Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hurricane Katrina Fifth Anniversary part 3

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Hurricanes Rock
Okay, where were we five years ago in the first days of September? Where were we when the sun went down? Where was Moses when the lights went out? In the dark.
After the first effects of the hurricane had passed, the electricity was cut off; we still don’t know why, but, the city became… powerless. That meant no lights, no fans, no air conditioning and no radios. The storm had knocked out cell phone usage as well. And then, our water supply was cut; again, we didn’t see the why or wherefore. We were left… in the dark… dry. Anyone left here by choice or circumstance was left, literally, in the dry dark… without the ability to bathe.
Us veterans of past storms didn’t sweat it much; a couple of days without amenities and we’d be back on the grid, eh? “Let’s go get some coffee and a newspaper and find out how bad it had been”.
Too bad nothing was open and the only thing I found outside was the quiet and the heat, that plus a tree that had crashed onto the front of the building that I was living in.
We did have gas, so one would assume that we would have heat and hot water; but with the temperatures being hotter than hell outside and the water supplies at nil we could only use the gas to cook whatever was left unspoiled in our powerless refrigerators or of a dry ingredient unused until that time. It was like camping in hell. The toilets are useless if you can’t flush, eh? Minute by minute it became increasingly clear that we were not prepared.
Before the storm hit, and just before the storm hit, the mayor checked with his lawyers to see if he’d get into much doo-doo ordering a mandatory evacuation, so no one thought it was going to be very bad; I mean, if there is no mandatory evacuation order… Besides, the storms always turn at the last minute and miss us, right?
Wannabe writer that I am and with not a small amount of ego, I started keeping a journal of our days and nights stranded from America. It wasn’t until I looked down and saw that I had written the words “I am very scared” did I accept the fact that us, I, we just might not make it through this one; that this was an adventure that was spiraling out of control; that it was just dangerous enough to take my life and the lives of my loved ones and those that I had become responsible for.
Added to that, the biggest damn explosion that I ever heard was in the early (still dark) hours of Thursday morning; it turned out to be a facility that housed propane tanks. The sky was on fire and Boom! after BOOM!!! had me assured that we were being bombed and that we were all but doomed.
We now know that that did not happen. I did not know that then; at the occurrence of that epiphany I went into a different gear, a survival gear. We began to go into the ‘we have got to get out of here’ gear and without the prospect of hope of any kind we began packing, consolidating, planning.
When Kevin (Debbie’s neighbor) said those words (“they left me the car and they know that I can’t drive”) I was already ready.
The car was a Toyota Corolla, 2005, white and it was parked on the fifth level of the Hotel’s garage. To get to it we had to walk the block past Canal St. which was ankle deep in water to the garage where the street was calf deep in water. We did not know if it was even there or in what condition we would find it in if it was.
We had been advised earlier, by one of the uniformed guys that had started to occupy the Canal St. zone, that the water that we were standing in was becoming “noxious” due to human, animal, chemical and petroleum waste matter. He intimated that rotting carcasses and bodies did nothing nice to standing water. The water was waist high on Rampart St. and we could see black people wading away from the projects with bundles balanced on their heads, water chest high.
We had seven animals in our care by then and as a lark I had painted and nailed to what was left of the tree in our front yard a sign that announced us as ‘DOGPATCH’. In some kind of moment I must have thought it cute or catchy or something, I don’t know.
Thursday of that week that sign had attracted a young woman to us that wanted us to take in another puppy or two, which of course we couldn’t. She then asked if we could come release a dog that had been left by its owners who had split after the storm leaving the dog stranded in water chained by the neck. She had already taken into her care a female and pups. I, fool that I am, took up a hammer and screwdriver and told her to lead me to the unfortunate canine; it was almost time for cocktails and the bar that we had found still in operation had a curfew just like the rest of us.
Debbie had insisted on being part of the escapade because as she well knows, just her presence will keep us safe; we started off. The woman turned the corner up Saint Philip St. toward Rampart St. and I asked what our destination was: she replied “Treme”. A little further up the street and I asked what breed of dog we were going to rescue and she replied “Pit Bull”. She spoke in a matter of fact voice as if we were going to the bakery for a King Cake. I, on the other hand, saw my life flash before my eyes; Treme was where there was a lot of trouble of a violent type even in the best of times and releasing a chained Pit Bull was quickly becoming the very last chore that I wanted on my plate. I thought of that nice cozy tavern, Molly’s At The Market, and the warm beer that awaited me among friends and fellow strandees and began to regret my mission.
By the time that we reached our destination the water was knee high and we were deep into the Treme neighborhood, an area that I wouldn’t have dared enter in any earlier juncture of my life approaching a task that I would have surely thought more than once about volunteering for had I been in my right mind.

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