Friday, August 19, 2016

Louisiana- Cleaning Up

You see the pictures and videos on the television and you think "How terrible.  Those poor people." You have no idea how bad it is.  You will hear how families have lost everything and you may even cry.  But you have no idea how bad it is.  Over the next few weeks, you will see statistics and hear terms like "FEMA" and "DSNAP" and you still won't know how bad it really is.  Oh, it's not your fault.  How could it be?  You are sitting in your comfortable house watching. You may be prepared the visuals for you see.  We as a people have been desensitized to such matters. However, the only way to know how bad it is, is to do the following.

Drive and turn into a once flooded neighborhood.  You will see the water line on the trees. You will see the bright green leaves end about four to five feet from the ground and then turn to a splattered brown eyesore.   You will see the same waterline around the houses.  Before entering one of those houses, you'll probably expect to see the inside in shambles, things tossed about, tipped over and things on the ground.  You would be right.  Your preparedness ends there, for sight is not your only sense.

Nothing can prepare you for the smell.  I will never forget it.  To try to describe it would only do it injustice but I will give a shot.  Take an old musty locked up house, amplify that 10 times over, add some soured laundry and then a hint of mud.  Then slap yourself in the face with it.  Like I said "injustice."  You would think that eventually you would get used to it.   You don't.   Trip after trip, dragging, recliners, couches, mattresess out to roadside only to return to that smell time after time.  No you never get use to it.  But sight and smell are not your only senses.

I went to move a yellow ceramic cat off of a sofa.  As I reached for it, my attention was taken away but only for a second.  Within that second my fingers touched something unexpected.  The cat was wet and slimy.  Oh, it wasn't yellow at all.  It was white.  And from the powerless house with no light except the sun, I realized that everything was coated in the yellowish, greenish brown slime.  The likes can only be compared to the worst of the worst of any baby diaper.  Sight, smell and touch; only now fully emerge in situation you are beginning to fully understand how bad it is.  Yes, there is no taste because that would be dumb but if you feel inclined to take a bite of that covered bunny bread, you go right ahead.

As you empty the house, you deal with the soggy carpet squishing with every step.  You fight with getting oversized soaked furniture through undersized doorways.  You feel the heat of a Louisiana August slowly baking you.  You carry and drag the furniture through the formally green front yard turned swamp.  The mountain of garbage begins to rise.  The same view occurs at every house on the street.  Only after the big furniture is out, you start to see the rest and are almost to a full understanding of how bad it really is.  For this is the time, that you see family photos and albums, unwrapped birthday gifts, and a family bible passed down through 4 generations; all soaked to their core and covered in slime.  Nothing can prepare you for that.  Garbage bags are all that is left.  Next, you move to the kitchen.  It's more of the same.  Except, the drawers, the spoons, and pot and pans still have flood water in them.  When you looked at the water, you can see different unidentifiable things floating.  Some are yellow, some are green and you wish you had gloves but the stores were all sold out.   So, you do what you have to do.  I only gagged once.  I came across a plate with food left on it.  At least, I think it was food.    SIDENOTE; I'm not good with smells.  You sever your arm and are bleeding everywhere-I'm your man. If you are shooting fluid from either or both ends of your digestive system- I'm NOT your man.  Recap:  Blood-okay.  Puke and Poop- no way

This would've been the end until yesterday.

This is where I fully understood how bad it is.  I spent 3 hours around a relief center.  I saw people waiting in line to go in to get Food, Water, Diapers, Toilet Paper, Clothes ...  I saw the faces of people who did lose everything.  I saw kids with no toys.  I saw kids happily eating the free meals being offered, knowing that my kids would never have touched it.  I saw parents look worn out but staying strong.  I talked to a family whose trailer home had washed completing away.  I saw people who have worn the same clothes for 4 days because they have nothing else.  I can't help but feel guilty.  I didn't suffer like these people did.

Only submerging myself into these places did I understand the gravity of the whole thing.  I hope by reading this you might understand a little better but I know the only way to understand is to be here in it.

The numbers:
4 trillion gallons of rain or 25 inches in 3 days
Est. 90% of the homes in my town of Denham Springs were flooded.
15 area schools are flooded.  Some will not reopen for 2-3 MONTHS.
30,000 people rescued from homes and vehicles
13 dead

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