Getting Out, Going Back and Moving Forward in the Decade After Hurricane Katrina
By: Lisa Karlin
Published: July 3, 2015
Publisher: Centennial Publishers
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If you have watched the news at all this weekend, I'm sure you have heard that it is the 10-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It's hard to believe it has been that long and yet, it is likely that the majority of our country has forgotten about Hurricane Katrina, but for residents of New Orleans, there are still reminders of the destruction and devastation the storm left behind. Karlin and her family survived, but still find remembering the horrific details of those days, weeks, months and years after Katrina to be extremely emotional. In BELOW THE WATER LINE, Karlin details with notes from her journal, the day to day struggles of living through Katrina and what she left behind. The book reads much like a novel and you have to remind yourself, these are real people in a very real situation.
Karlin's details about the days of evacuation and sitting in a rain-soaked motel room, not moving on a grid-locked highway, and traveling home to find destruction all around you. If you have ever been through a natural disaster, you will understand her feelings of despair and overwhelming anxiety about where to begin again. Her details of flooded homes after Katrina reminded me much of what fellow Cedar Rapids residents went through after the Flood of 2008. In fact, being in our old neighborhood this last weekend reminded me of much of the same feelings Karlin described about her neighborhood ten years after Katrina.
I found much of the government response to Katrina shocking and disappointing. I think most of us felt Katrina victims were being taken care of and sadly, that was not the truth in New Orleans. Karlin and her family were better off financially than most, yet still were completely swamped by the amount of money it took to pay for their Houston apartment during the evacuation period, their second home they purchased while trying to get through the repairs of their damaged home and pay for those repairs and the daily bills of a home owner. Her husband, a surgeon, took on another position to help at a hospital north of New Orleans that was inundated with new residents from Hurricane Katrina hit communities. Karlin, a nurse, was able to continue her job training oncology centers and was thankful they were still able to work and provide for their needs. Her humbleness regarding necessities vs wants was brutally honest and one that many of us, in this land of excess, can learn from.
I did find one part of the book upsetting where Karlin talks about a high school being used as a morgue and moves right on to her frustration with no power or radio without a pause. I'm sure it was more about details rather than emotion at that point. Other times her emotions show as she writes that while traveling between Houston and New Orleans, she felt like she was going between the United States and a developing country.
Amid all the loss and destruction faced by thousands in the Gulf Coast area after Hurricane Katrina, there is much hope. Recovery hasn't happened over night and there are still places that may never return to "Before Katrina" times. But while driving through an area, a lone sunflower emerges from the rubble and debris, Karlin realizes there is still hope for her beloved home.
Lisa Karlin is an oncology nurse who, unlike weather chasers who look for storms to track, has had the weather chase her, and these experiences are described in her memoir, BELOW THE WATER LINE. Lisa lives in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband, daughter, son, and Yellow Lab named Buddy.
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