Saturday, January 20, 2007

Katrina, Petey, Trading Spouses & Creative Expression

Last night, my DH & I watched a TV show called 'Trading Spouses.' I don't watch much TV & most often I just hear it in the background drolling out non-sensical (is that a word?) crap out at my DH but I wanted to see this show last night. You see last year I saw it & there was this religiously extreme, opinionated & melo-dramatic woman on there who almost hurt my eyes, my ears, my heart & my beleif in the southern spirit(regardless of religion). Anyway, this woman was due to come back on last night & I wanted to see her.
Why, if she was nearly painful, would I want to see her tyrades again? Entertainment? Perhaps. But after seeing her last season, I realized that she... in all of her antics, anger & assaults, awakened a realization in me. She made me think... about intolerance & understanding, about fate & free-will, about balck and white, the financially poor & rich, the spiritually poor & rich & all in between.
If you've never seen the show, I don't blame you. It really is absurd. It is a reality-based show whose premise is that two very different households will swap Mom's for one week. The poor get to see how the rich live. The spiritualist gets to experience the religious right lifestyle. The homeschool mom gets to experience the private school world, etc. At the end of the week, the reward is 50,000 cash which each mom gets to spend for the other family.
Moving on, last night had this bible-thumping woman on there & she was swapping lives with a racial-extreme mom. The religious-freak mom once said that she didn't have a problem with Jews as long as they accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God. I tell you this so that you can see how closed her mind is and/or how ignorant she is. OK, so now she's thrown herself into the home of a couple who professes that they are racially prejudiced for the black people. The life goal is to provide for the return of black Americans to their home country from which they were forcibly removed several generations ago. They run a TV show & work diligently for this cause.
Religious-extreme mom is from New Orleans & is white. They survived Hurricane Katrina. Racially-extreme Momma, like her husband, beleives Katrina was an assault by the white man against the black man. I won't get into the details of their perspectives, but will say that I understand the basic points of both parties. During this show, racially-extreme momma wanted to drive through the 9th ward & her week-long foster family accomodated her. The devastation & destruction was still evident. The streets were still lined with piles of debris pushed to the side to allow for vehicles to travel down the ravaged road. Houses still sat over parked cars. Chandaliers still hung in living rooms stripped of their walls, their furniture, their flooring & left with black mold. Numbers spray-painted on the exterior marked the number of bodies found inside. Moving on towards a commercial break, the TV show posted a tidbit...
'More Than 1800 Lives Were Lost in Hurricane Katrina'
Whoop. There it is. A tidbit I have tried to find out, figure out, uncover since Hurricane Katrina. A tidbit that I think may not be known by most people because it's never really been highly publicized...just how many lives were lost....1800+.
Having lived in Pass Christian, which was devestated by the Hurricane, I found myself saddened deeply by Katrina. I found myself praying, crying for dear sweet Petey. I dug out my yearbook & searched through the pictures, knowing that many of those faces were no longer, knowing that entire families were no longer, knowing that Katrina reached out much further than the 9th ward.
You see, when I lived in Pass Christian ( a town devastated also by Hurricane Camille) it did not have gambling or luxorious beachside accomodations. We did not have a traditional grocery store or hardware store. We had a catch all store. We had a used shoe store. We had Durbin's (where Kimbies worked & which made soft-serve ice cream daily) We had a desolate beach where the birds would attack you & the sea threw driftwood and age-old bottles at your feet. We had a highway lined with antebellum homes & shanties one block back. We had a blackberry field across the street from our house. Hidden in that blackberry field was a house number nailed to a tree, as evidence of a home that once sat there. That blackberry field contained the foundation (and one toilet) of an apartment complex, which claimed the life of over 200 people. Those blackberries were all that was left of some families.
My friend Petey survived Camille & I wonder if she survived Katrina. Our High School, a hurricane shelter, did not. Petey's church, also a shelter, did not. Petey was a working class woman who lost 21 members of her family in Camille. In fact, she & her son were the only members to survive Camille. She was left paralyzed from the neck down. Her son was my age & I hope he was able to get his family out of there before Katrina came rumbling through. I think about Petey & her inability to drive, her lack of financial resources, her lifelong loss and all I can do is hope & pray.
Not that it matters, but Petey was black & I, well, I was a skinny, little white girl. She volunteered at my school, where I worked in the front office. She & I hit it off immediately. I invited her to dinner & she came, bringing her son. My family, so large & blessed, fell unabashedly for her & her family, left so small & yet somehow still so blessed despite such devestation. Our families would dance together in our kitchen...yes, Petey could dance in that wheelchair. She'd spin it in circles & nod her head...while her eyes, voice & spirit danced, swooshed & dipped to the rythm of the music.
When the night was done, my father would scoop Petey up...her son would grab her wheelchair & tote it down the front steps & Daddy carry her down. She looked at him with such hope, such faith & beleif....each time growing. It was more than a race thing, more than a economic thing ... it was a people thing and a race thing, an economic thing, a social thing & it went deeper than skin or religion.
Leaving Pass Christian left only one regret...that we could not take Petey & her son with us. Momma cried. She knew this was Petey's home. She knew that she had lost her world there & that what was left of her world was still there & that she would not leave. She talked Dad into leaving one of my parents two cars there with Petey, along with our refridgerator....although she couldn't drive & her son was only 12...he could drive around town or in an emergency and she could have a neighbor drive it for her should she need to go somewhere important (keep in mind our town at the time did not have a doctors office, a dentist or even a pharmacy, much less a hospital)
I doubt that Petey still had the car, but God, how I hope she was able to get out of town before Katrina came. After Katrina came, Kim & I huddled on the fear & in tears, over our little Pass Christian & the buildings, lives, families, gene pools even, washed away by that storm. What could we do? I gathered clothes, coats, shoes, towels, blankets, sheets from the home. I bought flip-flops, toothbrushes, toys & all that stuff for the safety houses here for Katrina victims. So little.
And I drew this picture calling it, 'Just Lemme Pray.' I'm not the exceptional artist that my sister is :) but I did want to express something other than tears & charity in the aftermath of Katrina.
More Than 1800 Lives Were Lost in Hurricane Katrina.

*Photo is of what was left after Katrina of our school, the very same building which saved Petey & her son's life during Camille.


singleton said...

Crying. Remembering Kim's desperate dedication to Petey and loved ones in the aftermath, words and memories spilling out like butterfly kisses on the computer, then lost before she could hit the SAVE button. Her frantic searching, for days, weeks, months... pictures, pages, stories for the slightest clues...
Love grew that tiny little town....amidst the blackberry thorns and sand.... where folks gathered in the cool salty air, barefoot, and toting new generations never kissed by the ones before...and tossed candles to the ocean in tribute to those lost in Camille...
Let us still pray....

sammyray said...

More than 8,000 lives were lost in the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Katrina was nothing by comparison.

skinnylittleblonde said...

Singleton~Oh, how I have missed you on-line!
SammyRay~The Hurricane of 1900 was awful. Back then they did not have the technology that we have today to predict & help escape such things. Nor did they have the population. Had Katrina hit like it did, where it did, with the population as it was but without our modern day surely would have claimed 1000's of more lives. Galveston was particularly tragic because of all of the nuns & orphans so desperately trying to save themselves.

Mel said...

*sending hugs and prayers*

So many lives--forever changed.

Anonymous said...

Oh are !!!! All of you...I love so much! I am crying...and can't find any words to express....other than LOVE...XXXXXXOOOOOOO

Anonymous said...

This is so touching..... Wow!

I don't think some people understand just how horrible it was, is, there. My son is in the Air Force and was stationed at Biloxi Mississippi, right after Hurricane Katrina hit. He took pictures, it was nothing like I have ever seen. The pictures were not even ANYthing like what was on the News. Just devastating.

For Thanksgiving, he helped serve dinner. And also in some of the clean up. They also handed out coats and blankets and clothes. He said it changed him. He dreaded the holiday, being away from home. But helping and spending it with them, he wouldn't want to have been any where else. I was so proud of him.

skinnylittleblonde said...

Mel~ You are so right. After posting this, my hubby had a program on TV that was talking about the thousands of people still in Houston from Katrina. It was all around sad.

Oh Vicci, don't cry, didn't mean for that! Although, I still wonder about Petey & despite my searching, I haven't found anything out about her.

Angela Marie~ Your son gave the greatest gift of all...his time, energy & efforts. Yes, the media somehow glides past so many things & then put so much emphasis on other things. (Um, like I could care less about Tom Cruise, but give me the news, thank you!) You have every reason to be proud of your son.

Orhan Kahn said...

I didn't realise so many lives were lost.