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Chapter 3 KATRINA

The day after Katrina hit National Guard were posted everywher we went. Marshall Law was declared for the entire Gulf Coast. Check points were set up entering each area of the Coast. We had to show our driver's license at each check point Biloxi had a curfew of six pm til' six am.

Each day we would drive over to Biloxi. I know they were looking out for the people returning to their homes. They wanted us to be able to salvage what we could. These faithful caring people stood guard hour after hour.

It seems strange to me that I could not remember my own area. Places I had driven by for over thirty years did not even look familiar to me. So I spoke to no one of this, It seemed I had lost my mind. How could you not remember what business or homes had sat on now an empty lot? Even if the lot was not empty the surroundings were so changed you could not tell where one began and the other started.

One night as I watched TV what I saw made me feel a little better. One of the news people was driving around trying to get video to be shown on the news. He said it was hard for him to remember where things were he had known for years. After seeing him with such a perplexed look, I didn't feel so alone.

I tried most of the first week, to see my neighbors most of the ones I did get to see were not coming back. They just did not have the heart to face another hurricane season on Hoxie Street. Some were very angry, some were just tired. Some of them I still have not seen, I pray they are okay.

We thought at the time we had really great insurance so we would just rebuild and start over. Very soon after Katrina hit we contacted our insurance company. The ajuster came out, we were told we would not be paid for the contents. We had no flood insurance on our home. It was paid for after over thirty years of mortgage payments.

When we started paying our own insurance we were told we were not in a flood zone so we needed no flood insurance. The house did have around twelve feet of water in it. I know the water did not tear off the roof off our house, rip off the porch rip apart homes in our neighborhood to look like match sticks!!

We took the insurance check, we really had no choice. The ajuster declared our home a total loss. How can a total loss be figured in such a meager amount?

How can you stand and look at the place you worked for so many years. Knowing you will never even sleep there again? How do you walk away from a life time of memories? The times you and your husband sat in the kitchen ate, paid bills had morning coffee. The kitchen I had just painted and made some really cute changes only a few months ago. It was your very own kitchen, green and yellow kitchen with sunflower borders. The crazy frogs you had collected all those years were sitting all around your place of solitude. In the corner a cabinet filled with all kinds of angels, each had it's own story to tell. Sounds like a strange combination, but that is me. A combination of frogs, angels, puppies, a grown woman with a dash of hope and little girl. I had put my thumb print on that kitchen.

As I stood in front of what was once our home my mind raced back to a time only a few short months ago. My son John and his wife Jackie were laughing as they painted the house for us. A bright snow like white trimmed in dark blue. I could hear them talking, singing to the radio as they painted.

I could see my moms swing hanging on the porch. The swing my brother had sat in so many years when it hung on their porch. The swing I had hung on our porch in their memory when they both passed away. That same swing my husband had sat in when he had broken his leg and was off work for a week or so.

The memories of neighbors bringing me flowers, " you can't buy flowers, it is bad luck. We give them to you or you sneak in and take a sprig while we are not looking."

My chimes, oh my how I loved those chimes. When Hazel from across the street passed away I had put one up in her memory. There was one for my mom, brother, my brother-in-law, sister, dad and my son all that had passed away. Sometimes when it was windy I would sit in that swing, listen to my chimes and cry as each twirled and chimed. Now it was all gone, the porch had fallen and smashed the swing.

I remember taking in the chimes and flowers on the day before we evacuated. My neighbor Pinky ask " Johnnie why are you doing that? If this one comes it isn't going to make much difference." Her husband Jerry was putting up wood on the front windows, cutting limbs off the roof. The wood he put on the windows was still in place. It is odd the things you remember and notice.

The amount we were given would not even pay for a hut to be built. Some in our neighborhood received as little as two thousand dollars for an entire home and all its contents. My son and his wife had started buying his home next door to us five years before. They owed more than sixty thousand dollars. The ajuster that called our home a total loss looked over at our son's house before he left that day. " Hum, looks like his is a total loss too." Around a week later he came back, said the house was not a total loss.

Everything they owned like everyone else was under water. The amount he stated was way less than what they owed!! What is a real shocker to me is this guy was from an area often hit by hurricanes. He had dealt with ajusters much like himself. Would he put his children in a home filled with green slime? The roof torn off, the walls caving in? I THINK NOT!!!! Could he stand and watch his little girl cry as she digs trying to find the doll or a toy she loves. Could he watch his wife cry as she finds nothing to wear.HOW does this guy sleep at night? We would later learn that most of the people were being treated the same way, this is not right.

I wrote this poem way back in 2002. Tonight it seems so perfect.

I saw the power of Katrina, but I see the power of hope and what God can do. I invite you to read " HE CAN"


He can take a tiny seed make it grow into a tall Oak tree,

With one swoop of His mighty hand

He can calm the raging sea.

He can fill your heart with hope, when all hope is gone.

He can mend your broken heart and help you to remain strong.

He hears your heart cry out for help; you get through that long lonely night,

He can lift you up above it all until the morning light.

In your darkest hour when you can feel only hurt and despair,

Take it all to your best friend Jesus, He loves you and still cares.

When you think you can not go on another day,

When the troubles of life are there in the way.

Hold your head up high give Him your hand,

Give it all to Jesus, because I know He Can.

ęcopyright 7/30/02 ~ Johnnie Oakes ~