6 years ago, Life changed….

Six years ago today our lives changed drastically and the roller coaster ride hasn’t ended. Let me back up so you can understand the full story. On August 28, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area wreaking havoc on the city and state. People lost everything, lives were lost buildings destroyed and a country left in shock at the utter magnitude and devastation left in the wake of this natural disaster. Scott’s main office at the time was located in Metairie, which is outside of New Orleans. The damage to that building was expansive and the office was shut down with the rest of the city. This resulted in his business being put on hold immediately. The news media talked only of what was happening in New Orleans, you couldn’t turn on the T.V. that there wasn’t more lives lost and more devastation. The sadness that surrounded the city during this time is unexplainable. There wasn’t anyone NOT affected. It was less than 4 weeks later when the weather reporters began tracking a Hurricane called Rita. We watched in awe at the possibility that this hurricane was also headed for the gulf coast. With the hurricanes predicted land fall growing closer, the news reported this would be a direct hit on Houston. As people in Houston began to panic and prepare to evacuate I remember Scott and I being glued to the T.V. and pondering the thought of “What if it turns more east?” That would result in a direct hit on Lake Charles. You see we lived in an area that is 30 minutes from the Texas/Louisiana Border so the hurricane turning east places us dead center or possibly to the left of the eye which in hurricane terms is NOT good at all. Rita was registering bigger and stronger than Katrina, and we were all very aware of the horrible damage that had occurred just weeks before. Our little city began to prepare for the just in case moment that this hurricane would in fact turn. On Tuesday August 21, in leu of the fact that this hurricane had reached a category 5 hurricane, Scott decided to board our windows up on our house. We lived backed up to a small body of water and the reports of a storm surge where leading us to prepare as best as we can. The entire back to our home was large windows so we felt we could save our home from severe damage by having the windows covered. I began to pack everything, and I mean everything that was important to us because based on what had happened in New Orleans and the reports that this hurricane was larger, we prepared ourselves to leave with everything we couldn’t live without. Baby clothes, baby books, jewelry, personal documents, photos, yearbooks, video tapes, special trophies the list was endless. The weather man was on the news every hour updating us on the location of the hurricane but still it was headed for the Houston area. Until August 23 at approximately 4 AM. Scott had a bad feeling about this hurricane all week, and was actually laughed at when he began to board the house so early. I remember it like it was yesterday, we were asleep but Scott had insisted on us leaving the T.V. on throughout the night. The weather man came on and said “Wake up Lake Charles, Hurricane Rita has turned east and we will endure direct hit!” We sat straight up in the bed, grabbed the phone and called each of our family members letting them know we had to get out. Staying and “riding it out” was not an option! The mayor, the sheriff, and everyone in the city warned that this was beyond anything they had seen and we needed to evacuate immediately! There had not been a direct hit hurricane on Lake Charles since Hurricane Audrey in 1957. We began loading the kids, at this time the kids were 12,6,5,3 and 1, and all of the items I had packed. . We loaded both of our cars with everything we needed, moved our furniture from the bottom floor to the top floor in an attempt to save it in the event the house flooded which seemed promising due to the expected storm surge size and the location of our home. I remember walking away from the house thinking, if we came back to nothing, we have everything important to us. It was a flippant thought, but not one I truly believed would really be an option. August 23, around noon, 2 cars loaded, 5 kids and 2 boxers we headed east to evacuate. We couldn’t take our normal western path because Houston was still evacuating due to the uncertainty of this hurricanes path, going north didn’t make sense, the strength of this storm would be weakened some once it hit land fall but the direction it would travel as a severe storm would be north. East was the only option. So Mississippi, here we come! Well, so did everyone other person in Lake Charles and the surrounding areas. A drive that would normally take 4 hours ultimately took us over 14 hours! We stopped several times as you can imagine with small kids everyone had to pee including the animals every few hours. We had one kid start throwing up, this was the first time we realized she had car sickness. So at every stop Scott and I would switch kids to change things up a bit and chat about what the plan was once we arrived in Jackson. My parents and sister were behind us in their motor homes so we all came to the conclusion that between the two motor homes we could bunk with them because there were no hotel rooms available anywhere due to the displaced New Orleans residents and now the evacuating Lake Charles residents. It was almost as if half of Louisiana traveled west to get away from one hurricane, the other half of us traveled east to get away from another and we all ended up somewhere in the middle around Mississippi. Though this plan seemed brilliant what we didn’t think about was that my parents left a little later than us and traveling in a 43 foot bus takes longer than traveling in a car. After the 14 plus hours in the car we arrived safely in Mississippi at a Wal-Mart parking lot, it was sometime in the middle of the night at this point but we had honestly lost all track of time. We had been up on and off for several days at this point planning, watching the news and driving to our safe destination. The kids were asleep, so quietly and cluelessly to the dark cloud that loomed over what our reality really was. My parents were about 2 hours behind us so Scott and I sat outside of the cars on a curb in the Wal-Mart parking lot with the dogs, talking and doing everything we could to stay awake so the kids could sleep and we could wait on a place to finally lay our heads. Shelter finally arrived in the form of this bus, that might I add is my parents retirement plan so not necessarily built for a family of 7 plus grandparents, and let’s not forget the 3 dogs (my mom has 1). So in case you didn’t add that up that’s, 4 adults, 5 kids, 3 dogs in a motor home. I sigh at remembering how crazy it all was. We unloaded the kids, and finally laid down to rest for what was left of Thursday night/Friday morning. The next 24-36 hours were a blur! We moved to a camp ground in hopes that the kids would be able to get out and run and play as well as the dogs. To our great despair no sooner did we find a camp ground with room and get parked, the rain started and didn’t let up for the remainder of the time we were there. So no running, no escaping, no walking the dogs! Did I mention this motor home was only a few months old? The plastic was still on the carpet, and I am staying in it with 5 kids, 2 toddlers, and 2 boxers that have to be let out to pee ? SIGH again. As we sat watching T.V. and listening to every broadcast we could find in reference to the hurricane we continued to hear an alarm outside. We had no clue what it meant until Scott called a friend who lived in the Jackson area, after telling his friend we were in Rankin County we were swiftly instructed to GET OUT of there. Apparently this is tornado alley which explains why the camp ground was empty. The alarm we were hearing was spotting of tornados in the area. Now I don’t know about you, but there is no way I am going to be a sitting duck in a motor home while tornados are all around me. Time to pack up, put everything away and move this thing to safer ground. Off we go again!!! This new campground was apparently much safer due to the location but we lost all cable, so no T.V. for entertainment or updates on what was happening in our city. Scott spent the rest of this night holding a radio out one of the windows to hear what the weather updates were. We knew the hurricane hit, we knew the damage was extensive but had no idea what condition our home was in. Saturday morning we immediately started making calls to a few neighbors who had chosen to ride it out as well as Scott’s brother who is in law enforcement and had to stay. All of their reports were that it looked as though our house was fine, trees were down with several “leaning” on the house but from what they could see but it looked ok. The only access to our neighborhood following the storm was via ATV. The amount of trees covering the roads prohibited anyone from entering or leaving the area. As you can imagine we were anxious to get back home as soon as possible but we were not going home anytime soon, little did we know that six years later we would still not be home…..

I have shared our story of the hurricane with many people but never took the time to write about it. With that being said it will take several blogs for me to share all of it. I want to be sure and capture it as real as it was with as much detail as possible, because whether it is a hurricane or some other major event in your life there are parts of this story I think we can all relate to. The funny things, crazy things, the things that make you ponder “is this even possible?” The heart wrenching moments when you realize your life and the lives of the ones you love will forever be changed, and finally the times when you wonder where God is in all of it, only for Him to “show” up in the nick of time. More to come…

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Words are my late night brain dump. They record stories, experiences, and life. What I never imagined, was this "therapy" as I like to call it, was not only for me, but for you as well. Enjoy!

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