I would like to preface this post by explaining that I am far off-center these days because of the state of the world. My middle son, Ryan, who is attending college in Central Mississippi, was trapped for several days with no water, no electricity and little food to speak of. On Tuesday, I called the airlines and AMTRAK to get him out-- no one was operating. Then, I called the 'Dog," Yes, Greyhound....Leave the driving to us." I'm thinking: "It'll be an eight hour bus ride home, but hey it'll be an adventure for the kid. Every college students needs a trip on Greyhound. It's a chance to see a slice of America that you don't normally see...blah, blah, blah."
"Oh," I said, as the Sprint cell phone fell from my hand. That is when I knew Katrina/Katerina was something not of this world, a product of some greater evil... When the 'Dog' stops running, 'bad' has left the station, all that remains comes under the heading of catastrophic.
I'm not a real hurricane person...being from L.A., one grows up thinking it's about Earthquakes. February 9, 1971 is the day that will live in infamy for Angelenos. So, I didn't take this Katrina/Katerina thing too seriously because I've never seen or been in a hurricane. You catch the aftermath on the Weather Channel and they look bad and all-- but, I ain't never seen one, up close and personal, so to speak. With my son stranded in Central Mississippi, and no way to get him out, I began to get a creeping feeling in my stomach about Katrina/Katerina.
I decided to drive to Mississippi...it's only eight hours from Texas. I can do that in my sleep. I've driven to L.A. from Dallas twenty times...if you've crossed the bowels of West Texas on I-20, a trip to Mississippi is a 'piece of cake.' I started getting ready to go. My neighbor, whose father was trapped in Jefferson Parish, snapped me back to reality. He said, "What are you going to do for gas. You can't buy any gas there. Are you going to just carry a bunch of five gallon cans in the trunk?"
"Damn," I though, "No gas," Sure enough, he was right. There was no gas to be purchased. No wonder Greyhound wasn't operating.
Ryan was uncomfortable-- no electricity, food, nor water. But, at least he wasn't swimming around avoiding dead bodies floating in a toxic soup of benzene, fomaldehyde and fecal matter.
If only I had known this was, to quote Jesus," the beginning of sorrows."
I am stunned at what I've seen and heard. A young basketball player-- from Dillard-- that I met at a camp this past summer called two days ago to say he'd escaped New Orleans with his life...and, nothing else. No shoes, no money, not even a basketball. His car, his apartment and everything he owned was in nine feet of water. A basketball player with no shoes...now that is tragedy in my book.
My friend Tina-- an executive at a Fortune 500 company-- looked at me on the Tuesday following Katrina/Katerina and said this, "I lived not too far from then airport, As I left on a relief flight, I looked out the window and saw my house under water. I lost everything." And she was one of the lucky ones. Where have we come as a country where a person who has lost every photograph, every piece of furniture, every love letter, every cup, every DVD, and every piece of underwear is "lucky." Yet, Tina describes herself as one of the lucky ones. Now, I understand that she was right in her self-analysis.
On yesterday, I was interviewed for a Cable TV show-- the camera operator has just returned from Houston.
He spent two days filming inside the Astrodome and offered this. "The first day when I finished shooting...the stories from the people...the horror and hopelessness...you can't believe what I heard, Kids, old people, you name it. So, me and the producer stopped at Starbucks before going back to our hotel. We ordered, then sat outside at one of those little round tables. A couple was sitting next to us. They were feeding their two dogs. We started talking and you know what, they were New Orleans. I asked were they 'OK.' They said they it was 'terrible what had happened,' but they'd jetted out on Saturday afternoon and would just hang out in Houston until they decided whether go back again."
I would write more, but I just got a call from a Communications Director at a nearby city...she said they're housing 80 people in three separate motels not far from here and they've got neither food, nor gasoline vouchers. She's wondering if I can get anyone to make donations of canned food and fruit cups...stuff that doesn't need to be cooked... and, do I know of anyone that'll donate mens clothes, size 44 or larger.
I wonder why these 80 people didn't 'jet out to Houston on Saturday before the storm." Maybe all the flights were oversold or something. Damn airlines, overbooking those flights.