I apologize in advance if this entry has less humor than I would like. It’s probably the toughest of the events to retell. I do promise one moment of pleasantness for those that stay with me.
So it was August 29th, 2005, The Monday after Katrina passed. We were sitting in our hotel, trying to get messages from someone who stayed behind as an emergency worker. All we had heard up till now was that the city had survived. It seemed we were spared the worst again…or so we thought. At around 10am we received a message about levee failures and the inundation of the city.
For reference, the area where we lived was called Lakeview. Our house, built in 1943, was a 2 br 1 ba raised cottage with swedish plaster, cove ceilings, and a plaster arch that separated 2 rooms. There was a slab addition on the back that we called our downstairs. I will post this sequence of events and let it sink in.
- Hurricane Katrina Makes Landfall as Category 3 status at 6:10 AM local time near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana with sustained windspeeds of 140 MPH
- Storm Surge in Area Affected up to 22 foot New Orleans
- Storm Surge in Area Affected up to 30 foot Biloxi-Gulfport Mississippi
- Breaches to 53 different levees in greater New Orleans
- Section of the 17th Street Canal levee gives way allowing a sea of water from Lake Pontchartrain to flood Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east.
- 80% of the city of New Orleans Flooded
All we could do now was to watch the news unfold and relate the story like the rest of the world. We would watch squadrons of Blackhawk helicopters fly over the city of Baton Rouge towards New Orleans…to our home. We would wait for any news of friends or loved ones that had scattered to the four winds. We were in one city. My mother and one of my sisters were in another city. The other two sisters and their families were also scattered each to a city as was my brother and his family. No one could get in touch with anyone as cell phone service and texting seemed non-existent. It would be days until anyone was allowed anywhere near the city. It would be a week until the waters had receded. The city next to New Orleans called Metairie was mostly spared. The 17th St Canal is the divider for those 2 cities. It was there that members of the National Guard were stationed at checkpoints to stop people from crossing over once the water receeded. It was at one of these very checkpoints that I was able to talk our way past an 18 year old guardsman to allow us past so we could try and see 1st hand what happened. None of us were prepared for the sights, smells, and total lack of sound when we crossed into The Deadzone.
I decided to use the word Necromancer for these blogs based upon this experience. Necromancers are common in fantasy, a favored genre of mine. Many of these stories depict necromancers as draining life to create magic. Their lands are empty. Soulless. Barren. That is what our “neighborhood” looked like. There were huge trees uprooted by the rushing tide of water from the levee breach everywhere you drove. Everything, and I mean everything, was coated in a layer of brown. The air was deathly still and clung to you with an overwhelming stench of rotting vegetation. It is a smell I will not and have not forgotten to this day. The one thing, however, that I recall the most was the total lack of any and all sounds or life. There was not one cat or dog, bird, or singly solitary insect anywhere. I had never realized until then what a world with no other life would feel like. I have never felt as though I walked in a place of death before, but this was it. I felt as though we were intruding in the realm of a necromancer. And then we saw our house. The flooding of Lakeview would put 8′ of water in the addition and 5′ in the house due to it being about 3′ off the ground. (The picture at the top is a very close approximation of what one of the bedrooms looked like.) All I can tell you is that the water picked up every piece of furniture and appliance and tossed it about as though they were children’s toys. The tub and toilet was full of brown goo, and windows and doors were either smashed in or jammed close. We spent about an hour there before leaving to try and get to my in-laws house and retrieve some certain small items of theirs.
Again we had to travel down streets we could no longer see due to the coating of death. Slowly we weaved our way past cars tossed on their side and ancient live oaks ripped up at their roots. And then we saw it…or should I say them. There, in the middle of what we assumed was the street, trotting and frisking as if life had not changed, we saw this:
And on what was possibly the worst day ever of our lives…we smiled. Maybe The Necromancer wouldn’t win after all.