When I Planned on Moving to Australia
Many of you do not know that I was born on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. I lived there, with a brief intermission in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, until I moved to Texas to go to college.
That first year of school is rife with good memories; but there was a dark spot. Specifcally, Hurricane Katrina.
Katrina was a big deal. To this day there are houses that are just gone, with nothing but a slab and a lot of weeds in their place.
You people who do not live in a place where hurricanes are common (two or more per year) likely think of this like you might think of someone who left their house unlocked or something. The problem is, as I’ve already given away, hurricanes are not rare on the Gulf Coast. They happen multiple times every year and the vast majority are non-events.
You judge people for not evacuating, but that’s because you can do that safely from your living room. Nearly every summer in Mississippi I experienced at least one power outage lasting days due to a hurricane. The worst flooding ever did was damage the carpet in my awesome detached bedroom.
Katrina started like all huricanes do: on the news. Doom was predicted. Most hurricanes would hit the barrier islands and suddenly slow down, and the twenty-four hour news would stop focussing on southern Mississippi and go back to the murders and rapes the viewers so eagerly lap up.
I vividly remember watching the news and seeing Katrina heading directly for The Coast, confidently assuming that it would veer east into the sore thumb of Florida.
Then it didn’t.
After Katrina landed, cell phones stopped working. My cell, even in TX, was not reachable for weeks, even by other people in TX. I couldn’t reach my family via cell or landline. I was positive that my entire nuclear family was wiped out. In a daze I expected to run away to Australia, selling what little I owned, with the hopes of buying a motorcycle after I arrived.
Hurricane Sandy has been much more widely discussed, presumably because she was more recent, and more weird (ending up where she did.) Take note of the statistics that wikipedia helpfully includes at the top right of the article: more than a thousand people died because of Katrina. You can’t even imagine that many human beings. That’s a lot.
After a week or two I finally was able to determine that my family survived. Many people look down on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media because it didn’t exist when they were kids or some stupid thing like that. If it had not been for LiveJournal I would not have found out that my family was still alive.
Here’s a quote from August 31, 2005 from my blog at the time:
So [ … ] a few other discouraging things happened. I won’t go into details; it would take too long. Just know that it was a bummer and didn’t feel great. And then this hurricane comes blowing through everywhere and I have [wtf sic?] if my family is even alive. I am nearly positive that my house is gone, but that’s really no big deal. Anyways. What a bummer eh? Don’t pity me. Pray for my family.
Note: If you have seen The Life Aquatic, I feel like Steve Zissou did when his ship got pirated and everything turned red and he shot everyone.
I can’t find the post, because I think it was on someone elses page, but I found out that my family was ok when my friend Kate Mendoza (née Jarvis) commented on some post that she knew my family had survived.
If there are lessons to learn from this story, I think they are:
- You could lose it all pretty quickly; enjoy your loved ones while you can.
- Stop looking at a finger when someone is pointing at the moon; social media is people.