Rock Me Like a Hurricane

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating natural disaster in US history. Many people lost everything. I'm just one of the many and here's how I watched it all unfold.

Submitted: October 23, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 23, 2013



The weekend of August 30, 2005, started as my sister’s 30th birthday celebration. I drove back home Friday night, or Saturday morning depending on your concept of time, after my shift at Blockbuster. The two-hour drive from New Orleans to Lafayette, Louisiana was one I had done countless times in my three years of college. I could practically do it in my sleep. That night I think I might have. I had been up since 8 am for class and didn’t get on the road until 2 in the morning. I was still in my uniform when I crept into my parents’ house.

My sister planned out the entire day Saturday. She didn’t want just some lame party for her 30th.  She wanted to make a day of it, spa during the day and dancing through the night.

The spa was everything my sister and her guests, including me, could ask for. We drank our mimosas, dozed during our massages and gossiped while getting our pedicures. No one even mentioned the Category 3 storm brewing in the Gulf.

Saturday night was a blur of free drinks and dancing. When I woke up Sunday, I had a hangover I only got from those colorful, sugary concoctions that come with an umbrella or a sword. Eyes still squinting from the headache, I glanced at my phone to check the time. I noticed I had 7 missed calls and 6 new voice messages. I checked my call log. They were all from my best friend Lindsey. We had moved to New Orleans together, but she had moved in with her boyfriend about six months earlier. Instead of calling her back, I called my voicemail to hear about all the fuss.

Sunday, 9:45am. “Hey girl, Nagin just announced a mandatory evacuation. Me and Jamie are gettin’ out of dodge before traffic gets too bad. I’m sure you’re still sleepin’. I’ll try back when we’re done packin’.”

Sunday, 10:00am. “Okay, we’re packed. You really need to get up!”

Sunday, 10:15am. “Ashley, where are you?!? We stopped by your house to wake you up before we left and your car isn’t here! Call me!”

I stopped listening to the messages. I looked at the clock with wider eyes. It was almost 1pm. I took a deep breath bracing myself for Lindsey’s rage and hit dial.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Once she heard my voice and knew I was fine, “not in some New Orleans ditch somewhere” as she put it, she relaxed. Jamie and she were already in Lafayette. After some debating, they decided to come stay with my parents.

We all sat around with an uncertainty in the air. We didn’t want to turn on the news because then we would obsess, but our minds still raced with thoughts about the Category 5 hurricane, one of the largest in history, barreling up the mouth of the Mississippi River.

I couldn’t sleep that night. A lifetime in Louisiana had taught me that hurricanes weren’t as bad as the media made them out to be. At 21, I had already survived plenty, even Hurricane Andrew. In my gut, I knew Katrina was different.

I finally turned on the news. Katrina had made landfall with winds of 155 miles per hour. I remember thinking that my car couldn’t even go that fast.

Around five in the morning, my worries were subsiding, and my eyes were heavy. I gave into sleep right there on the couch with the television still on.

Lindsey shook me a few hours later. The look on her face told me something devastating had happened. I straighten up on the couch and stared at the TV.

Brown water is all I saw, no houses, no city, just brown water. A modern-day bible story with no Noah to save us.

I glanced at Lindsey for a second, but the water hypnotized my eyes. She explained that the levees had broken. Being a bowl, New Orleans was taking in all the water.

Hearing that, my heart stopped for a second. I pointed to the screen and asked where it was being shot. Before Lindsey answered, I saw just the roofs of the two-story houses and knew.

I moved to the television on my knees and examined the scene. The helicopter flew over the 17th Street Levee and the surrounding areas. My house was the only single story house on 14th Street. From the defeated levee, I counted three rooftops down and two rooftops over before it hit me.

My house. My house was gone. Swallowed up in the brackish water of Mother Nature.

I sat back on my feet and collapsed into myself. All my furniture. All my pictures. Even my birth certificate. Every precise physical validation of my life was lost. I had nothing but the three days worth of clothes.

I scanned the room looking at my family and friends. They were all strangers to me. They didn’t understand how it felt to lose to all their stuff. I became numb in that moment, with that realization. I was alone, truly alone.

The days that followed were disgraceful. I saw the city I loved stripped of its beauty with the eyes of world on it. Criticized for the few and discarded by the powerful. The world watched homes, families, and heritage being erased, some even mockingly said cleansed.

The detachment I felt diminished while I watched. Others knew my loss, some even more so. All I lost were just things: paper, fabric, and metal. Not flesh and blood. I had my family. I had my friends. I had my life.

I don’t collect things any more. They’re too fragile. I just keep the people and moments I cherish in my heart and in my mind so I can never lose them again. And I never have.

© Copyright 2018 Ash Dugas. All rights reserved.

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