Hurricane Katrina Slideshow

This is something that really made me truly appreciate how much people have gone through as a result of Hurricane Katrina. I know that sounds weird given the countless hours of footage on the news – but somehow this really struck me. It also helped me to appreciate all of the brave men and women who have worked so hard to rescue, evacuate and help out in New Orleans.

While I’m not ‘from’ New Orleans, watching this really made me realize how much it had become my home. If it hadn’t – this wouldn’t have been nearly as difficult to watch. Be sure that you have your speakers on and the volume turned to an audible level when you view this.

View Slideshow.

Hurricane Katrina – an update two weeks post-storm

Its been two weeks since Hurricane Katrina hit and its been a wild ride, to say the least. The good news is that Gibbons’ family is all well and accounted for, and we are still relatively sane in spite of everything.

I have been here in Toronto (actually, Newmarket – but I don’t think a lot of you will know where that is, its just north of Toronto) staying at my Mom’s house for just over a week. She has been an angel to welcome us into her home and watch her daughter and two grandchildren completely disrupt her life. Actually, I think the dogs have suffered far worse than she has. Her golden retriever and miniature maltese terrier will be SO happy to see the children leave (particularly Eliot who is terrified of the retriever and has an understandably insatiable curiosity for the little maltese).

We have had a wonderful week visiting with family and friends, and Isabel and Eliot have even hosted two adorable little girls from down the street for a tea party. Its been a wonderful little escape from the reality of what’s been happening in New Orleans and I know I really needed it – desperately needed it! As of Wednesday, we’re back to reality. It is, however, a good reality.

While the kids and I have been here in la-la land, Gibbons has been in Austin working hard to get the practical details of our life worked out. He spent much time searching for a place for us to live and I’m happy to report that we are now the proud leaseholders of a very nice two bedroom/two bathroom apartment in central Austin. Its a nice low-rise apartment complex with a pool, and overlooks a beautiful park. The key, however, is that it is in central Austin which I think will help us psychologically feel part of a community – something that we have obviously lost with the hurricane. The apartment is very close to the University of Texas and is in walking distance to wonderful stores, coffee shops and groceries. We feel very fortunate to have found this place.

Gibbons also took on the role of interior decorator as he went to the showroom for the furniture rental place and secured our furniture (which arrives tomorrow), and even toured two possible schools for the kids. We have decided on a cool little Montessori School in the same neighbourhood as our apartment. They have agreed to let us pay month to month as we are absolutely unclear as to what the future holds for us at the moment.

Gibbons has done a GREAT job in getting all of this together. We have spent A LOT of time on the phone trying to sort out the details, but he’s really made it happen – thanks Gibbons!

I like to think that we divided and conquered during this last week. The children needed nurturing and I felt that being in the thick of everything wasn’t conducive to that – so why not bring them to where they could be doted upon (and – okay – I could too!). I went into the nurturer role, and while we were gone Gibbons went into the role of hunter/gatherer. Anyway, just a little sociological babble there for you – enough of that.

Bottom line, we are definitely moving forward and but taking everything day by day. Being able to get settled somewhere and get back into a routine is key for us and that’s starting to happen.

Once again, thank you all so much for your ongoing thoughts, prayers, concern, offers of all types of assistance, and just letting us know you are thinking of us. We appreciate each and every word of it!

Wheh' we at!

Its amazing what some sleep, removing yourself from a situation temporarily, good news, and the TLC of family and friends will do for one’s mental well being. When I decided to come to Toronto on Friday, I was struggling with some serious anxiety and panic. I was even having difficulty breathing – I felt like I just couldn’t catch my breath.

Since then, the kids and I have had a few days ‘vacation’ here in Toronto and everything seems slightly better now and certainly more clear. Well, that is coupled with the fact that I’ve been getting sleep, running beautiful runs in nice cool air and have been getting various phone calls from Gibbons with bits and pieces of good news.

First, the good news. We have been chatting with our neighbour, Ray, who had stayed through the storm and he has informed us since leaving and once again returning, that our house is completely intact and looks like it has suffered no damage at all. This is wonderful news. He also believes that we didn’t flood even during the crest of the flooding. He’s also shared with us that the Metairie Road bridge over the 17th Street Canal has become somewhat of a command post which means that there are big burly armed military personnel standing at the end of our street. I’m hoping that this will be somewhat of a deterrent for any future potential looters.

We have also filed a claim with State Farm and have even heard back from a representative (absolutely amazing!). Our house was covered for ‘loss of use’ which means that they will help cover expenses for any dwelling we need to rent for the next two years (if we need it – hopefully we won’t!). The same applies for Gibbons’ car so we can rent a car for him to use to get around.

Speaking of which, Gibbons is still in Austin and is putting his energy into finding a place for us to live in the short term. We have no idea what will happen, so we are looking for a house to rent on a monthly basis (3-months if necessary) in order that we can have the freedom and flexibility to leave if we need/want to. We have also secured schooling for the kids at a local Montessori school which has graciously offered to let us pay on a monthly basis given our uncertainty about what we’re going to do. The bottom line is that we’re doing our best to get settled and back into some sort of routine – but also trying to leave our options open in order that we can take the time to evaluate what we would like to do and what is happening in New Orleans. We’re hoping to find a little cottage to rent somewhere in Hyde Park which is near the University and a pretty funky little area. He drove around in the car yesterday and found a whole host of houses for rent and for pretty reasonable prices too!

I have lots of work to keep me busy, and even a potential new client in Austin. Gibbons is busy working away and is happy to be close to the offices of the company he works for. He also has friends there from when he last lived there, and there is a big (HUGE!) running community there (Run-Tex even puts out huge coolers of water and paper cups along the loop around the lake… what a treat!).

So, bottom line, not a bad place to have to land after such a hard fall. Our goal isn’t necessarily to be there long-term, but it does give us a chance to get back into some sort of routine while we evaluate options and take stock of what has happened.

That’s all the news that is fit to print for now. We will continue to keep you posted of what’s happening and where we are at as developments take place. Once again, we thank all of you – our wonderful friends and family for ALL of your generous offers for places to stay, toys, clothes, and your prayers and well wishes. It really has helped us get through this and we will get through it and be stronger because of it.

Thank you again!

Hurricane Katrina – an update…

Its been a few days since my last update, and that update was written on a particularly difficult day. I believe it was Wednesday, which was the day after things really took a turn for the worse in New Orleans and the reality of the situation set it for me. ‘Tough day’ is a massive understatement to describe that day.

Having said that, its amazing what a few days and acts of kindness on the part of so many wonderful people can do for one’s spirit. First of all, this email is being sent to so many friends and family who have sent their well wishes, thoughts and prayers to us. It is also being sent to many who have been displaced due to the storm – so I want to first take this opportunity to wish them well and let them know that I’m so glad to have heard from them and am glad to know that they are all finding somewhere to settle and try and rebuild until things in New Orleans get back together. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all!

An update for you on Gibbons’ family – everyone is alive and accounted for. Mary Shea and Joe checked in with us on Thursday (I believe – but every day just runs into the next these days…). They are in Chunky, MS and doing alright. We also got word late Friday that Gibbons’ parents, Peter and Ginger, were in a house in Covington and were doing just fine. In fact, Joe drove down from Mississippi on Friday and went to the house to ‘rescue’ them. He was prepared to have to hack through fallen trees and floodwaters and found people on the street out riding bicycles and bbq-ing dinner. The house they are staying at, however, is about 3/10 of a mile off the road and the driveway was impassible with fallen trees. He did go back on Saturday morning and made his way in toward the house. He said “it was like a couple of hippies hanging out”. Apparently they had plenty of food and Gibbons’ dad had fashioned some sort of hose hook-up to the artesian well so they had fresh somewhat ‘running’ water too. They plan to stay there until things get cleared up and are quite happy where they are in their little corner of the world.

Unfortunately, Joe went to his house in Pearlington (the eye of the storm went right up over Pearlington) on this same trip and discovered that it is no more. He managed to salvage some of his metal-working tools from his shop, but the house that his Dad built is gone. Our hearts and prayers go out to Joe as we know it was a very special place for him – and for Mary Shea also.

Virginia is in Lafayette with Michael and her children, and Marguerite is either in or on her way to Boulder, Colorado. Billy is in Memphis as his patients have been moved there and he needs to go back to work there and help look after them. He and Ellie will be staying there indefinitely.

We have also had word that Gibbons’ extended family are all doing well.

As for us, I flew to Toronto yesterday with the kids and will be here at my Mom’s for a week or two at least until I can recharge my batteries and work on investigating where we should go next and settle for awhile. Gibbons remains in Austin and will stay there for now to be close to New Orleans – in the event that he can go back and salvage a few items from our home – and to be there for his family. He and I will be in close contact so that we can work on our next steps together.

We were very fortunate to have gone to Austin as we spent much time with Gibbons’ cousin, Brian, his wife, Beth (with whom I went for a 10 mile run around Town Lake yesterday morning – what a treat!), and Brian’s parents, Sheela and David. They were AMAZING to us in ways too many too list here. We are forever indebted to them for helping us get through this first horrible week.

It has been an unbelievable week in which we have been through a roller-coaster of emotions. We thought New Orleans was spared, and then the levee broke. If that wasn’t bad enough, then we saw the incredible footage of people being rescued from roof-tops and bodies laying on the I-10. On top of that, we saw those who were stuck coming apart at the seams and begin the lawless behaviour that has resulted in massive looting.

We have had people email us first-hand accounts of bravery and courage that would be a welcome change on the news. We have also had people email us first-hand accounts of things that would and could never be shown on the news. I have had to stop watching the news as it was counter-productive to my well-being. I do check in to see what is happening now and then, but have had to stop watching 24×7 or I would have lost my mind.

We were thrilled to see the National Guard trucks rolling in and cried when we saw the steady stream of ambulances from Texas rolling over the Crescent City Connection bridge. Those who know me well know that I am VERY anti-gun and anti-violence, but I have to tell you that in this situation, I truly believe that they need to sweep the city clean of the thugs and idiots roaming the streets and that if it means going in with the calvalry with weapons drawn – have at it and be my guest. Many may disagree, but when you see your home being overtaken by those who have absolutely no respect for the property of others and see the progress for rescue and any potential rebuilding being hampered by these low-lifes, you are willing to put aside the idea that ridding them from the city can be accomplished peacefully.

At this point, however, we are feeling much better about things. We know that we will continue to experience a wide range of emotions – but for now, we are relieved. We feel blessed about our situation when we think of what others have been and are going through. We are alive and out of the city as are Gibbons’ family and that’s the biggest blessing of all. Our friends are also okay and out of the city and beginning a new life elsewhere until we all know what will happen with New Orleans.

We are very fortunate that Gibbons’ work does not require him to be in New Orleans – nor does mine. This helps our life to be very portable – and frankly, keeps the paychecks coming in which also helps.

Our family will be fine and will be stronger than ever once this is all over. There are so many families, however, that will struggle to regain some sort of footing. If you can, please donate food, clothes or cash to Hurricane Katrina relief funds in order to help those much less fortunate than we are to rebuild their lives.

Thank you again to everyone who has offered to help us and offered their prayers and well wishes. At this time, even just knowing that people out there are praying for us and thinking of us helps to recharge our batteries and lift our spirits.

My apologies for the lengthy email, but its been a few days in an incredible situation and I wanted to make sure I covered all the bases!

Hurricane Katrina – The Aftermath

In my last update I suggested we might have dodged a bullet. But clearly that is not the case. In fact, the bullet hit a bullseye. I’m sure many of you have watched the news and have seen the catastrophe and the news has done a great job in explaining what has happened.

To say that we are devastated would be an understatement. Everything that was life as we knew it in New Orleans is gone. Its not so much about the house or the ‘stuff”, its about our ‘life’. Those mundane and pedestrian things such as going to the grocery store, taking your kids to school – its all gone. We know we can do those elsewhere – but it didn’t happen by choice. We are in a period of grieving right now for all the things that we knew.

Our life right now consists of making contact with friends and family who have gone to various places around the south and the rest of the country and making sure everyone is safe. At this point, we have been in touch with everyone in Gibbons’ family except his parents and his sister, Mary Shea, and her husband, Joe. Gibbons’ parents evacuated across the lake to Covington which was pretty hard hit. We are praying that they are safe and are doing what we can to try and make contact with them, but phone lines are all down and we’re pretty much relying on reporting their whereabouts to the local Sheriff’s office so that they can be added to the list of those to be located.

Mary Shea and Joe evacuated to Meridian, MS which was also hit pretty hard (but its inland) so we have to trust that they are safe until we can get in touch with them. Cell phone service is shoddy at best, and we don’t know where they are staying.

Gibbons has set up an email list for his family and has emailed everyone in his address book that he is related in order to try and take a roll-call and figure out everyone’s whereabouts and well-being. Essentially, our hotel suite has become ‘FEMA – Family Emergency Management Agency’.

We are thinking very hard about our next steps… where to go and what to do. I very much want to be around family/friends/something remotely familiar. It doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen in the short term. We need to stay somewhat near New Orleans right now in the event that they let us back in to salvage what might be left of our stuff. I’m less worried about flooding and damage than I am about looting right now. This disaster has brought out the absolute worse in the absolute worst of our population and I read a report this morning that looters are trying to break into Children’s Hospital. It just gets worse and worse at every turn.

We will likely stay here in Austin for the short term until things settle down a little. We are in chaos and don’t want to make major life decisions in this state, but we do need to decide where to go and what to do. Like many other friends I have been in touch with from New Orleans, our mode of thinking is that New Orleans is no more and we need to move on. On the up side (I just have to believe that there is one), we have an opportunity to start fresh any where we’d like (and our moving expenses will be minimal… okay, bad joke).

In the meantime, we are looking at monthly furnished rentals so we can be more comfortable while we decide where to go and what to do. I’m also going to contact local schools to see if we can get the kids enrolled in some sort of program to keep them busy, get them around children and give us some time to look for places to stay/investigate where we might want to go. I can’t say I’m happy about being here, its hard to be somewhere with no support system around. But we’re going to take it day by day and if it gets too hard to handle, we’ll deal with it then.

My biggest goal right now is to get up in the morning with enough strength to look after my family and keep them as strong as they can be. That’s a very difficult thing to do some days – today was one of them. But we will survive as we have each other. Isabel understands what is happening and is very sad as she knows we will not be going back to New Orleans. She misses her friends and her Polly Pockets. Eliot doesn’t know what’s going on and doesn’t seem to care. He’s a bright light of sunshine in this disaster with his goofy antics and habit of making us all smile and laugh at moments when we feel terribly sad.

I have to trust in God and know that all of this happened for a reason and that He will take care of us. That which doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger and we are definitely alive – and are forever thankful for that.

I thank you for taking the time to read this mail and apologize if it is at all depressing. Please let me know if you’d rather not receive our updates. They seem to be as much journal entries as information on how and where we are.