Hurricane Irma is pummeling through Cuba and heading to the Florida Keys. Today is Saturday. It’s moving toward Florida and will hit sometime tomorrow. They believe it will be on the Southwest Coast, we will see. Around 6.3 million people in the state have been told to leave. I heard that there are about 50,000 people in shelters. I know there are so many more who are with their friends and families hidden away as safely as they can be. Some are having a party. I have been to several of those kinds of gatherings.
However, today is no party. The people of Mississippi are on high alert. My mother and I have made our plans and are very busy people. We and our animals are out of harm’s way. The White House has stated that ”At some point, you will be on your own.” I know what this means. This is where you learn about peoples’ core values.
Some journalists are writing about how much potential property President Trump will have ruined, these are the emotional looters of our times. To focus on things that are less in value as life says a lot. There are those who blame the current administration, just like in Katrina...Goodness, it does get old.
During a hurricane, no one cares whom you voted for, but they focus instead on sharing water and food. Today, there are those who seek to divide us further by asking people to donate to organizations who will only help specific minority groups.
As August 29th rolled near this year, the memories of Katrina rose up and reminded me of so much. Who knew that my journey would bring me to a place to share my experience and healing with you. It was very hard to talk about for a long time. There were many reasons. The biggest was, I simply did not know how. I was angry. I was grieving my entire life. I lost my home, a romantic relationship, my belongings, my heirlooms, my business, and all proof of my body of work as an artist from many, many years of dedication and hard work. What was left, was looted three times. I was assaulted and physically hurt several times. I remember laying in the cool, wet, Mississippi mud and having it soothe my face.
New Orleans was a complete horror show. Those of us on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were left to fend for ourselves for over two weeks. Talk about abandonment issues! FEMA people showed up and because they all wore the same outfit, they somehow created a perceived lawful presence.
People were pulled out of the ocean by the Coast Guard and then they were whisked away. The local Red Cross was struggling to find a way to traverse a land with no infrastructure. Out of state Red Cross workers were held back at the state line! Animals that needed help were turned away and brought back to the coast. Many were euthanized. I know this to be true, and it was one the saddest events of my life. I never one time saw any sign of law enforcement for two weeks.
I remember when the Army arrived. It was like a scene out of an old WWII movie. The few people I was standing near, on what was left of my street cheered! We were unabashedly patriotic! We were hungry, thirsty, dirty, scared, exhausted, and traumatized. We were grateful for them. These folks had come for us; it was more than patriotism. Just before they turned the corner of my street. I happened to be standing in a street, and someone had proudly handed me a cold bottle of beer. They had scored some ice, and this was a rare commodity. It was the first cold drink I had in two weeks. The civility of having an ice cold drink superseded the fact that I was not a beer drinker. I slammed it back, all while standing in a street without a glass to pour it in.
I remember it being hard to lean backward in order to tilt the bottle because of my backpack. Desperate times called for desperate measures! I got the job done. I'll never forget this huge truck filled with soldiers turning the corner, just as I was drawing hard...the bottle was almost straight up. I instinctively pulled the bottle down fast behind my back. Somehow I was embarrassed to be caught guzzling a beer. They saw me and cheered— laughing and cheering for me to finish my well-earned beverage.
Many questioned why I stayed. My reason was very clear— my mother and I were working for the Red Cross, and we had animals. Animals were not allowed into shelters. Many people stayed because they were too poor to leave, too sick, or too frightened.
There was also another group. These people were the kind of people that saw this event as a perfect time to perpetrate crimes. What a perfect storm for them.
I have learned that I could not, and will never judge why someone is staying. It’s so easy to do. I have been judged by the uninformed and ignorant, at parties, as well as online. I have learned that there is just so much that people don’t know.
What I do know now is that I have not just survived Hurricane Katrina, I have learned how to pull from my depths and lean into my faith while figuring out a way to survive not in spite of Katrina but because of Hurricane Katrina. The name Katrina actually means “to purify.” That is indeed the process I have gone thru in order to learn how to THRIVE.
Breathing deep with you and still learning - J.D. Jackson