11-years later, Katrina still feels like it just happened yesterday

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This week marked the 11-year anniversary of an event that changed my life and the lives of many others. Tuesday marked 11 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall. At the time, my family lived just north of New Orleans in Slidell, Louisiana.

We evacuated to just outside Memphis as the hurricane drew near. I can still remember packing the car and heading out of town in the early morning hours to try and beat the traffic.

After the event and until this day much of the news coverage about Katrina has focused on New Orleans. The levees broke soon after she hit, flooding and wrecking much of the city, especially the poorest areas like the ninth ward.

Email newsletter signup

The impact of the hurricane was so much greater though. I stood in people’s homes where water had poured into their homes and left behind destruction and feet of mud pulled from the bottom of the lake and river. We drove along the bank of the river where houses were reduced to mere concrete slab except for a lone toilet that had somehow remained behind. I could not imagine returning home to nothing but a blank slab of concrete and a toilet.

My family was lucky. We had trees fall on our house, but luckily no water. The impact was so much greater then the damage though. My dad was one of the early responders into New Orleans only days after the hurricane had come tearing through. He spent weeks living in our house with no power as he worked in the city during the day putting in countless hours and then worked to cleanup our house in his few spare moments.

My mom, sister and I crowded into my aunt and uncle’s house in Clearwater, Florida for a few weeks and we enrolled in school not knowing if ours would be reopening (they finally did about a month later).

A tragedy like that is one of the times that you see the greatest side of people and realize the true impact of human kindness.

My dad sacrificed a lot for the people that had lost everything, because that was what was asked of him. My aunt and uncle opened their home to us. Strangers came together and helped my family while we were evacuated and initially had no idea if we had a home to go home to (that is a feeling that you truly cannot describe, the not knowing).

Even though we were a long ways away when impact was made, the shockwaves reverberated through my life and they still continue to today.

Even 11 years later the memories remain fresh and I don’t believe they will ever fade.

About Brandon O'Connor


email author More by Brandon