Water, Water Everywhere

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Thousands of people, including my family, evacuated before Hurricane Katrina bombed the Gulf Coast. I’m quite sure no one wanted to meet her face-to-face. She bustled by, so businesslike, whipping winds out of her briefcase and trampling everything in her path. Weeks later, this fetid water freed from the levees was still sitting in her wake with nowhere to go. New Orleans is a bowl, several feet below sea-level.

My brother took this shot from a canoe as he headed down to my mom's house.

Imagine: stillness. Quiet. Blistering heat. The smell of rotting things, mold. No cars going by, no kids playing outside, no mailman, no trains rumbling on the tracks at the end of the block. Just…stifling silence. No birds chirping, even. No birds, period.

And murky water, lots of it. My brother and his friend, Lee, wore tall rubber boots and took a canoe down Glenwood Drive in Metairie to assess the damage at my mom’s house.

The water reflects eerily, like a scene from The Twilight Zone. The only sounds are the paddles splashing and my brother’s camera as he snaps these shots.

Standing on my mom's side porch.

My brother & SIL's house in Lakeview.

Water swirling and filling the first floor of my brother Mark’s home, like a scene from Titanic. I replay the news coverage of people and pets on rooftops. Pets alone, left behind, make me angry.The lines of people at the Superdome snaking around, a swarm of angry bees, a debacle of disastrous proportions.

Mark heads up to the second floor.

My brother ventured upstairs to his room. The water was kind enough to leave souvenirs, like mold. You can also see her tracks on the walls, maybe she dragged her fingernails across them. How high she surged, evidence of her power, her prowess. Her ego.

Water swelled into the kitchen, toppled over the refrigerator. Apparently she wasn’t having enough fun, so she took a few swigs of Crown and lazily left the bottle on top of the hood of the stove. She did not clean up her mess. She didn’t care.

Would you like some cheese with that mold?

Whirling water played artist, creating impressive sculptures of furniture, stacked high, tangled in light fixtures. A once-cherished sofa, now covered in mold, grieves because no one will dare to sit on him again at my uncle’s house.  The water left spotty paintings, Jackson Pollock -style, with mold in hues of blue, black, yellow and green. The stench crept into your nose even if you weren’t breathing through it.

My brother Mark. So small.

Water took everything away…for a very long time. But she couldn’t tarnish the city’s spirit. It has come back, resilient, stronger than ever before.

This week’s prompt: Water gives life. It also takes it away.
Write a short piece – fiction or non-fiction – inspired by one or both of these statements.
Word maximum is 600.

The Red Dress Club

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  • http://adayinmynyc.com/ Patty

    Such a powerful post. I just can’t believe all the damage…wow…even years later its still so shocking to see.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for stopping by to read. I really appreciate it!

  • http://www.fromtracie.com From Tracie

    Even in the midst of your picture problems…your words shine through, powerful, resilient, strong.

    Hurricanes are so scary. The wind damage can be very bad….but I’ve always thought that what water does is worse.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you, Tracie. Water is worse. Especially in NOLA, where it’s below sea level, so there’s nowhere for it to go. You just have to wait for it to evaporate or slowly drain somewhere/get sucked up by the ground.

  • http://twitter.com/knowitallnanna Kay Loerch

    Your pictures and narration take me back to all of that stunning devastation and loss. Good job…can you show us some pictures of the recovery… did they stay in the same place or move. You left me wanting to know more… sign of a good job.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know if I have many pictures of the recovery. Will have to check with my parents. I’m sure you could Google come stuff, but it’s a great idea for a follow-up post!! Thank you so much for reading and leaving me a comment!

  • shorty

    Wow. I am just speechless.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah….it kinda has that effect on people, doesn’t it? How are you feeling/doing? Thank you for coming to visit!

  • http://www.periwinklepapillion.com/ Sara

    Wow. Your description of the stillness after the chaos is what painted the most haunting effect for me. No birds. The water reflecting. I still can not believe that this happened in America. We still have so much work to do. Thank you for writing this and reminding us.

    • Anonymous

      And thank YOU for reading and helping me remember.

  • Anonymous

    we had a flash flood here on monday. it was so fast that it happened and was over in about 2 hours. 2-4 feet of water in some homes… the second harvest pantry was the worst hit. people were on a time crunch to get things dried out before the mold arrived. i can’t even fathom that kind of widespread destruction. your brother standing in the midst of all of that. i can imagine the sense of being overwhelmed was intense. where does one even begin?
    great post. and the pictures looked fine. i mean the pictures didn’t look fine… yuck. but the placement of them wasn’t distracting for someone who didn’t know where they were supposed to go! great job as always!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Kimberly! I am still learning this WordPress stuff and something is wonky. My guru is trying to help me out. SO frustrating!
      ;-(

  • http://www.thekircorner.com Kir

    Eveything u write about Katrina I feel it all over again. This was powerful and sad. I smelled the stench I felt the destruction. I loved how u personalized ‘her’. It was even more effective in painting a picture.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, Kirsten. Thank you so much. You are always so complimentary of me and my posts. I appreciate it!!!

      • http://www.thekircorner.com Kir

        Well I wouldn’t be unless you were an AMAZING writer, you keep me going. :)

        HAPPY MONDAY my friend. :)

        “If you have only one smile in you
        give it to the people you love. ”
        Maya Angelou

        Kirsten Anne Piccini
        Weichert Telecommunications
        Field Support Specialist
        973-397-3958 ( Direct phone)
        973-630-3106 ( Direct fax)
        What is Real?
        “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – from the Velveteen Rabbit by M Williams

  • http://twitter.com/tsonoda Terri Sonoda

    For someone who didn’t know what to write a few short hours ago, you sure kicked ass! Powerful. Nicely done.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Terri. It came to me really quickly. I wasn’t sure it would…

  • http://www.mommyofamonster.com Natalie@mommyofamonster

    Wow. Powerful. You could feel the tension, the desperation…the destruction.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Natalie! I’m so glad you came by to read!

  • http://writingwithchaos.wordpress.com/ Kelly K

    Wow. Where did your family hang out during Katrina?

    I can’t even imagine, seeing this happen to your house – almost every cherished item ruined.

    I’m glad their spirit survived.

    I loved how you personified Katrina and the water, even having it raid the liquor.

    • Anonymous

      My family was spread out during the storm. My mom came and lived with us in KC for about a month until they started letting people back in to certain parts of the city….

  • http://www.mommyshorts.com/ Ilana @ Mommy Shorts

    I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to see homes that you knew, loved, and lived in turned upside down and destroyed. The quiet you described reminded me very much of how lower Manhattan (that’s where I live) felt after 9/11 when there were no cars allowed beneath 14th st. Sometimes nothing says “horror” louder than stillness.

    This was a wonderfully written post and an excellent interpretation of the prompt. How could you have written about anything else?

    • Anonymous

      Ilana,

      I really struggled with ideas for this prompt and this came to me very suddenly yesterday morning…probably because I was just home in New Orleans visiting w/ my kids—took them to their first ever Mardi Gras parades and they loved it. And I was thinking about how grateful I am that I could do that—that the city has come back, and that Mardi Gras still happens, and that I can share my rich heritage with them.

      I haven’t been to NYC since 9/11. I would like to go and see sometime soon…

  • Erin

    That is horrific! Makes my eyes tear just the thought of all that devestation!
    Even if the house didn’t survive I am glad all of you did!

    • Anonymous

      And really? That is all that matters—that the members of my family got out and were safe. They lost sooo much….but I didn’t lose them.

    • Anonymous

      And really? That is all that matters—that the members of my family got out and were safe. They lost sooo much….but I didn’t lose them.

  • Anonymous

    Was heartbreaking hearing stories of homes lost. Even more so with this personal account and the photos of the devastation…

    • Anonymous

      This prompt was hard because every idea I had was a depressing one! But at least this story has a happy ending….despite all the bad stuff that happened.

  • http://twelvedaysold.blogspot.com Katie Bray

    That was haunting. What happened with Katrina breaks my heart.

    • Anonymous

      mine to, Katie. Mine too….

  • http://moveovermarypoppins.com/ CDG

    What an incredible and heartbreaking account. And an eye-opening take on the prompt.

    • Anonymous

      And I appreciate so much your taking the time to stop by and read. Have a fabulous weekend!

  • Mamaface

    Oh, such a perfect prompt for your personal story. So moving. Serves as a great reminder for us who live so far away. We tend to focus on own little ‘world’ and forget about the bigger picture.

    xoxo

    • Anonymous

      I know, Mary. But we all have our crosses to bear and it’s hard sometimes not to focus on our own little world. Speaking of, are you feeling better? I haven’t been by, but you’ve been in my thoughts and I’ve been hoping you’re on the mend after that debacle with your prescription….

  • leighann

    Heartbreaking.
    It makes it even more so when you see someones personal pictures.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, the pics are rough. But I can’t imagine what actually being there would have been like. I only heard all about it…it was hard being on the other side of it and watching my family in such pain.

  • Christi

    This still breaks my heart…especially the way that you write about it! What a fitting entry for the prompt!!! Indeed.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for coming by to read! Hope you have a fun-filled weekend!

  • http://bywordofmouthmusingsandmemoirs.blogspot.com/ By Word of Mouth Musings

    So much destruction and sadness …
    We adopted a kitty who was evacuated from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, his name is Maestro, his great spirit survived the storm.

    • Anonymous

      Oh! I LOVE THAT YOU DID THAT!
      That was one of the hardest things for me—all the abandoned animals. I just couldn’t comprehend how people could leave their pets. I am so happy you took Maestro and bless you for doing so. LOVE TO YOU!!! xoxoxooxox

  • Sadie

    I was thinking about Kartina yesterday, and a friend, and his family. They lost everything except the clothes on their backs, and the vehicle they were in on their way out of New Orleans. Sad situation.

    But you statement, “It has come back, resilient, stronger than ever before,” indicates you’ve been writing fiction. Very little of New Orleans has come back. Certainly not the poorer sections.

    • Anonymous

      Sadie,

      Do you live in New Orleans? My whole family does, and I just visited there. I disagree with you that very little has come back. This is non-fiction.

      I do agree that the lower 9th ward hasn’t come back, but even some parts of Lakeview are slowly returning. My mom and I drove through New Orleans East and she said there are plans underway for new things, and I saw new condos cropping up. I also have a few friends in Slidell who rebuilt.

      I appreciate your coming by to read and thanks for your comments.

  • http://practicalparenting.blogspot.com/ Katie Hurley

    Your writing is so excellent that I could hear the water in my mind. It’s a heartbreaking story. For some reason I can’t shake the image of the grieving couch. You told it well.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Katie. I’m grateful for your kind words and am pleased you came by! Have a fantastic weekend!

  • http://thelittlehenhouse.com/ Morgan B.

    Those pictures are incredible. I can’t imagine facing that kind of devastation and loss. We visited New Orleans the spring after the hurricane and the city was still in shambles, despite the major clean up efforts taking place. I am still so shocked by the images of all the destruction. It’s just mind blowing.

    • Anonymous

      It is mind blowing….even after a few years. I hope it never happens again.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    The pictures really made this story sing for me. They added texture and life to your words.

    • Anonymous

      THe photos are hard to look at, and it was tough to decide which ones to include. And even then, they don’t really do it justice….thanks so much for reading!

  • http://www.rubberchickenmadness.com Kimberly

    I have seen pictures of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina before, but I don’t think I’ve seen any from inside someone’s home. It’s hard to imagine this kind of devastation.

    • Anonymous

      Some people had nothing at all to come back to. I’m not sure which is worse. The hardest part for me was that I’d already moved away from New Orleans by the time it hit, so my entire family was wrapped up in something that hadn’t touched me.

  • http://twitter.com/sellabitmum Tracy Morrison

    Oh these pictures and words. Sad. Moving. Flowing. Such power. :(

    • Anonymous

      I appreciate your coming by and commenting! Have a fun weekend!

  • http://www.shadesofblueandgreen.com/ Ash

    With my parents on the Florida coast, this, all of this, the mold, the Crown, the canoe, it’s all my worst nightmare. Well, not totally. Worst would be if they stayed to ride it out. Over the last 9 years I’ve lost count of the hours spent listening to Jim Cantore. I know you know. I’m so very sorry for the scars left on your beautiful city and the damage to your family’s homes. So happy they are here today.

    (loved the fingernails down the wall imagery – ghoulish)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, sweet Ashlei. It was kinda fun to give the hurricane human characteristics. Personification is so much fun sometimes.

  • http://twitter.com/amyplus1x3 Amy Grew

    I love how you treat Katrina like a person. The descriptions are great! The briefcase the nails along the wall. Great writing!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so very much for coming by, Amy, and I’m glad you liked it! Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Tiaras-and-trucks

    I like the way you contrast the movement of the water during the destruction with the stillness of the city afterwards. This is a really powerful piece of writing made even more heartbreaking by the use of your photos. The end is uplifting, though, highlighting the resiliency of spirit that so many people speak of when they talk about healing after Katrina.

    • Anonymous

      We were just there visiting and it really is remarkable. No, not everything is back to normal, but a lot is, and the city’s spirit is soaring. It’s amazing to watch.

  • http://twitter.com/RandomBlogette Jayme

    I remember all of this too well. Even though I wasn’t there I can still remember when I was watching the news. I was till in the hospital after Peanut was born (2 days earlier). And I remember being so elated that my daughter was here but so sad because of what everyone was going through. I felt bad because I was so happy and everyone there had lost everything.

    • Anonymous

      I know what you mean, Jayme. KAtrina hit my hometown the day before my birthday….so every year around that time, my family is in mourning.

  • Leighvslaundry

    You have such a gift for personification. I love the way that you transformed Katrina to a woman with claws and bad intentions.

    Poignant, as always.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much, dear Leigh. It was easy enough to give Katrina those characteristics. When I think back on it, I have nothing but anger. It’s hard. Mother Nature can be cruel.

  • Nancy C

    It’s just amazing to read this. Those pictures, the devastation. I love how you make the hurricane a character. And such a bitch at that. As always, I am in awe of you and your words.I

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, sweet Nancy! I hope you & Paul are having drinks on the plane by now! xoxoxo

  • Anonymous

    Heatbreaking and beautiful. The pictures just leave me breathless and my heart hurts for all who lost so much in that storm. The failure of the government to do the right thing and the people who rose above it to stand tall and proud and do it for themselves. Just beautiful.. and yeah Katrina was a PMSing bitch wasn’t she

    • Anonymous

      yes, she was a total Bitch! I almost referred to her that way in my opening line, but decided against it. shoulda done it!

  • http://twitter.com/PamelotH PamelaFaganHutchins

    A forever-altering experience, all that water. You captured it powerfully. Loved it!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Pamela! ;-) MWAH!

  • Varunner7

    My favorite of your prompt responses. Your words bring the pictures to life.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Lisa! ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Holy crap.

    I don’t think I ever really saw the whole inside of a Katrina-ravaged house. That drunk bitch.

    • Anonymous

      Yep. My brother Mark and his wife had it the worst. My parents each had to gut the insides of their homes, but Mark lost everything. There was nothing to salvage. And Dan and I had just moved to Kansas City, and I was preggo w/ the twins, so there was literally nothing I could do to help. My mom stayed with us for about a month until they started letting people back into the city, and that was hard to watch.

  • http://viewsfromnature.com Carrie

    Mother Nature is all powerful and deserves respect! That damage is horrifying. Seeing your pictures brings those news reports back.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, it brings a lot back from that time for me, too. I was glued to Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel. It was hard to watch and feel so helpless.

  • Kimberly All Work No Play

    That is absolutely heartbreaking and oh so terrifying.

    • Anonymous

      I know. I am selfishly glad we’d already moved away from New Orleans before Katrina hit….but so sad for my family, and sad that I’ll never really be able to relate.

  • http://twitter.com/cherrywoodburn Cherry Woodburn

    You made the devastation and feelings very real. I can’t imagine what it was like for your family and all the families to go thru this.

    • Anonymous

      My mom came up to Kansas City and stayed with us for about a month after the storm until they started letting people back into the city. It was hard to watch her going through all the emotions…I felt helpless.

  • MiMi

    These pictures always just stun me. Take my breath away, really.

    • Anonymous

      I know I’ve shown them before on my old blog, but…this prompt made me think of them again, especially since I just took the girls home to New Orleans last week….

  • http://alguires.blogspot.com Elaine A.

    Katrina was a bitch. Can I say that on your blog?? ;-P Love how you described her but DON’T love her. Ugh. xoxoxo

    • Anonymous

      I *almost* referred to her as one in the very first sentence. But I refrained. LOL!

  • http://twitter.com/juliecgardner Julie Gardner

    Love this:

    “Water took everything away…for a very long time. But she couldn’t tarnish the city’s spirit.”

    I know a lot of people did fiction for the prompt, but how could you NOT go here? So inspiring.

    • Anonymous

      Julie, I’ve attempted fiction maybe twice. I suck at it. Or maybe I’m just afraid of it. I write what I know better, and what I know is the truth….so for the prompts you’ll usually be reading my non-fiction. Thank you! I’m glad you came by!

  • Anonymous

    Your pictures bring back so many memories Erin. It was all so surreal and the reminders still everywhere. I did learn that because of it’s people the Gulf Coast is a special place. Strange how a tragedy seems to bond people. Although there were the bad, it really did bring out the best in so many people. Thanks for sharing with your wonderful words.

    • Anonymous

      Joyce,

      You are right—reminders are everywhere. One thing I love? Is how the fleur de lis are everywhere now, flags flying, etc,…it definitely brought everyone together.

  • Crystalball1

    OMGosh what a powerful post! I love how you personified the water….this is a spectacularly beautiful imagery of words and emotions!!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much. I’m kind of addicted to personification and some parts of this came to me easily. Appreciate your stopping by!

  • http://www.theumbels.com Evonne

    I love your description of Katrina, but I still can’t get over the extent of the damage she left behind.

    Was there anything left in the house that could be saved?

    • Anonymous

      There wasn’t much, Evonne. They basically had loads of moldy stuff out in the streets waiting until the trash pickup could begin. My parents (divorced) had to gut their homes from the inside out, and my brother Mark lost everything completely. The water went up to his 2nd floor. So sad.

  • Alexandra

    This was so powerful in bringing up and out all that Katrina did. How could we not personify this? I’d love to see what happpened after.

  • Anonymous

    I remember so vividly the devastation my eyes beheld when we went to pick up a friend in Homestead after Andrew hit. Houses leveled by his fury. Literally it looked like toothpicks had held them up prior to the destruction. I cried as we saw people’s treasures, belongings, life’s work strewn here and there. No semblance of what was just a few days earlier. There is nothing quite as humbling to remind us that Mother Earth and Nature own this planet and we are but slaves to her majesty. These pictures are so powerful. Your words, as always, haunting.

  • Anonymous

    Brandi,

    Yes, Andrew was another bastard for sure. My family cringes every year as hurricane season approaches. Thanks so much for coming by and I’m glad you linked up today w/ TRDC!

  • Anonymous

    It was a loooooong process. And I don’t have many photos of that. It’s taken years to get back to normalcy.

  • Anonymous

    Wow.

    I loved how you personified Katrina. Made her a business woman out on the town, destroying everything in her wake.

    The pictures were striking.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, it was hard to decide which photos to include…I have a lot of them, but…wanted to choose carefully. I probably put in too many.

  • http://www.wantapeanut.com Jennie B

    These pictures are amazing. Sometimes it is the “smaller picture” that makes such enormous tragedies come to life.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for coming by and commenting!

  • Stephanie

    These pictures are awesome. It’s been several years and it’s still painful to look at and the memories of seeing the people and animals stranded and lives destroyed brings tears to my eyes. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you to look at.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah….and even harder for my parents and my brothers to look at. I feel guilty because I wasn’t even living there anymore when it happened.

  • MommaKiss

    Oh, Erin, such a reminder of what happened during Katrina. The water can be so powerful. I can’t imagine.

    • Anonymous

      I know. I guess part of me can’t really imagine either because after all, I wasn’t there. But I saw it all through my parents and brothers and their stories/photos….

  • http://caitlinsconcepts.wordpress.com/ @CaitsConcepts

    Such a horrible thing for anyone to have had to go through. You told this very well.. so much detail and I really loved your use of metaphor.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, sweets. I’m glad you came by. I am still making the rounds—there were sooooo many entries this week!

  • http://momgotblog.com Kelly

    Wow, Katrina was such a bitch, wasn’t she? I loved your descriptive words…”nails along the wall”…sipping Crown Royal and leaving it on the stove hood…and not cleaning up after herself.

    Great job!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Kelly. I quite enjoyed giving that bitch human characteristics. It was almost cathartic! ;-)

  • Tonya

    Water can cause such destruction! Such devastation and loss. All due to water. So sad.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Anonymous

      And thank you for stopping by to read!

  • http://mamarobinj.wordpress.com/ MamaRobinJ

    You had me at “briefcase” – great use of metaphor. The pictures are almost not even necessary because your words are so descriptive (but really add something, all the same).

    • Anonymous

      Thanks so much! I really wanted to add some of the pics because I think many people really haven’t seen. I’m glad you liked my personification & metaphors. ;-)

  • http://www.shesuggests.com Yuliya

    I am so sorry your family, any family had to endure her wrath. But your description of her was flawless. The only hiccup for me? I had to keep re-reading the line about sofa…I guess for me a sofa is a feminine thing, obviously a personal choice (not a criticism.) You know in Russian, nouns are indeed either masculine, feminine or neutral so you have to use the correct article when referring to them…this always trips me up!

  • http://twinfinity.org Sonora

    I only know what I saw on the news about this subject, but your description is so powerful I feel like I know, at least to a point, what it was like to be there. The part about how silent it was really hit me. It must have felt like the end of the world had happened. The pictures are incredible too. I love that you ended with the fact that the city came back, resilient and stronger. Wonderful!

  • Cheryl

    How awful, Erin, for your family. I can’t even imagine. You described it beautifully, this awfulness.

  • http://www.mayangelstar.com Veronica

    That’s just devastating, to have lost so much but to have come out stronger in the end, a more unified people.

    I didn’t realize how quiet it was, like death.

    What an ugly, ugly way to lose everything, and to fear it every year..

    Oh and saw your response on why you don’t write fiction, the piece of fiction I remember reading from you was nothing short of amazing, don’t sell yourself short ;)

  • http://aladyinfrance.com Lady Jennie

    This is a perfect post for the prompt. I hope your family recovered well from Katrina.

  • http://twitter.com/musingsdemommy Musings de Mommy

    I love the way you personified the water as an artist.And I’m sorry your family endured such tragedy. But, as you say, the water came, destroyed physical structures but not the emotional endurance of New Orleans. Beautiful.

  • Stacey

    Wow. I can’t even imagine. It was such a tragedy that affected so many. Your words were beautiful though. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.cathyhasantsypants.com Antsy Pants

    I remember reading about your experiences with Katrina before, but this was a new take on it. The way you gave the water a personality was so interesting. Very powerful.

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