(UPDATE: This piece chronicled my experience with flood victims on August 14, 2016, two days after devastating floods struck south Louisiana. I wanted to update my original post with some stats and donation sites. As of August 23, 2016, the number of flood damaged homes is reported at 60,000, while more than 106,000 residents and households have registered for FEMA aid. There are still approximately 3,000 people in shelters and 13 people have died as a result of the flooding.
People who want to support flood victims can donate here: Together Baton Rouge (100 percent of donations go directly to flood victim support) https://togetherbr.nationbuilder.com/donate
Baton Rouge Area Foundation (Louisiana Flood Relief Fund) http://www.braf.org )
When I close my eyes, I see water. Dark, murky water.
After watching nearly four straight days of non-stop coverage of the flooding here in south Louisiana, I believe my brain has recorded the scenes and sensations of rushing water.
For days, I have been drunk on news, mesmerized by the surreal that is now the real. Apparently, it wasn’t a dream–Mother Nature did decide to wipe the slate clean here, flooding thousands of homes, forcing more than 30,000 rescues and relocating at least 12,000 people into makeshift shelters.
I am deeply saddened, though I have no right to be. I am one of the blessed who has no water in my home, though friends and family have not been so lucky.
I was able to help before streets and roadways around me made it too difficult to travel. My boyfriend and I gathered up household items, then stopped at a Costco and filled our cart with socks, breakfast bars, toothbrushes, cheeze-its and other supplies to bring to a local shelter that was opening up. People were streaming into the store with the same intention as though it were a back-to school sale.
My boyfriend stopped by his place of work and picked up a 12-person passenger van to help with rescue efforts. He talked police into letting us onto closed sections of the interstate so we could help transport stranded people–those who were being rescued from flooded homes–to local shelters.
People were lined up on the interstate like refugees, huddled in groups, some wet from sweat or the waters, I wasn’t sure. We filled the van with women with newborns, an elderly woman in a wheelchair, and people with dogs. I remember a blue-eyed baby named Cameron, a woman named Delores, a young boy with Harry Potter glasses.
“What grade are you in?” I asked. I don’t remember his response. “Your baby is beautiful,” I said to the woman clutching a sweaty newborn in the seat behind me. I was chatting nervously, like an overly enthusiastic tour guide perched in the front seat, to a van full of shell-shocked strangers. “We’re taking you all to Celtic Studios where they’ve opened a shelter. I know they have plenty of food and water for you there,” I told them in a fake cheerful voice.
Someone in the van asked me, “did your house flood?” I bowed my head and mumbled “no, I was one of the lucky ones.” In the midst of their pain, I felt embarrassed by my good fortune.
We made a couple of trips to the interstate that afternoon. I started to take pictures when we first pulled up, pictures of elderly in wheelchairs sitting in water, burly National Guardsmen unloading people from trucks, red faced refugees in sandals carrying nothing more than backpacks in the heat, but I couldn’t do it.
I know it is important for the newscasters to document the suffering and the stories, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bare to document people’s hardest, saddest, most vulnerable moments for my scrapbook. It doesn’t matter anyway, because I still remember the faces, if not the names.
Those faces are recorded in my brain. Just like the images of water.
If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes, available on Amazon. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.