Tonight, on what is the first anniversary of Katrina, the storm that so drastically altered a city, my home, New Orleans, I was just happy to get home. It's 9:50 pm and I haven't eaten yet, I smell like Meow Mix, tuna flavor, and I have a heavily bloodied dishtowel wrapped around my foot......it's been a trying day.
When I began the day, I consciously wondered how I would "mark" the day....would I celebrate the good, would I reflect on the loss, would I attend a service, the second-line Jazz Funeral procession that passed down Poydras Street right in front of my 27th floor office??? Well, unfortunately, because so many were financially effected by Katrina, I spent the day running back and forth from court to court...lawsuits against insurance carriers as today is the deadline. There would be no special and specific commemoration for me, but I noticed just how irritable, how touchy, how moody, how melancholy I was all day long, and I took no joy when a toast was offered at my firm's 4:00 wine and cheese gathering as the toast spoke to new, bigger and better houses. They lost too, and they deserve those houses, but I couldn't think about that today because I have seen things that they haven't seen and I know things they don't know. I left the gathering shortly after that toast and was actually surprised that there were those who noticed and came to check on me and understood; we all knew Katrina differently and we all deal with her, daily, in whichever manner helps get us through the day.
After hours, throwing myself into ALL the known problem locations would keep my focus on the here and now and not allow my mind to dwell on the tragicness of it all.
But, of course, throwing one's self into something usually makes for chance of injuries, for me anyway. Sure enough, while attempting to move a feeding station because of human threats of harm....you would think such loss of life would make for a kinder, gentler population, but some can only focus on their loss, their life.....
was when something sharp and unknown went clear through my shoe and sliced my foot open. Fortunately, as I created a tournequet with a fishy smelling towel, I was able to calculate that if the profuse bleeding continued, I would be able to make it to the EMT station on the corner within 3 minutes...this rescue work really brings out the survivalist in you. Anyway, I did survive and made it home.
Home....I couldn't crawl into the bed without checking the nola forum for some happy thoughts, some good cheer....surely, somebody would be spreading happy thoughts somewhere in the world and that is what I would find and think about last and hopefully dream it to be. It wasn't meant to be, I was going to cry today, it was predetermined and although the funeral procession, the toast, the endless thoughts, the quick slice of my skin and the gushing, really gushing blood couldn't bring me to tears, the words I read tonight as my last thought for the day did.
My heart is in my throat as I type this now because I still find it difficult to believe how many people, real people, not the government, not celebrities, but real working, pay their taxes, with their own set of problems...people, in this particular instance, the people I have come to know and love in Cyberspace, the people who reach out to my city from far and wide, the UK, Ireland and everywhere in between, via their keyboard, and just care. It is a magical and incredible concept to me that so many people the world over, really care about this place, me and others here with me.....it matters not that my government, any government for that matter, has fallen short of any perceived duties, because I feel completely watched over and watched after...by people
Tonight, the words that did me in, were the expressions and outpouring of support from the UK, from Georgia, from New Jersey, from Metairie, Lousiana, from Lafalla...where is Lafalla?...from FEMA trailers and homes....all keeping their porchlights on tonight to remember, honor, mourn, celebrate and just care about those touched by Katrina, and some with no porchlights with lit candles instead....all lit for the entire night.....the Porchlight at the End of the Tunnel, my tunnel, my porchlight and yet so many were touched by it and in return, my life has been touched by so many. Each of you is a beacon, you need no porchlight, no candle to demonstrate that; you each are a brightening force for someone like me who needed good cheer and happy thoughts to get me to sleep.....thank you is inadequate and so instead I share the last thoughts and feelings of my day with those who care so much, those who should never have to experience this magical and incredible journey of a disaster, and I hope that those who should know, do know that I am Thankful for so much and that is so much more than any loss or tragedy that is mine.
Yet again, Katrina has brought the good things to my door and ironically enough, via people, through animal rescue and all it's exhaustion.....I was truly a people person after all and it took a disaster named Katrina to make me understand that.
So tonight, before I check my porchlight one last time, I am in my own heart having a Thanksgiving celebration for everything Katrina gave to me and more importantly, everyone that she brought to my door, in mind, spirit or body....again, Katrina, thank you for a new life, a new perspective on life and a new appreciation for ALL life, animal, human, black, white, poor, rich, intelligent, simple, old, young, male, female and anything that resembles life. And while there truly are so many to thank, there are some that require my specific and direct words of gratitude, for those are the one's who, for whatever reason, knowlingly or not, have effected me profoundly and somehow been part of the entire transformation process that this year has done to me, done for me.....those people must hear it, read it and know that my heart is grateful for who they are and for just being my porchlight this past year of darkness, and so these are my words to give:
Jane, thank you for showing me that mountains are no reason to change the direction of your path
Laura, thank you for showing me that it's not whether you burn a bridge along the way, it's whether you can at some point, stop, change direction and work on building that bridge...together
Anita, thank you for showing me that although there is merit to my opinion that cooler heads often prevail, if you are looking to change the world, you are going to need more than that.....you had better have a fire in your gut, too
Robin and Charlotte, thank you both for showing me that first impressions are false impressions....time is what reveals true nature and ALL OF US, including myself, are a work in progress, a developing story....I am thankful I stayed to read this one
Maria, thank you for showing me that it is my right and my duty to ask those questions out loud....the one's that stick around through the heat, are the one's that will help me reach any goal, even with debate and confrontation along the way.....status quo can never be an element of effective change and never again will I go along to get along, in any arena...thank you
Robin, Hector and Ashley, thank you for writing the happy ending that mattered most to me...my Hope for a good life for Bella. You will never truly know how badly I needed, I absolutely needed a good ending for that beautiful shepherd girl from Lakeview South and it amazes me to this day that it was more than a good ending, it was a fairy tell ending and Bella's "dance at the ball" with her own family, every day for the rest of her life, is without a doubt the spark, the catalyst, the one ingredient that began my journey back from the despair to being whole again, Bella is there and all three of you are there in my heart forever, and that alone is enough....thank you from the top, middle, bottom and sides of my heart and Bella, you go girl!
Marilyn, thank you for showing Robin, Hector and Ashley that you knew just the happy ending for them to read....and to write
ARNO feeders, thank you for your committment to see this through....I know your exhaustion, your frustration, your roller coaster ride as you have spent a year of your life as a watcher, a guardian, a bodyguard, a lookout.....your dedication to the animals you care for on those streets is what strength is......thank you for giving me standards to try to live up to and if they could, you know those little guys on the streets would thank all of you too
Out of town volunteers, there are no words, no true expressions of what I would say if I could......what is in a person that lets them, no makes them, leave their own lives behind, their families, their own problems and go to a corner of the globe that isn't theirs, until they make it theirs to share forever by being the outstretched hand, the life ring thrown to a drowing city?? heart, soul, spirit, all of those and something I can't quite put my finger on, but it is there in each and every one of them because not just anybody could do what they did......could I have? Will I be able to when my tragedy becomes someone else's tragedy, somewhere else??? Honestly, I don't know if that something I can't put my finger on is part of my DNA...I hope I never have to find out. Many thanks to every last and most important one of you, you changed my world, New Orleans, and that, I can tell you, is one heck of an accomplishment for your resume
My cyberspace friends, thank you for showing me that I will never be lonely, never be without friends, and never really have to travel to find them...they are a click away and so FlaPerson, pugma, Jelena, Kristysmom, Oscarmom, lovemypug, nolarescue2, mandibee, Annettedubb, bulldog9, the Stealthers, and so many others, you know who you are...and even you, HappyPower, you showed me what can really happen when people use their powers for good instead of evil....you are the network for good things here, and for me, and know that I will never forget it and never be able to repay it either
Amanda, a little girl across an ocean, thank you for showing me the true spirit of generosity of the heart....if I can feel it a world away, I know that Truffles knew how lucky and special he was....he was loved by you
Gary, thank you for showing me that it is okay to talk to strangers....some of them are people who haven't yet identified his or herself as a friend....thank you
Maya, Bonney, Becky, Diane....thank you all for things you have done here, things you continue to set in motion...your mission is not an easy one and not an easy one for many to understand...at first...but your tenacity and your focus is admirable and I am thankful that you were forces of calm, reason and solutions to a world gone mad this past year
Shannon, thank you for all you gave, which, was too much
Please know that if I left you off this list, it was only because where I used to be an animal person, I now am a people person who happens to care about and work to help animals....and you wouldn't believe how many friends I have! You all are my reason for Thanksgiving and you all are my porchlight...thank you.
In closing, I would like to share my thoughts and feelings which I documented last Christmas, entitled, "Katrina taught me the true meaning of Christmas"......Katrina is still teaching me and so Katrina, again, thank you.
Katrina taught me the true meaning of Christmas
A friend sent me an e-mail today with a posting by a young woman who rescued a kitten lying in the gutter and then she had rescued another. This woman and her family would not normally have done so she said, but after witnessing so many people who had come to her city to rescue, how could she not?
I think that this may be the best Christmas card I ever received and much for the same sentiment expressed by the woman who saved the kitten. You see the "friend" who sent me the e-mail, she lives on another continent and I don't know what she even looks like, but nevertheless, she is my friend. She, like so many others from all over the world, have done so much for me and my family, New Orleans, since August 29, 2005, that I know I will never be able to fully express the way I feel and the gratitude that will stay with me forever.
These past few months that I have spent in the animal rescue world was never a choice for me. Katrina chose my town and my place could be nowhere else but on the streets of that town, helping in anyway that I could, to get one more. With no real expertice, I knew my limitations and so often called upon others, others who could trap, others who could coax, others armed with a keyboard and compassion, others....... Before I knew what was happening, I had new friendships forged with the same vision and like spirits. Having never been willing to accept technology and the capability to track others down wherever they might be, I never owned a cell phone until after Katrina, so, as I walk through the doorway (no longer a door) at the end of another dog biscuit, cat food filled day, and my husband informs me with a sense of disbelief, that I have 25 voice mail messages waiting, I can only smile because yes, they found me.
Katrina has changed so many of us in so many different ways. The young lady who rescued that kitten admitted that she and her family would not have given it a second thought...before the storm; I will admit that although my compassion was spread far and wide before August 29, 2005, it was exclusive compassion, it was empathy in a bubble. Now, as I look back at every thing I have done, every person I have met in some capacity, I can only smile because my heart is not encased in a bubble anymore....my heart, as it turned out, had room for true empathy and sincere compassion, and not just for animals....my heart is big enough for humans as well.
And so, this Christmas, I will not dwell on what I couldn't afford to buy for others, because although Katrina took my job, and took my home, Katrina left something for me in return...a heart that finally, and truly understands the meaning of Christmas and even better, now knows that the "Spirit of Christmas" can be in my heart every day of the year. For that, I will be eternally grateful....thank you, Katrina.
And my New Year's resolution ?? .....my resolution will be to never forget the lessons learned from this experience....my life, as I know it now, will eventually change, but I resolve that my heart will not.