Five Years Later

My friend Roger Mills used to tell us about Hurricane Andrew and the total destruction of Homestead, Florida during the time he preached there. And then he liked to tell us about it a few months later. Then a few months later, he told us again. In fact, I heard that story many times, and I always enjoyed it. But I didn’t understand the retelling of it.

Until five years ago. Hurricane Katrina and the recovery effort became a formative part of my thinking and spiritual growth in such a pervasive way that I think I shall never escape it. I’m not sure I want to. Even now I catch myself telling ‘Katrina stories’ and try not to look at the person I’m talking to – afraid they’ll be rolling their eyes, or counting how many times they’ve heard the same stories.

But Roger and I…well…we just can’t help it. Unfortunately Roger withstood not only Andrew, but also Katrina. I’ve lost touch with him, and I’m ashamed of that. My blog is full of Katrina stories, so I do not intend to retell them today. It’s been such a busy weekend I have only thought about it once or twice.

I reckon the common understanding will always be that Katrina struck New Orleans. But that’s not quite accurate.  I (and the rest of the world) watched live television coverage of Katrina from New Orleans because that’s what was on television. We heard the news reports of the breaking levees, watched with horror as people walked up interstate ramps that led to nowhere – islands of helplessness. Nightmarish stories came from the Convention Center and Super Dome that sounded almost post nuclear or apocalyptic in nature.

But it was quiet in Waveland, Mississippi. That’s because there was nothing left where Katrina made landfall. It was scraped off of the face of the earth. Nearby Bay St. Louis came close to the same fate. All along the Mississippi Gulf Coast the storm surge wiped out thousands of square miles of homes and businesses. And for a few weeks, it was mostly quiet.  There were no news reports from South Mississippi for what seemed like forever. Once the thunder of recovery began to rumble, that all changed. I applaud our Governor, Haley Barbour, for his amazing energy for the state of Mississippi. Today he and his wife spoke to hundreds who gathered in Gulfport in remembrance.

No matter where you lived along the Coast or how you experienced it, Katrina is the tale of your lifetime. You’ll never stop remembering, telling those tales, reliving those moments. You couldn’t forget if you wanted to.  It was a time when you realized that your best friend in the world was the next door neighbor you had never met before. You found out that the human family rushes to take care of its own, even when it didn’t know your name. And the opportunity to learn one of life’s greatest truths was brought to your doorstep: you best find your way out of your troubles by helping someone else out of theirs.

Eighteen miles down the road my friend Al Sturgeon had his own Katrina experiences. You can read his five year reflection HERE.

Not sure I added anything to the Katrina conversation, but I felt like I needed to reflect on it all for a bit. Thanks for reading.


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