Hard Times

By Brice Petite

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely deadly hurricane, the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Katrina emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26 and strengthened  rapidly. The storm grew to a Category-5 hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and went toward the city of New Orleans where my family and I lived. My mom was standing right there in the living room, waiting for my grandma to get back from my auntie’s house when we heard the warning blare from the TV. My mom was preparing to ride out the storm, while we were already packing to leave.

Deciding that waiting it out would be impossible, she started packing whatever she could before the storm began. By the time my mom had finished, my grandma had arrived home with tears immediately streaming down her face. The traffic had been long and she was worried about us. My mom didn’t say a word. She got everything in the car and made sure the dog we left behind had food and water. Then, we left.

We watched the storm unfold from the safety of a hotel room in Memphis. “About 3 o’clock in the morning, the storm was all over. New Orleans was dry,” Grandma recalls. We thought it was all over. “Then the levee broke on the lakefront, and the water started flowing.”

We realized we were stranded, still unable to return home.

It was a month later when we would move back to Louisiana in Lafayette. The effects of the storm were far worse than what we, or anyone, could have imagined. We noticed the aftermath even before we neared New Orleans.

“We were headed back, and we were getting low on gas. We couldn’t find a place to purchase gasoline. The lines were super long. We got in one of the lines, and found out the companies had run out of gas,” says my grandma.

We stayed away for two years, staying at a house we found in Lutcher in St. James Parish.

My grandmother recalls the day that we returned to our original house, “When I came back to New Orleans, we went to the house and saw the damages. I felt very disheartened the roof was torn down through the ceiling. There was water up to the kitchen sink. In another way, I felt better because the storm had been a wake up call, in a way. The house was in bad shape before the storm, turns out. There was a termite infestation, and if not for Katrina’s prompting, the repairs to the house might not have happened.”

While there is no doubt that Katrina was a terrible event, it was an attitude like that where my Grandma taught me to always look at the positive aspects of life.

Brice Petite is a student at the Youth Empowerment Project.