Katrina left behind so many stories, in addition to so much destruction. I find myself wanting to bear witness to as many stories as I can, to honor the lives that have been affected by this catastophe. I have been searching online, almost obsessively, for personal accounts of the hurricane and its aftermath (This story, about the vastly different experiences between two families--a poor family and a family with means--is illuminating. I found it ironic, though, that when I first clicked on the link at the front page of the NY Times, a ritzy ad for Ralph Lauren popped up before I could read the story. Obviously, this story is geared toward the "haves" even as it shows, and bemoans, the great divide between the "haves" and "have-nots".)
I have been wishing there was something I could do beyond sending a donation. I decided to post a listing at the New Orleans Craigslist, saying I would make phone calls or send emails for anyone who had trouble reaching their families or friends. With families getting separated, and power being either down or sporadic throughout the Gulf Coast region, it seemed like something tangible I could do to help. I only have received one reply to my posting so far, from a woman searching for someone in New Orleans. She hadn't heard from him or his sister since 8/29. I've tried calling his cell phone number, but the voice mail box is full. I've been searching for his name at all the online data bases of missing and found persons, but so far, no luck. Being connected to a single name makes the aftermath of the hurricane hit home in an even more personal way.
A couple of nights ago, my son was at a friend's 17th birthday party. 1:30am rolled around and he wasn't home yet; I started to get worried, especially after no one answered the phone there. He was only a couple of blocks away, and it was easy enough to drive over and pick him up, but I still felt that gut-clutching dread of "What if something happened to him?" He was fine--he and his friends had just lost track of time. I can't imagine what parents are going through who were separated from their children during the evacuations, who have no way to reach them at the various shelters now. All I can do is keep absorbing their stories, and keep listening for ways in which I might step up to help.