Disaster

Severe Damage

Severe is a word that comes to mind a great deal in visiting the Gulf Coast. The damage is severe. I want to try and express to you just how severe, but I fear my word pictures will not be extreme or severe enough themselves. I’ve driven along pieces of Highway 90 in Mississippi and into New Orleans on I-10, and the only thing that reminds me of home would be the broken trees along the latter. Up in Snow Country we had a severe ice storm eight years ago, and there are places where the damage to the trees will never be restored. But the ice storm did not take away the homes in which people lived, the businesses in which they worked, the churches in which they worshipped.

Severe damage–

Some people are broken just like the trees that snap in two. They are severed. Others bend but do not break. What is the difference between the two? The trees that broke were hit so hard they didn’t have a chance. They are like the people who died that day. The uprooted trees will not survive. They are like the people who have moved away to make a new life somewhere else. But there are trees still standing, trees that somehow withstood the storm, trees that put out green leaves again in a second spring. They are like the people who look carefully through the debris, let go of what cannot be reclaimed and somehow find the strength to rake their yards clean. They are like the people who have set up their FEMA trailer on what is now their lot with a water view, fenced off a little bit of their earth and planted winter grass. They are as strong as the storm was severe.

Severe damage–

Severe can mean “adamantine”– a stone (as a diamond) formerly believed to be of impenetrable hardness. That’s how the insurance companies have been. We spoke to a man whose family business worth 3/4s of a million dollars had been recompensed $197. You are probably thinking, Songbird must mean $197,000, right? No. $197. How do people begin again when the damage and the response are both severe?

Severe damage–

Businesses are trying to re-open. Most of them have signs out front that say “hiring.” Are there enough people here to staff them? The gas station we go to has two tanks standing. When asked what kind of gas he put in the tank, the attendant replies, “We only have regular.”

Severe damage–

In New Orleans, there is no line at the Café du Monde. I’m told this would never have been the case before Katrina. St. Louis Cathedral is closed, when it used always to be open. The green trolleys that belong on St. Charles Street are running along the levee; the tracks were damaged on the other route, and although I think it’s a good thing there are tracks elsewhere, Sorority Sister points out that it is heart wrenching to contemplate the places where the green trolley ought to be.

Severe damage–

A lady came into church last Sunday. Her sister died that very morning. Her other sister died in the hurricane. Her brother died about a month later. Her losses are punishing. Her losses are severe.

One woman says, “It’s as if Mother Nature is angry with us.”

I feel relieved that she doesn’t attribute this anger to God.

Severe damage–

The only severe thing at St. Casserole’s house is the blackness of the coffee. There is so much room to be one’s self. The children are being raised in an atmosphere of loving forbearance. Animals receive the same (Songbirds, too). There is a lot of prayer, any time of the day, any place we go. I love the way St. Casserole prays: honestly, lovingly, beseechingly, releasingly.

My prayer for this region is a country that will continue to provide the open-handed love that comes from the workers who are here rebuilding, rather than the severity of the insurance companies and the government. My prayer for the people here is belief in a loving God who wants us to do better and the strength to live into that belief.

14 thoughts on “Severe Damage”

  1. The insurance industry is a source of permanent outrage. What is the point of paying all those premiums if they don’t honor their agreement with you when you really need it?

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  2. Oh, this made me cry. I didn’t join RevGals till later, so I don’t suppose you saw all my blogging about Katrina, but I visited Waveland, MS for an exhausting week right after the hurricane, and I will never be the same…The trees inspired very similar thoughts in me. On my last day in Mississippi, eating in a hugh food tent with workers and residents alike…I finaly couldn’t take any more, and I burst into tears. And I was coming home to beautiful, gree, cool Wisconsin. 😦 The lipstick comments made me grin…how true. Blessing to da bot’ a yas.

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  3. Oh, this made me cry. I didn’t join RevGals till later, so I don’t suppose you saw all my blogging about Katrina, but I visited Waveland, MS for an exhausting week a very short time after the hurricane, and I will never be the same…The trees inspired very similar thoughts in me. On my last day in Mississippi, eating in a hugh food tent with workers and residents alike…I finaly couldn’t take any more, and I burst into tears. And I was coming home to beautiful, green, cool Wisconsin. 😦 The lipstick comments made me grin…how true. Blessing to da bot’ a yas.

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