As a sophomore in college, I was at school just an hour away from New Orleans, the home of Hurricane Katrina. At that time, I was living in a sorority house. The house, they told us, was safe and would remain open, but I was lucky enough to have one of my Greek sisters offer her family home to me.
Because of her invitation, and her family’s well-prepared home, I remember being pretty calm during the storm. We lost power and saw trees fall, but everything was generally okay.
Years later, Hurricane Gustav was headed straight for us in Baton Rouge. It was my first real hurricane experience. Being from Indiana, I had little idea what a hurricane was like. I did as I was told and got bottled water, food items, and supplies for my cat.
When the storm came, I was sitting in my living room, watching out of the window as the privacy fence surrounding my apartment complex flew across the grassy field. I could feel my building swaying.
The worst part, however, were the days that followed. I was lucky, and only without power for three days, while some people were out for weeks or even a month. Trees that had fallen into the floors above me caused water damages in our building, while lower levels flooded.
Without power, I also had no internet connection and no signal. I could barely keep in touch with my boss, my family, or my boyfriend at the time. I longed for some type of social interaction, so I headed to the nearest drug store and stocked up on magazines. That held me over until it was too dark to read.
Eventually, I heard from my boyfriend, and wanted to see him. I went to his house, where at least the fridge was hooked up to a generator. I remember walking over cords in the dark house. I only stayed for about five minutes, as he told me to leave, I couldn’t stay there.
On a normal day, I wouldn’t have understood why he kicked me out in such a flash. During my tropical depression, I surely didn’t get it. And years later, I still don’t have an explanation.
Today, as I brace myself for yet another horrible storm in Baton Rouge (and New Orleans), I am reminded of that dark time. The broken trees strewn across our beautiful city brought tears to my eyes, and someone that I trusted would be there to comfort me and keep me safe, did the same.
I am happy to say I’m not in that place for this storm. I have a feeling the outcome will be a much brighter day.