We went to MrZ’s parents house last night to bring them dinner as they were just getting back in town after spending a weekend trying to salvage stuff from his grandparent’s house in Slidell, LA from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. They brought pictures and there was video of the town, and more specifically, the house. I’ve been watching the news for two weeks straight and was STILL not prepared for the shock of seeing it translate to a home I’ve been in before, that belongs to family.
Donnie’s grandparents have been staying in Atlanta with other family and will stay there for awhile, I’m sure. But they have lived in their house in Slidell for more than 30 years, I believe. It is a house full of memories and history, and it is no longer even a fragment of what it was.
Since we heard the house was at least standing, I figured there would be quite a bit able to be salvaged. However, the water line on the house, inside and outside, was at least six-feet tall. So, that house sat soaking in water six feet high for quite sometime. Add a possible current to move things? And you have a lot of devastation, and very little that can be salvaged. VERY LITTLE. They brought back a full minivan, and much of that stuff (including ONE music box from his grandmother’s collection, and ONE Shirley Temple doll) were so damaged that they may not be able to be restored. But, even a music box that is clean but doesn’t play, and a doll that may end up wearing new clothes, at least they represent a small fraction of what was lost. And for MrZ’s grandparents, two amazing people who have been through quite a bit the last four years, those two items will hopefully ease at least a small bit of the pain of loss of so many other items.
I don’t have any pictures to post, not that I would anyway. But even if I did? It wouldn’t mean as much to you. You wouldn’t see the now empty fireplace hearth and think of all the family pictures that had been sitting there the last time you visited. You wouldn’t see the fallen entertainment center and think about the hard work Donnie’s granddad had put into it as he made it from scratch. You wouldn’t see the now moldy and disintegrated kitchen cabinets and think about how proud they were of them at Thanksgiving because they were brand new then. You wouldn’t tear up at the destruction the show where his grandfather built so many things and wonder if he’ll ever have a place like that to work in again. It just wouldn’t signify the heartbreak it does to MrZ’s family.
Of course, you would see the refrigerator turned on its side and wedged into the back of the kitchen and your first thought might actually be “Hmm. Did they put it like that?” because the idea of it being flipped so easily is almost hard to grasp. You would see the washing machine on top of the dryer and also wonder “Were those the stackable kind?” and we’d tell you – “No.” You’d see an entertainment center made of solid wood turned over onto couches that were flipped over. You’d see mold. Oh my god, the MOLD. Mold coating wedding pictures in the hall, mold covering bookshelves and heirlooms. Solid mold from the water line all the way up to the ceiling on every wall. You’d see a kitchen chair in a back bathroom.
And if you were there? The smell would do nothing but add to the destruction. Decay. The smell of decay that covers an entire region.
I can show you these pictures of the lake house we stayed in for Thanksgiving and the view from the back porch. The house that is no longer there. There isn’t even enough rubble to build a DOG HOUSE, much less enough to prove there had, at one point in time, been a two story house standing in that location. The only picture we saw showing us any proof that the little bits of trash were part of the house we knew, was a chunk of blue tile shower laying across the street. Someone remarked, “Hey! I pooped in that bathroom!” and I actually felt a little jealous I couldn’t say the same.
But you can read this and know. Just know that this is just the destruction left in one home a decent distance from the water. In a neighborhood where there were stories of people heading to because it “never flooded.” This is a home that is, in fact, still standing. But has NOTHING than can be salvaged. It belongs to a couple loved by their 7 kids, around 16 grandchildren, and even more great-grandchildren. All four generations contain people with memories and love associated with this home. The bodies are all alive and well, and everyone will be eternally grateful for that. But the ache of loss still remains. Don’t forget about people like them and family’s like MrZ’s.
There are thousands of people who don’t even have frames of homes to return to. But for each of those with nothing but a slab to sift through, those families being show on TV, there are family whose walls are still there, but whose hearts were swept away with their wedding china, or prom gown. Then there are simply people who know that the place they’ll go to celebrate the holidays will never be the same. The loss of devastation stretches so far and so wide that if you followed it out like a web, you would even find yourself, no matter how far removed, somewhere along the way. Because maybe you never got a chance to go to Mardi Gras, or maybe you traveled through southern Mississippi on your way to the beach one time. Maybe your sister was married in Mobile or your father won a jackpot in Biloxi. This is a tragedy that has affected us all.
But in my world? It’s affect my husband’s family very strongly. No one really knows what’s coming next.