Hope Inside The Hurricane

The death and devastation left by hurricane Katrina 4 years ago has not been forgotten, the destruction left to houses and buildings being a constant reminder. August 28 marked the 4th year anniversary, with New Orleans recently in the News again when hurricane Gustav -that luckily proved to be a dud- showed that this time the government was prepared to help those who couldn't help themselves with a speedy evacuation.

SMC student and Katrina survivor Patricia Eves recalls the horror that was Katrina: "This hurricane was a monster, it was just unbelievable. You couldn't imagine the sounds, the way the trees were bending, you had to watch out for the trees. After so many times of looking at the trees, listening to the sounds, like boom boxes in a row blowing back and forth. Every sound is like technical effect, you feel like a prisoner. You are a prisoner when you're in a hurricane, I'm glad that I'm finally released." Eves is originally from New Orleans but moved to Los Angeles when she was 5 years old. She moved back to Mississippi to lead a more peaceful and less expensive life. She was in her home when she saw on the news the evacuation orders: "When we first heard about the hurricane coming, people didn't know how devastating it would be. People in Pass Christian, Mississippi had never experienced a hurricane of this magnitude and many stayed behind even when they were told to evacuate. Those people died since the houses we lived in were low as opposed to the ones in DeLisle 7 miles away, that stood on stilts." It was in DeLisle that Eves took shelter for the duration of Katrina. But what she remember more fondly was the unity created among the survivors "It was incredible how people that didn't know each other lent a hand," Eves recounts "the was that people went out of their was to help brought tears to my eyes many times."

The slow response to send help to those in New Orleans has been the topic of many debates. When asked how long it took for help to arrive, Eves was not sure. The stress and anguish of the hurricane has affected her memory. Eves also wasn't able to sleep calmly until a year and 2 months after. But she recalls how she and others felt during the wait, "Don't they care? Does anybody care about us? Is this a dream? The government don't care about us? People don't care until they see people: We realized later that people care in the world that somebody cares once the help arrived."

The way the media portrayed the survivors is also contested by many as unequal, publications used pictures of black people shown taking food to survive tagged as being "looting" and white people called "surviving". "We were forgotten," Eves said "We were a forgotten town, I think it's ridiculous for the use of the word loot, it shouldn't even be in the vocabulary to call people looters and thieves when they lost everything, strip the person of everything and see how they act, they were trying to survive, they had a house and they lost everything, they were traumatized you've been raped you were taken over, however you describe being assaulted by nature."

Once the help arrived, Eves had nothing but praises: "the army, the marines, they were wonderful, all the military people that came. And they treated us like we were family." The military provided them with food and clothing. "At at school the set up a store to go shopping. I said that I didn't have any movie, they said 'no need to have any money', that made me cry." Bell South provided phones to make free calls to anywhere. Though Eves was by herself in her experience, she wasn't alone. Her connection to other survivors was also the result of the hurricane "the lady that I knew that had one of those colonial homes was standing next to me as I was waiting to make a call from a phone set up by the army. She was next to me and she was the same as me, she had lost her house as well." Eves walked back to her home to see if anything was left. "Mud was everywhere as you were walking, climbing, sliding, the smell of plastic and death, a fetid smell." Once she arrived home, she realized the value of everything for granted "To have your pictures that you thought you'd never see again, is something very beautiful. I guess you never think that you're gonna lose everything." She also found something peculiar "The part of the hurricane that I thought was very unusual and spiritual was that everyone that had something that was very valuable was left untouched, many holy statues weren't destroyed after the hurricane. When we got home we were surprised that even with the whole house being destroyed, everything turned upside down, the virgins were still in one piece. We felt that this was God saying that he was looking over us all along" These powerful words of hope and survival will hopefully reach many more as Eves is writing a book to talk more about her experience during the hurricane and is currently waiting for a publisher.