December 10, 2023

Ida no…

It was the 3rd of September, a day I’ll always remember…cause that was the day, that Entergy finally turned my electricity back on. Sighs in humidity. Sixteen years to the date, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, along comes Hurricane Ida. Louisiana and its fans (coughs in *visitors*) know these three things to be annual truths: 1) Mardi Gras will have you liquored up and on ya’ ass, 2) during the week of the Bayou Classic rivalry between Jags and GramFam: “ain’t no friends bih” …and last but not least, hurricane season gotdamn.

Every summer and fall without fail, Louisianians are locked into the weather reports to keep an eye out for the next storm especially during the month of August. The ramblings that began on August 23, 2005 and caused complete devastation the days and months to follow, brought an unprecedented amount of sorrowful attention to New Orleans that relive in our memory year after year. This year, August 23, 2021 South Louisiana was yet again hearing buzzwords of tropical waves, cycle, depression…and an evitable hurricane. The uncanny mirroring of the very day Katrina hit Orleans Parish was the same day this year, August 29th, that Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish. 150 miles per hour of pure pressure pummeled South Louisiana.

“FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY for St John the Baptist Parish and St Charles Parish. The combination of storm surge and rainfall of 6 to 10 inches of rain is creating a life threatening situation. Please move to higher ground!” (@NWSNewOrleans)

8:36 p.m. is when the power said lights out for us. Maybe we could sleep this off, not open the refrigerator, and we’ll be back up and running in a day or so. The lies we tell ourselves. By the next morning, my Dad is knocking on my door to check on us because over 80% of AT&T customers in the State lost cellular service. I couldn’t even check my Instagram if I tried. But shoutout to my Dad for making sure we were alive and safe, that’s just the kind of guy he is. Solid. Thankfully we didn’t flood or get major structural damage, however, outside looked like a warzone of trees and shrubbery. Covid shutdowns ain’t got nothing on the stillness after the storm. Venturing out to assess damages was like walking through a zombie movie, we all looked like the walking dead in disbelief, just silent. By the time cell service finally started to work again that night, the text messages started flowing in back to back. Many of my research colleagues from various states asked “is everything okay in New Orleans?…did you flood bad in New Orleans?” etc., etc. Every time I stated that that’s not where I live, the response would be “oh, ok”, or “oh, I thought you did”…Seriously? Even the posts online rarely mentioned some of these places as though they didn’t exist so finding resources was hit and miss. It broke my heart because I know so many people in places like Terrebonne, Lafourche, Houma, Grand Isle, Livingston, and so many others were some of the areas where the most damage occurred and to date is near irreparable. No one was asking about the lesser-known places, not even the capitol city, Baton Rouge. I refuse to let anyone be forgotten; we are ALL Louisiana. This was one of the reasons I started riding around looking for food and gas stations that were open, connecting with others in the heavy-hit parishes just to create lists to post everywhere from Ring, Facebook, new reporter pages, IG pages, etc. We must take care of each other. No parish left behind.

If anyone knows about the Louisiana weather, you’d know likes likened to a humid hell. Increase this feeling by the fact that over a million people still had no power and many didn’t have generators. I’d be remised though if I didn’t bring attention to our elderly who had to suffer in this hell. For instance, the little more than 800 seniors from seven nursing homes who were stuffed in a warehouse, yes, a warehouse, and had to be evacuated because of the unsanitary conditions: feces, urine, and multiple deaths. The owner of the nursing homes, Bob Dean, basically said “people die every day”; not in these exact words, but words very close to it. Forgotten ones. In more crimes against the elderly, it was only today that the authorities found the alligator that they believe ate an elderly gentleman as his neighborhood flooded. His wife couldn’t save him. I can’t make this shit up. On a more somber note, let also not forget the antebellum historic sites that were damaged, most notably, the Whitney Plantation which is the only slavery museum in the nation. Descendants of the enslaved there took shelter in the home and unfortunately, it is now closed indefinitely in order that the foundation can assess damages to the site. Other plantations, that I work with and do research for were also damaged. This may seem like a “whoo-hoo” moment, but I’m a Black woman who provides corrective history education and advocates for the inclusion of fact-based difficult history on these very sites so that we may be able to control our narratives…so this stings. Our ancestors deserve their stories told on lands they built.

It’s only been about a week or so since my power came back on…trying to stay cool at night in a car is no joke. For those who ask why people don’t just evacuate, I’d love to ask them with what money? Or “why don’t y’all just move” …again, with what money? And to move for what? For full gentrification to come through and take over our cultural spaces that make us so great, the same greatness that makes you want to visit Louisiana and eat our amazing food? No thanks. We’ll manage, somehow. Two days ago, I read about two women who died in their homes because of heat exhaustion, the power AND water system is still out in their respective parishes to date. As of September 9th, only about 75% of the outages across the State have been restored and the majority of the outages that still exist are outside of the New Orleans area. Not everyone has returned, either its unsafe or they have no home to return to. And contrary to news reports, FEMA has not been much help. According to AP News, “FEMA already has approved more than 159,000 household applications for disaster assistance, according to Louisiana’s emergency preparedness office” …yeah, ok. No delay, just outright denied.

Speaking of this organization, last week I was tagged in a post created by a random white guy in Livingston Parish who recorded his call with FEMA after his trailer was completely destroyed. They denied him despite the damages we could all see from the images he took. Much like they have denied many others here who have applied. What’s the point? Back to Livingston Parish. Now mind you, many of us melaninated folks in Louisiana have running “joke” about Livingston Parish as being the home of the racist meth-heads. But on this night, the petty gripe became nonexistent to me. The young man’s updated post said “Does anyone have a couch I can sleep on? My home is destroyed”. That’s the day I broke. Tears. I go hard for MY people but dammit one deserves this I don’t care who they are. This is a whole adult, a grown man begging for help, and it seemed like his world was closing in on him. A couch was all he wanted. As we trickle back in to work (oh the capitalism), students go back to school, clean up, replace foodsget repairs done I just reflect on the importance of being kind to one another, helping others build and rebuild. We ask that you love on Louisiana a little harder. #LouisianaStrong…Ida no…

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