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Chapter 4 KATRINA Living in a nightmare

Lines began to form endless lines of people getting ice and fresh water and other supplies. Sometimes we would wait in line for well over two hours. Trucks from across the wonderful United States of America came rolling in. America!! together we stand, NOW and FOREVER.

I must tell you of one of my most hurtful memories. We had a jar of peanut butter but no bread. We were told the store would be open until five pm. When we got there the line seemed endless. I stood in line well over two hours to buy a loaf of bread.

I talked to a couple of people ask how they were. One man seemed so empty as he told how had watched his neighbor drown. A young pretty woman with three children living in a tent. Her children covered with bug bites.

Then the magic moment came, I was next in line. They were letting in two at a time, but I was next. It was five minutes till five, a man said " WE ARE CLOSED"!! I told him, " but I'm next, I'm next, I just need a loaf of bread. I just want to make my grand baby a peanut butter sandwich. PLEASE?" He looked down at me and said " what part of CLOSED do you not understand?" Then closed the door and locked it. I stood there a broken person,, hurting so deeply it was hard to breath.

As I walked back to the van tears poured down my face. My husband asked me " honey are you okay'? I told him what had happened. I was so heart broken over a loaf of bread. That man made me feel like I was the lowest of creatures. Before Katrina I had eaten at some of the best places on the Coast. Now I was crying for bread, a simple loaf of bread.

I thought of the people before Katrina living in homeless shelters. How they stood in lines for a meal. How they had no home to call their own. How they had only the few clothes on their backs or the lucky ones pushing a buggy, carrying a bag with everything they owned in the world.

One of those shelters was not far from where our home once stood. Each time I drove past the shelter I would see people off all races, some families with children. They looked so tired, weak and defeated. Even the children of all ages with that same haunted look in their eyes.

At one time it was a church now it was called The Mission. A few times I had taken boxes of food to the pastor to feed some of these people. I remember thinking to myself " how can so many people be depending on The Mission to feed them? What happened to bring them to this level?

I cared if they were hungry, had clothes. Did I care enough? I'm not sure I knew enough to understand what true hunger, needing help really meant. I had a check book, car, home and food. My husband and I could pick and choose where we wanted to eat. I never thought I was better than any of these unfortunate people, but did not think of them when I ate from really nice restaurants.

The pastor of The Mission let people stay there his only rule, they must be sober. He truly tried to help the homeless. Across from the mission was the Salvation Army, they had a small thrift store, I stopped there a few times to look around. People would be there, some with children digging to find clothes.

As I sat there in the van that day a memory came to me. One day when I had stopped a little girl had found a black boot among the pile of shoes. She was trying to find the mate for it. I stooped down to help her dig. We found it, she was so happy she hugged me then dashed to show her mom. Her mom thanked me then went and paid the two dollars for the little boots. As I walked to my car I watched as she skipped across the street to the mission holding her mom's hand. I had money in my purse! I could have gotten her the shoes, and more. I could have given her mom ten or twenty dollars.

We had passed The Mission and Salvation Army yesterday. Well, where it use to be, only the sign stood where The mission had once been. A pile of rubble where the Salvation Army had been. We were told many had stayed in The Mission as Katrina came ashore. Where were the people? How many were in The Mission when it was swept away? There is no way of knowing, so many lost their life that horrible day.

Now I sat in the van crying so hard I could not compose myself. Crying for those people, they had nothing but each other. Here we were five days after Katrina with no home, very few clothes and no bread.

When we got back to our room it was getting dark. I found the candles, lit them and watched my husband trying to hold the radio " just right " to pick up the one station on the air at the time.

Jackie and I sat on the balcony once again trying over and over to reach family and friends we had to know they had not forgotten us. We talked of her daughter and how bad things were, this was not good for her. Jacee had bugs bites on her you could not close the door at night it was so hot.

In two days it would be Jacee's birthday. The dollar tree had opened up with limited hours. I was so grateful to be able to get her three dollar items from the dollar tree. Jackie had gotten her a small cake for her big day. People staying and working in the hotel showed up with small gifts for her, this was very touching to see.

Jackie and my son John made a very difficult choice the next day. Jackie would take Jacee away from this struggle we were in to stay with her mom and dad until we found a place we could live until we could rebuild. John did not want his family to go away without him. He had taken a job at the hotel when the restruant opened the day before.

Jackie and got to Jackie's parents only to flee another hurricane a few short days later. Her parents only received minor damage. The night they left a poem came to me. I would like to share it with you to end this chapter.

Haunted Eyes

Haunted eyes filled with pain and sorrow starring back at me,

They show deep horror and pain of disbelief.

The sparkle and wonder are no longer there,

They show shadows of sadness and lonely despair.

They hold no hope of tomorrow or even today,

The path to walk on has been taken away.

Like a Solider in a war zone they have saw too much,

It is like the person you are looking at is way out of touch.

How can these eyes awake to face another day?

When everything they once knew has been taken away.

As you look in the mirror you see your haunted eyes,

Your feel your heart breaking as you sit there and cry.


Johnnie Oakes