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Michael Smith ~ Remembering Katrina

School was cancelled for the next morning as my wife and I went to bed. We had hoped to sleep in. We woke up and the sky was dark. We decided to leave as soon as possible and placed whatever we could off the ground in case of potential flooding. I carried our wedding album with us. We didn’t have much time to gather, so we only gathered what we thought could not be replaced. In the car, the radio warned drivers to get off the road.

We knew this storm was going to be something, but we did not have a full awareness of its oncoming devastation. This storm had a name; its name was Katrina.

I dropped my wife off with friends that lived near my job and went straight in. I worked at the Salvation Army Shelter. We had already received several families and we were preparing for many more. The busyness of the preparation only fed into my fear of what was coming. Beds were prepared and mats were made ready on every floor of our facility. And then we waited.

It was dark as I gathered around a battery-operated radio with a mother and her two children. We were silent as we strained to listen to the reports. We heard the word “levy,” but I didn’t fully understand what that meant at the time. Sections of the city were being listed, and I didn’t understand what that meant either until she gasped. She said, “That’s me. My house is gone.” She held her children, the only things she had left.

It was like this for days. Months and now years later, it still is so real to me. The stories are too numerous to count; this is just a piece of mine. Many stories are never shared because of the devastation. There are things the mind chooses not to remember rather than to relive. But as a people who look back 10 years after Katrina, we share stories and the hope that in the rebuilding, we can create a new world.

Take a few minutes today to reflect on these words from Robert Penn Warren.

“Love Recognized”

There are many things in the world

And you are one of them. Many things keep happening and

You are one of them, and the happening that

Is you keeps falling like snow

On the landscape of not-you, hiding hideousness, until

The streets and the world of wrath are choked with snow.

How many things have become silent? Traffic

Is throttled. The mayor

Has been, clearly, remiss and the city was totally unprepared for such a crisis.

Nor was I, yes, why should this happen to me?

I have always been a law-abiding citizen.

But you, like snow, like love, keep falling,

And it is not certain that the world will not be

Covered in a glitter of crystalline whiteness.



Lord, forgive us for too often re-creating our world in our own image of power and struggle rather than your peaceable kingdom. The lines still seem drawn too clearly; we need your reconciling peace. Homes can be rebuilt but lives have been lost. Trust has been lost. You can renew, rebuild, recognize, and reenergize us. Above all, we pray that our hope is never gone. Amen.