I’ve avoided the television as much as I could the last few days. I couldn’t face the pictures and the stories of the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina five years ago. Then, last night, Bud invited the neighbors over to watch a video about the storm.
Watching the video made me sick. It reminded me of the first time I went back to the city with my mother, who rode the storm out as long as she could by herself. The city felt dead to me in every way. Spray-painted signs were on every building. Two dead. One black dog. Looters will be shot.
Destruction was everywhere. Things smelled bad. Possessions were strewn along the streets. Watermarks were on every building. Hundreds of cars were abandoned. It looked like a war zone. Obviously people had died.
Last night, our friends watched the video and said how sorry they were. They genuinely seemed shocked by what they saw, and they asked good questions. But, they didn’t get it, I could tell. They were living in California at the time, and New Orleans was a long way away.
I understand that. I do. But we who did go through it understand what it means to have survived Katrina. We know what it means to get up when there is nothing left and move forward. We lived through through something most will never experience. And, I hope we are stronger for it.
This poem was the conclusion of Lane Cotton Winn’s sermon at Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church on St. Charles Avenue one Sunday following Katrina.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
A time to fill sandbags and a time to build sandcastles.
A time to raze houses and a time to create homes.
A time to send our youth on mission trips to Appalachia and a time to do mission work in our own city.
A time for humvees to hurtle down the avenue and a time for carnival to roll.
A time to wade in the water and a time to lay down our burdens – down by the riverside.
A time for placing trailers in our backyards and a time for plating gardens instead.
A time to feel helpless and out of control and a time to plan, plan, plan –
so there are schools for our children,
there are levees to protect us,
there are steeples on our churches,
there’s room for everybody,
and everybody has a home,
and everybody is welcome.
And, the little purple church on Elysian Fields, not as grand as Rayne, had a story to tell too.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:25
Comfort and transformation in tragedy. Thank God, we find it.