The Year of the Necromancer – Deadzone

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:

ducks

And on what was possibly the worst day ever of our lives…we smiled. Maybe The Necromancer wouldn’t win after all.

 

29 comments

  1. I am without adequate words to tell you how this moves me. Ending your recall of such a nightmare with a life-affirming photo fills me with what I can only describe as awe at what incredible spirits make up the two of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I wish I could say that it didn’t leave some marks on my wife, but that’s something else. I admit I wrestled with this piece. I know how horrible it was, and the only way to tell it was to tell it honestly. I just couldn’t make it end that way. Then I remember the ducks and, well, that’s just the way I think I have to write most of the time. I am so glad it touched you.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I understand, B. D and I have never faced that type of disaster, but had to walk through our own hell – the scars remain, but we chose to keep walking and turn them into medals🏅

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for sharing this. This was an absolute horrific time for you. The way New Orleans came back strong says a lot about those of you who live there. Gave me goose bumps reading this and then, when I got to the ducks, I smiled too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like, what it must have been like in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico this year, as well. Great retelling of an absolutely horrific experience, Wulf, and perfect timing for such a share.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Scary.
    This photo reminds me of the American photographer Seph Lawless. Have you heard about him? Are you familiar with his work? If not, check him out. He’s just amazing in his portrayals of abandoned rooms, houses, churches, amusement parks….Urban decay.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t even imagine. I remember hearing about the levees, remember one of the news shows talking about how horrible it could be under just the wrong circumstances, in New Orleans. I remember telling everyone about it the next day, and nobody believing me, at work. “They always say that.”

    The next day, the city was all but destroyed.

    I remember reading this now, before I knew you, back in October. I remember the exhilaration I felt when I saw the ducks. You’re a masterful storyteller, Wulf.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I want to be eloquent about this, but I am not sure it calls for it. It just totally fucking sucks. I stood there in the devastation with you as I read and heard the silence; how terrifying. And then, at the end, I am in tears. How the hell is it that you always manage to put beauty in; I suppose it’s because that is how you see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You failed to NOT be eloquent, my dear. It was truly as I described it. I hate pain. I hate suffering. I think it’s the only way I can deal with those things. I have to find something to cling to that will keep me afloat.

      Liked by 1 person

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