, and I spent a little over a week back in the Crescent City, catching up with friends, seeing the sights and reuniting with our family. Katy came to town for a long weekend, and we all stayed at our house. At that time, Michael had made wonderful progress on the renovation his desire to be OUT of the FEMA trailer spurred him on. He has acted as the contractor on this project, and has learned how to lay floor tile and do other jobs with the best of them. The house, although not finished when we were there, looks beautiful. He should be so proud of what he has accomplished. Michael hasn t made many structural changes. A hall closet now has been redone to be a bedroom closet, and he has not replaced one set of kitchen cabinets over the peninsula, but the rest looks fairly familiar. At the time of our visit, there was still much to be done. We were determined to stay there, even though things were pretty rough. We figured that as long as the air conditioning functioned and the refrigerator was working, we could deal. It was a lot like camping. While all the toilets worked, only one sink in the halfbath off the den was functional. There was no furniture to speak of, so we brought a queen-sized air mattress from Florida, and borrowed another twin-sized one for Katy. Michael opted to stay in his trailer while we were there, but moved in after we left. He had taken delivery of all the kitchen appliances and the washer and dryer, but the refrigerator was the only one that worked. I quickly assessed that any meals at home beyond breakfast just weren t going to happen. Oh well that forced us to eat out at many of our favorite spots. 21

22 Our house looks the same yet different. Michael had taken up flooring in the kitchen, laundry room, half bath and den to reveal terrazzo tile and he decided to have that refurbished. It looks wonderful. He has chosen a neutral palette in paint colors the house is painted mostly a warm beige. The bathrooms are blue with white fixtures. I quickly assessed that there wasn t much I could do to help. The yard is still as shambles, but needs more than a few plants to look presentable. I was not up to the task of spreading loads of dirt, planting sod or planning a garden, so I left that for him. That meant I could spend part of the week visiting with friends and family and that felt really good. Once Katy got to town, we spent a little time in the French Quarter which seems to have come back fairly quickly. It was quiet, but it was also August. While we won t mark a full year in south Florida until sometime in October, in many ways it feels like we re starting another year now. With Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, we mark time with the Jewish calendar we are here now for the second year during the High Holy Days. There are still a few things to do to complete our settlement here paperwork, mostly. We have found a circle of friends through the temple, and we both have explored the community to find others who share our passions for writing (me) and scuba diving (Mark). 22

23 We miss so much about New Orleans our friends most of all. We also miss the obvious charms of the Crescent City the food, the music, the architecture and the general fun and funkiness that were part of our lives for so many years. The good news is that Michael intends to stay. His job is secure, he has made a home for himself from the shambles that was our house this time last year. And we will be frequent visitors. We know what it means to miss New Orleans and our hearts are with all who are starting over wherever they may be. 23