Chapter 5 Katrina Living in a nightmare
One of my dear friends Donna went to a site called " Sky Line Magazine". Donna sent me an email me about the site. She ask me to submit a poem to the editor. Donna thought I had a great talent. I sent my newest poem to the editor. The editor sent an email to me that my poem would be published. I called Donna " DONNA SKY IS GOING TO PUBLISH MY POEM!!" She laughed and said " so you are shocked?
" I found the number to the magazine, called the editor to ask how to get extra copies. As it turned out she was a truly amazing person. She started laughing when I told her who I was. I was so busy thanking her for taking a chance on my poetry. She told me she loved the way I put words together, with my own Southern style. We talked around thirty minutes. Then she started laughing again. She said with your name " Johnnie" I had thought you were a male, I didn't have your picture so I guess I just assumed you were male." By then I was laughing too. She was about to add her other thoughts, words I will never forget. " I thought you were also gay, no straight guy could write with such emotion. I WAS PUBLISHED, me Johnnie Oakes, just a plain old gal raised in the South!
She published me many times after that. She believed in me as Donna had. Victoria is still my dear friend. I hope and pray to meet her one day. She is the reason I took a shot at writing my OWN books, this is my fifth book Wow! Now to get to the point.
I had spoken to Victoria a few days before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. We talked about the test I had, hoping they turned out okay. Victoria was really worried about Tropical strom Katrina. I promised to call her if it came our way. I called to tell her we had to evacuate. I had tried everyday day to call Victoria but got that same recording " all circuits are busy". After trying for several days and sad long night's I got through.
I'm not sure if I had spoken to her husband Tom before that night. I didn't mean to fall apart I was crying so hard I could barley talk. I told Tom what had been going on with us for the past few days. How we had no food, we had nothing. He was so nice to me and promised to get in touch with Victoria. Victoria would later tell me about Tom was so touched and worried about us. I remember telling Tom I was ready to jump off the balcony. I told him it could take days for Victoria to get through.
She got through to us a day or two later, she was crying so happy we were alive. I remember crying and saying to Victoria "PLEASE DON'T LET PEOPLE FORGET US! WE FEEL SO SCARED AND ALONE"
As I look back this had to have broken her heart. Here she was thousands of miles away, we had no way out and she had no way in. No planes, no trains could be used, the airport was damaged so badly as well as the train tracks. Would you believe train tracks ripped out of the ground, house's trees matters of all kind on top of them?
She wanted to help, ask me if we needed money. Yes, we did my husband and I had paid bills just before we had left the house for the last time. We did have a small amount of money in our bank account, however most of the banks were either destroyed or badly damaged. She offered to mail money. The mail was not being sent to our area. She was so upset trying to figure out a way to send money.
Then we found out about a thing called money gram. She could go to Wal- Mart on her end and send it I could go sign and pick it up. The next day we went and picked up the exact amount we would later need to pay for a place my sister found. She also posted a news letter on her site of our plight. She took joy in calling me to tell me that people were sending us money grams. She will never now how much this did to lift our spirits.
At the end of this chapter is the first poem I had published by my dear friend Victoria. I want you to keep in mind that we had never met Victoria face to face. The others we had never even spoken to, they were thrilled to help. Victoria knew a few of them, like her dear daughter Cindy and her friend Ann. Both would later become very close to my heart. Yet people we had known for twenty years or more with the knowlage of the shape we were in could only brag about how they would get HUGE claims from their insurance companys.
These people could have at the very least offered a loan. I guess that is where the old saying comes from " the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" Or in our case the people in need of help have to depend on friends that love and care about them.
As I said, my son had taken a job in the hotel resturant we were staying at. He worked so hard there I worried about him. It was hot he had to cook, serve on the buffet line, clean up. They offered the buffet three times a day. He worked all three buffet's. Let's just say the food was hot, "my mom once told me if you can't say something nice say nothing at all". Okay let me see HUM? OH yes, the food was hot. It could be that I was already very sick and didn't know it.
Because of Victoria and Tom we could eat three hot meals a day if we chose to. We could go to Wal-Mart and get a few new things to wear. Then the Waffle House opened with limited menue. We got in line and it was worth it. God bless the Waffle house and Wal-Mart!! (grin) Ever notice how the Waffle House can become a great place to eat when you have very few choices? As we stood in the HOT sun we met these adorable Nationl Guard people. I think they were a couple, I'm not sure on this. She was about five foot three, he was well over six foot. The HUGE M-16 she had hanging down her small frame almost touched the back of her knees. I looked at this darling dark skined girl and ask" does your Mom allow you to have a gun at your age"? She laughed at me and said " I'm a Militry police, so is my friend". I answered but hon' he might be tall enough to carry an M-16." She laughed at me again. The Waffle House was letting in two at a time. She and I had a plan, when they said " Okay, two more can come in, she and I would go in. If people thought we were a couple, so what!! We were hungry!" Too bad, so sad the guys where on their own. As it turned out they said " okay four people, the guys got a break that day. As we huged each other she told me one last thing.She and her friend had been sent from Iraq, she told me she had rather be there than see the pain of what Katrina had left behind." To her it was much worse, she was from GulfPort Mississippi. She had to see her own home town her own people torn apart. I have never had the chance to see her again, but will never forget our time of laughter in such a time of sorrow.
A sad note my dear friend Donna, the person who helped us get to know Victoria and Tom. Passed away February the 15th 2006. My dear friend Donna was only fifty eight years old. I miss so much, her sweet personality and the kindness she showed to so many people. I will always save her last email to me. As far as her other friends and I can figure I the last person she sent an email to. They always started out "my dear sweet Sis and Brother".Thank you dear Donna, now be at peace, fly with the other Angels.
We got power back at the hotel a few days before Jackie and Jacee went to Jackie's parents. I'm not sure when we got the power back on. We didn't have cable but my sons friend loaned us a small black and white TV! WOW! we were so pleased to see the fuzzy news. No longer did my husband have to worry about holding the radio "just right" to get in the one or two radio stations. WE HAD ARRIVED, we had TV!
It was heartbreaking to see our local news casters tell their own personal horror stories. Some almost lost their life. Not one of them had escaped without property damage or total destruction. We had grown accustom to seeing them as warm, friendly, yet professional staff. Now you could see the same haunted look in their eyes, that you saw almost everywhere you went. As each in turn spoke of the damage to the Gulf Coast made you have a better understanding of what had happened. These people of WLOX TV carried on hour after hour setting aside their own problems. They stayed on the air hours at a time. They must be commended for this. It meant so much to so many people. I know I'm grateful to WLOX TV.
We had a better understanding, but reality had just began. We had running water, we still could not drink it. We had to let the cold water run at all times. If you turned it off, then you would loose water pressure. It ran all day at a dribble with no stopper. We had a trash can beside the bathtub to flush the toilet. This was very special to us. WE COULD FLUSH!! That is worth repeating!! We could flush without going to get water from the swimming pool. It is amazing the little things we had taken for granted before Katrina! Like flushing a toilet, bathing in clean water, drinking clean water, brushing your teeth with water from your own faucet. We had to use bottled water even when we brushed our teeth.
I tried running hot water for a treat I had really missed, a hot bath. The hot water came out the color of coffee, the odor was horrible. Okay cold baths would be just fine with me. I didn't need to soak in that water anyway.
I am an American Eagle a symbol of this l and,
I am often linked with those sweet words " Of Thee I Stand".
I am a fighting warrior with a heart so brave and true,
Listen to my story, I must speak to you.
Take a seat upon my wings let me take you there,
Look through my eyes of wonder at the things I must share.
This land we once looked upon had beauty never seen,
A beauty that can never be captured on a motion picture screen.
You see the mighty buffalo with strength beyond compare,
I saw him grazing just below but turned and he was not there.
Listen through my ears and hear birds flying all around,
Listen to the silence, and you will notice there is no sound.
This land was filled with flowers, painted by mother nature's hand,
But they are all now gone, leaving only desert land.
I used to sit for hours high on the mountaintop,
Watching new life begin, as the Earth gave up her crop.
These things are just a memory, they've been lost somewhere in time,
But if they all could be brought back, that would be so divine.
I am an American Eagle soaring through the night,
Hear the mighty sound, of my huge wings in flight.
©copyright ~ Johnnie Oakes ~ 1/29/03
This chapter is for Victoria.
A true friend is there in good times, sad times but most of all, when you need them the most.
Thank you Victoria we Love you; Johnnie & Buster