The Kat-alogue

This is a transcript of my hand-written journal before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina Comes - Aug 28

I am sitting here waiting for the hurricane to get here and be gone. I am truly scared.

I don't know what to do but wait it out It is going to get hairy

I think I'd rather have the power go out when I'm asleep. Less of a shock to wake up with power out.

The local TV crew shut down to seek shelter elsewhere, and a sister station from Orlando is filling in for a while.

I wrote earlier that my life will be changed after this hurricane. Within 24 hours the city jumped into action with little warning.

The next 24 hours will tell a lot. I don't know enough to know what it will ask of me. I don't even know what I don't know.

7:00 p.m. I just turned off the computer and put it away. I don't want to deal with it later. I would love a cup of coffee but I don't imagine I will get any. Bummer

Twice now I have gotten calls for some woman named Renee. They were dialing the correct number but that number is not Renee's. They said she is at work at a local hospital. The least I could do is give them the main hospital number.

Switching between channels is interesting -- one channel talking about the details of the storm (repeatedly). Another news channel talking about the people involved and their sentiments, large in the sense of "We're in God's hands" and "the Lord will take care of us."

I have done all I can do. No much else to do but to wait.

Journaling By Candlelight - Aug 29

We lost power just at 6:00 a.m. In fact, I had just brewed a pot of coffee, so I was grateful the power stayed on this long.

Sitting in my makeshift cubby, I can hear all the noise and ruckus outside. It is only going to get worse before it gets better.

I am using a single candle and pretty much writing by memory because I can barely see. I don't want to use up the battery in the flashlight.

Oh, and guess what - my battery-operated radio apparently doesn't work on batteries any more. Well, that totally sucks.

6:35 a.m. -- "Admit that we are powerless..."

That's the first step in recovery -- admitting one's own powerlessness.

But I have to RE-think that. I am without electrical power -- the power we take for granted to propel our lives.

But I am not utterly without power because I am still here. My brain and body still work without electricity (try pooping in the dark and you'll see what I mean!)

I can hear water dripping around me inside so I know my roof has been violated already. Darn.

6:55 a.m. -- Not even an hour without power and I"m already sweating everywhere. The thick stillness of the air is amazing.

A gust of wind through the A/C unit blew candle wax on my hand as I traversed the route from living room back to my cubby space.

I can hear the crunching of destruction around me, and I hope I remain safe through it. There will be LOTS of damage and I wish I could have gotten out.

Sweat on the page makes it hard to write.

7:00 a.m. -- Supposedly the eye of the storm will cross New Orleans around mid-day. So I have about 6 hours before things begin to improve.

6 hours is barely one night's sleep. It is less than a full day at the office. Heck -- it's not much time at all, in real life.

Fuck it. Who am I kidding? Real life has been suspended. 6 hours is a fucking eternity!

7:25 a.m. -- Thank goodness for battery operated clock.

The roof at the back of the house is violated -- water is pouring freely into buckets.

The noise is getting louder.

Daylight is helping some, but I'm staying in my cubby. I feel safer surrounded by the barricaded window and everything in front of it. For now, anyway.

7:45 a.m. -- My sister Shannon just called. That was good.

She asked if I had everyone's number on my person, which I do, and suggested I put it inside a ziplock baggie, which I have now done. Great idea.

I just moved to the other room.

It's just getting too spooky in there. Just a few more hours. I keep telling myself that.

8:20 a.m. -- my brother just called. He said his news report said the eye is 20 miles EAST of New Orleans.

That's a good thing. It means it is moving faster and to the east of us, so we are on the west side, which is better.

I just heard a fence or something collapse against the house.

Time goes too slowly.

8:30 a.m. -- Had to go pee. It's raining in the bathroom.

This house will need serious repair before it is habitable again. I won't be able to stay here for long.

I hope in 6 hours from now that it will be over.

RELENTLESS comes to mind. The wind is coming in relentless waves.

9:30 a.m. -- According to what Scott said, the storm center is already moved beyond us.

I just tried to call my older daughter but "all circuits are busy now". Dang

From the sound of things, it seems like things are improving, but I do not trust it just yet. I don't trust anything much at the moment, including myself.

I know I am hiding under a makeshift shelter, and I know I am scared. But it is the sort of scare that is suspended. I can't DO anything about the storm. I can't beg someone to make it stop. I can only do what I am already doing -- waiting and listening.

I have been told on the phone that the Superdome roof is leaking and they are having to evacuate all those evacuees. Glad I didn't go there, huh? :-)

Earlier I was talking to my 2nd daughter. She said she was talking to the other daughter who said, "What is a STOP sign comes flying off and castrates him?"

Donna said, "You mean decapitate, no castrate."

Heck, if a STOP sign came flying through and castrated me, I probably wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

10:20 a.m. -- Phones still busy, at least for long distance. Nobody to call locally. Even the police station is inaccessible. Other local numbers just ring and ring. The police number said, "All circuits are busy at this time..."

I would be cool to hear someone's voice.

I just peeked outside. OHMYGAWD!!

What a mess!! But the street isn't flooding as bad now so maybe it won't flood here, I hope.

I'm not opening anything just -- just been looking through the little space under the plywood over the door.

11:05 a.m. -- All outbound phones still busy - I get that recording. But my daughter's 1-800 number at work I just get a busy signal. That may be a good sign.

I can still hear the wind howling, but not as bad. Mostly now it is just a steady rain and occasional gusts. Geez, I hope the worst is over as far as immediate danger.

I am looking at Hazel breathing. She seems to have put herself into a deep sleep. Her chest is barely moving with slow shallow breaths.

I guess now it is just a matter of waiting until I can get out of here.

She stirs a bit when I move about, but that's not often.

My legs hurt SO MUCH from sitting here hunkered down.

11:25 a.m. -- Man, it would be cool to talk to someone. Or hear the news reports. Or know for a fact the storm has passed over. But without power and a dead radio, I don't hear anything but rain and wind.

I should be grateful to hear "all circuits are busy" -- it means the phones are still working, just all tied up.

My writing sucks, huh?

I am hoping the worst is over so I don't have to huddle under the shelter. It is hot and sticky, still raining. I guess the rain will continue a few more hours.

12:30 p.m. -- The wind blows and the rains fall. It is definitely better than it was, but there are various power lines down along my street so I surely can't go out in front.

The backyard is a MESS!!! I tried to coax Hazel out for a quick pee and she wouldn't go. I can't say that I blame her.

12:40 p.m. -- It seems to be getting a little darker now, but I hope its just a local th'storm and not the other side of The Big One.

1:15 p.m. -- Managed to take a brief snooze, feeling somewhat better now, less panicky and stressed. It is still frustrating that the phone circuits are all still busy.

I'm going to guess it is still Monday. I'm sure it is, of course, but this doesn't feel like any Monday I have known.

In a real way my life is starting over. Will I return to my job here, or just move forward without looking back?

During the night all I wanted to do is get out. Now that it is over, I can rest and see what needs to be done. Most of my stuff survived okay, so far. I suppose if the walls didn't come crashing down yet, it will be okay once a new roof is put on. No point leaving everything behind if I don't have to.

But I do have a different appreciation. Last night I would have left everything in order to get out of the terror. Today I can at least be a little more rational.

1:40 p.m. -- Grateful that the oven works – I'm heating some frozen pretzels. I should probably cook up that other pot pie while I can. Most everything else in the freezer is a waste, but I suppose I should eat what I can, while I can.

I hope the power is back on in a few days. If I get power and water I might not have to leave so urgently. But it would be smart to go for a couple weeks anyway just for things to settle down.

I'd like to open the door a bit for fresh air, but I am afraid to do that. The wind is still blowing hard and I don't know what is happening still.

2:00 p.m. -- Calmer outside but still a whistling wind.

As long as the school is shut down I'll still get paid, which is a good thing.

2:20 p.m. -- After calling all the TV and radio stations to no avail I called the main police number. The woman said she didn't think it was over yet. Darn. But it was good to hear a human voice. Another 30 minutes and the pot pie will be ready. I am grateful for it. Really grateful.

2:30 p.m. -- Noticing how much my legs hurt.

2:31 p.m. -- I have to make a self-congratulatory note. I survived Hurricane Katrina. On my own, in my home. It is not something I would have planned to do, and I sure as well will not stick around for the next one if I can avoid it. Too much anxiety involved in it.

But having done it, I know I can. And knowing I can makes me stronger. A lot stronger.

Damn these pretzels are disgusting; but better than nothing.

The rain has begun again. A light rain, with whistling winds. I wish it would really stop so Hazel can go outside. She is still pretty zoned out on the floor. I'm glad for that.

5:15 p.m. -- After the pot pie and another nap, I feel fair good. The winds have significantly diminished.

5:30 p.m. -- I just went out in front for the first time. The random selectivity of destruction is amazing. One tree across the street was totally uprooted, lying on its side.

It will be getting dark soon. Scary. But at least it will be quiet and not rumbling.

7:02 p.m. -- A siren drove down Magazine St, and I just heard another vehicle. And here is another one going by.

And I hear a bird tweeting nearby. Okay, so life is getting back to almost normal.

Having survived the worst of it, I'm not sure now if I should even go to Houston at all.

Last night I couldn't wait to get out of here, and now it is over I just have some minor inconveniences, like no electrical power.

Of course I don't know how bad it is around town or how long it will take for services to be restored. I suppose school will be closed for the week, if not longer.

7:35 p.m. -- Writing by candlelight now.

There is minimal daylight now. The phones are still not open.

The landlord called around 5:45 or so, while I had just returned from the back yard.

Writing by candle makes me want to dig out the inkwell and dipping pen, but that's too much trouble.

It is impossible to think about serious knitting, but I wrote online yesterday about starting a rug. I can do that in the dark. I have lots of candles, and I don't want to waste them or the batteries. So I guess I will knit into the darkness. This candle isn't good enough for reading.

10:20 p.m. -- It was heartening to hear sirens and cars, and I even saw some people walking. That was before dusk.

Now it is late and I hear the tick tick tick of a drain dripping, or something similar.

Napping in the day may not have helped me now I suppose. Tomorrow is a big day – rearranging my house. I made accommodations for weathering the storm and now it is all a mess. Tomorrow I need to get my house and my life back into some sense of order.

Tuesday 5:40 a.m. -- My son rang through about 20 minutes ago, so I know the phone lines are cleared. I've called my sister and a friend both in Florida and left messages that I am okay.

Yesterday morning at this time I was huddled in fear, scared shitless. I survived. I am beginning to understand what it means to “push through the fear and do it anyway.”

On this side of it, I can see that the crisis is passed and now it is a matter of inconvenience for a while as I get my life together.

I am one of over a million people inconvenienced. It's not like I am totally all alone here in this.

5:55 a.m. -- It occurs to me that I will live for a while the way previous generations lived all the time – resourceful, minimalist, natural.

Nobody died for lack of electricity in the old days. They just didn't have it.

Water was gotten as needed. People put by for lean times and they knew how to ration things out for the long haul. That's just the way it is done.

I wish I knew how to can and preserve my own foods. That would help enormously.

7:15 a.m. -- Daylight is breaking nicely.

There's been a flurry of phone calls now. I am grateful for that.

When I was talking with my daughter describing the situation, she said, “It must be hot in there ... do you have a fan?”

As soon as the words came out of her mouth she realized what she'd said. She is NOT a space-cadet airhead, but it really shows just how much we depend on electrical for survival. Actually I thought it was REALLY funny and she said, 'Please don't put that in your blog”, so, of course, I HAVE to! :-)

Surveying the damage and getting my life in order is the first priority.

Tues 9:20 a.m. I just took a reconnaissance tour of the neighborhood. Saw some kids looting the local gas station. Down Napoleon the majestic oaks were toppled. One had come up by the roots and pulled up the grass and earth around it, leaning on a car.

I am amazed at how many people are actually out and about. I guess there were many people choosing to stay home.

The amount of destruction amazes me, and the randomness of it, as well. I am glad to have been inside through it.

9:30 a.m. -- It is starting to cloud over. Geez I hope we don't get more rain. But I suppose we might. That's okay. I've been through rains before.

11:30 a.m. -- I managed to reheat the beanpot I fixed on Sunday. That was better than I expected.

I've heard several times from people on the street that the water continues to rise and he3ading this way. I don't know if it is true or how heavily it will come.

It will take weeks for the city to dry out, I'm sure.

Fortunately, I have access and permission to use the neighbor's facilities if needed – particularly bottled water, canned goods – and whatever I see that I need.

11:50 a.m. -- Hot as heck here.

1:45 p.m. -- Still hot as heck.

I managed to take a bit of a nap. My daughter called and woke me.

Reports still say the water is rising. I don't know if that is true or not. I mean, I am sure some parts of town are under water, and the messiest parts are what is being shown on TV.

Tuesday 5:20 p.m.

I have been through the ringer this afternoon. At one point mid-afternoon I was getting reports that the water was still rising. Then I saw a state capital police officer trying to commander a boat from a local architect office. I told him just take it. He said he needed it to help rescue people.

(It is so hot and sweaty I have to write with my hand resting on a towel.)

Then I heard from someone else that a backwards route may be open. So I got the info on routes to my son.

Then I find out the city is on lockdown so my son probably can't get in anyway.

Then I'm at a decision point. Do I have what it takes to put Hazel on the porch and just walk away?

I got my granny cart as loaded as I could, with a milk crate of food on top. I was filling a large bowl of water to put on the porch with her and her food.

One of my discussion list buddies managed to find my number on the Internet and called me. That was so good to hear someone's voice. What was said is between me and her but her call lifted me up a lot. Then I called my sister who suggested I first go to the police station and ask what to do rather than putting the dog out and showing up at the police station with a granny cart of stuff.

Basically they said if I can stay at home I sho9uld do so unless I actually SEE water rising on the street. If that happens, o'course, I'll go to a neighbor's porch which is twice as high as mine.

Tues 6:00 p.m. -- For a while the skies were darkening, looking like rain. That's the very LAST thing I want right now.

I had to take off my pants – they are soaked with sweat. So I've got my socks and shoes and unders on. I have a rack loaded with hankies trying to dry out.

Wednesday 7:10 a.m. -- It is now 2 days (48 hours) since the storm passed over.

On Monday it was all about wishing Katrina far far away.

Yesterday was hellacious trying to see “what's next?' Various reports prompting various levels of “packing to leave.”

Friday 8:30 p.m. -- In the last 48 hours or so (Since Wednesday afternoon) I have been taken in by some neighbors whom I didn't know before. Any, amazingly, most were 4 blocks from me and while I didn't know them, they mostly didn't know each other, either.

One of those neighbors saw an old couple down on the street downtown, practically passed out on the grass after a day and a half in the sun. She was sunburned horribly, both were dehydrated and severely diahhreic. Poor folks were SO embarrassed, being so vulnerable and so hum,an among total strangers.

finally today, after many calls, a relative of a relative was able to come and fetch them.

I have seen and heard of the absolute worst of humanity, but I have also seen first hand the absolute BEST of humanity.

This is about the first time in 2 days I have taken a moment alone.

I have looted the Rite-Aid store, for essentials for this communal home situation. I have shared my water and food supplies, and some household stuff.

I have learned to siphon water from a swimming pool to help flush the toilets.

The sounds of helicopters has not ended for several hours. I know I will get out of this and I know I don't ever want to go through this again.

The people:

Kris Kraemer – this is her house
Jane – Kris's neighbor (the “Princess”)
Mary – She found the old couple
Wayne and Teda – The old couple
Che M. Hopkins – The 'pharmacist', who got meds for the old couple
Charlie – The 'plumber' who helped us tap into hot water heaters

The choppers are apparently doing a grid search of everything everywhere – up one street and down the other.

I am enjoying the peace and quiet for a while and I feel a little guilty for isolating for a while, but my sanity requires it.

There is no doubt in my mind that under the circumstances I am in as good a situation as I could be in. I am with other people in a situation similar to my own. I feel a little better than being stuck at home.

I am forever changed in my life. I am grateful for how I have lived in a way to prepare me for survival. I am grateful to be among people I can help and who can help me. I just hope I am giving as much as I feel I am getting.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all these people.

I am exhausted. It has been a busy time.

My brain has so much going on but I can't totally relax just yet. One day at a time and that is sufficient.

I need to go downstairs and join the crowd for a while.

Saturday – Sep 3 8:45 p.m. -- What a day! Busy day full of chores, it seems, and the wind is preventing the candle from lighting enough to write evenly.

I have dumped trash cans into the dumpster down the road and fetched water from the swimming pool.

I continue to be grateful for being with people during this time. I like to think I have helped in a useful way.

Several other stores were discovered to be open, and some of the guys went “shopping”. Loads of edibles. And plenty of liquor, too, for those who need or want it.

I'm just plain exhausted.

My sister called this evening and said everyone was worried for me, that I was talking nonsense. I guess I'll need to decompress a while and get my stability again.

I am feeling bad for isolating this evening, but I know I could snap if I don't take time out for myself.

I just noticed that the helicopters are increasing again this evening.

I know help is on the way but I need to know when it is coming. If I know it is coming and when, I can pace out my anxiety appropriately.

Thursday, Sept 8, 1:30 p.m. -- In the Executive Conference Room at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.

Judge Jerry Winsberg was visiting another house down the street from where I was staying and he agreed to bring me and another man here to Baton Rouge.

It was been several days since I've had time to write, so I have lots of blanks to fill in. I don't know if I can do that all at once.

So many people have been involved in my rescue.

Thurs. Sept 8 9:10 p.m. -- Jessi came to the Cancer Center and brought me and Erik to her place outside of Opelousas. Donna's husband will be here tomorrow.

I am feeling better now, a little more “human”. I was able to get a real shower here and a good meal.

Tomorrow I will begin a healing process.

I can only hope my home stuff is safe.

The other issue is whether I want to cut-and-run, or go back when I can and be part of the restoration process.

Saturday afternoon – September 10 – I am at my daughter's home. Everyone is gone about their day, and that is okay by me. I need the time to rest and heal.

I need to go back and fill in some spots.

There was a lot of drama at Kris' house – too much drinking, which seemed to bring out the worst in people.

As I sit here on a covered porch in a mild rainstorm I can't help but be amazed at what has happened over the last 2 weeks. It seems like an eternity ago.

I spent 7 days at Kris' house. By the time the National Guard came and said we had to leave, we had pretty much figured out a way to make it work.

For the last 24 hours I haven't been eating well and everything has been flowing right through me. I am feeling a little better but often have moments of complete exhaustion when I wish I could just go to sleep.

I wish I could order some yarns.

Saturday – 9:10-05 – Late evening

This evening I went with Donna to Wal*Mart and picked up some cheap yarn and a TNIV Bible. I want to read through the Pauline Epistles while I am here, if there is time.

I am one of many thousands who went through the hurricane, and I am far from unique. But I am not at all who I was before.

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