Community Culture Flood Life Memoir New Orleans Non-fiction

For the love of New Orleans culture…surviving more than hurricanes…

I'm hoping that by reading my writings that you can not only learn about New Orleans, but what it takes to survive the Hurricane named LIFE. You all inspire me to be greater, to not only tell you all what's hot and popping in New Orleans, but y'all give me the platform to tell my real-life NOLA Life story or as my BFF refers to my world as "Surviving the Life of a NOLA Chic. One thing I know for sure we all are guarantee a life storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and earth quakes that will split us off, leaving us crushed, bleeding and broken in the organ that keeps us alive and some believe it's the place when love lives, the heart.

Over the past years, I have met several people who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and I have found that outside of loving our culture and wanting to learn everything there is to know about all things New Orleans, most of them came from the North or states out of reach of hurricanes, some haven’t experienced a tornado or earthquake. I imagine living here post-Hurricane Katrina can cause emotional distress. I wonder if the thought of another Katrina came to mind when deciding to relocate or the call from the soul of New Orleans drowned out that concern. I wonder if the risk and reality of experiencing a hurricane are worth it for some, because of the great deal they got on their homes.

I blog and speak of New Orleans culture, my life here and the happenings, but looking over my writings I haven’t touched on the topics of “Safety in New Orleans” too much on any level, which is why I am writing now. I decided to write a “Hurricane preparedness Tip” blog for my new friends who gave up their nicely put together lives all for the love of New Orleans, but as a whole, I’m writing in honor of all the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the some of the stories that were shared with me.

This time of year always brings the vivid reminder of the deceased elderly woman who sat in a lawn chair, someone’s loved one laid dead a few feet away from people awaiting the unknown and another covered in our American flag in front of the New Orleans Convention Center, a venue where millions continue to congregate each year.

AP photos/Eric G

My most recent visit to the Convention Center was for the Essence Festival and I had to take on the role of NOLA tour guide for my friend’s 1st visit to New Orleans. I felt obligated but sad to tell them that this was one of the places Hurricane Katrina victims packed out just like Essence. People tend to complain when waiting in long lines or being at a crowded event, but informing them of people who had no choice set them straight.

Hurricane Katrina victims waiting outside the convention center 2005
Essence Festival 2018

Prior to Essence, I had a small anxiety attack as I waited in the line to use the restroom at the Convention Center. I was there attending the Zulu Ball this past Mardi Gras. We were all dressed in expensive ball gowns, faces beat to the gawds, standing in designer heels waiting for the bathroom attendant to tell us which stall to go into. The older black woman with makeup on, but wore a beautiful smile and had the prettiest of brown smooth skin, dressed in black pants, white button-down shirt, and black work shoes was stationed by the sink, ready with paper towels to dry our hands and a basket of personal products and mints for us..

I stood frozen as I watched each lady come and go, looking at her wondering if she was ever on our end or worse, one of those who waited in the line to get in the building during Katrina. I was so lost in my heartbreaking thoughts I wasn’t hearing the woman telling me to go next, she literally had touched me. “Baby, you can go on ahead in the adaptive stall, it’s ok” I guess, she thought I was overly concerned about using the stall just in case someone came in with a wheelchair, but my mind was somewhere else. I was imagining what one of my family members told me about the conditions of the restrooms during Katrina and now here we are all decked to the nines in this spotless restroom as if new tile and a slap paint took away all that happened in there..

I had a similar experience at the Superdome.. I sat in great seats with my date and as I tried to cross my legs, it hit me, these are the very seats people slept in, cried in, fell from, these seats provided little comfort or security from the wrath of Hurricane Karina. As tears dripped onto my $200 Saints jersey I wondered if all these people felt what I was feeling, did a player think of that time when the turf was covered in cots and was there a Katrina survivor sitting in the audience feeling worse than I was?

All these things and more came to mind as the game was going on. As I posed for my picture with the football field behind me, I wondered if it’s good that we moved on, but is forgetting not honoring them or pretending that it did not happen?

A

As you all know I am a New Orleans native, I did not endure the horror of Hurricane Katrina, but several of my family members and friends did. We stood many nights as they shared their living nightmare with me. My cousin who I considered one of the toughest and hardest of young men, cried to us over his experience in surviving hurricane, Katrina. It was the first time I saw him cry since he was a little boy. He was 32 years old at the time of the storm, straddled the good/bad boy fence into his 20s and the streets of NOLA never made him cry and neither did the intensive Army training. He was a tough soldier in and out of the Army, loss family and friends to street violence and he could not believe Hurricane Katrina, weather could break his heart and soul, he was devastated by all he witnessed. What he and millions of others went through was so bad it brought the strongest of men to their knees, crying prayers of help to God.

I will take their experiences, their pain and survival to help me in writing tips for all of you, as well as my own experiences in Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Ike 2008 and several other bad storms. Just last year we experienced bad flooding due to pump failure, because of neglect by Sewage and Water Board officials… However, nothing I experience can compare to what people suffered from Hurricane Katrina. There are countless people still suffering, because of how the government handled their lives during and after Hurricane Katrina…

In 2008 I was visiting with my family who was still living in a one bedroom trailer, well one semi-private bedroom with a pull out bed in the living area… There was no staying no matter the level of Hurricane or even Tropical Depression, the regular wind made the trailer shake. My cousin was shaking so bad because she was severely afraid of going through another Hurricane. We packed up and took a road trip to Arkansas, where she decided to stay and have not returned to New Orleans since. She lives in one small of a country town, I had panic attacks from being so bored and the entire town knew who you were before you got there. I will have to tell y’all about my experience at the lil hole in a wall bar and the po lil back woods countryman with a stutter asked me to be his girlfriend and said: “If you be my woman, I’ll give you my whole SSI check?” I nearly fell out my chair from trying to stop myself from laughing. I’m laughing now, Y’all I will paint that scene another time, but my brief experience with Hurricane Ike and staying in a FEMA trailer, took me back to Arkansas.

My apologies, I can’t seem to get to merely write like an article on “Tips” per say, because of the lives that were affected by Hurricane Katrina were so close to me. Their heartbreaking stories of survival are the reason I can share with all of you… I hope it’s ok with you if I can freely write, feel but I will make sure to write the tips. So, much is coming to me and the memories seem to be jumping around me my mind, saying “pick me and my heart feels heavy. It’s like I can feel my his spirit and see his smile as I type and breathe life into our memories. Millions of people were left with the days of dirt-encrusted clothes on their backs, they had nothing. Life was hard prior to Katrina, but if you know a New Orleans family, you know they worked hard for what they had. We were raised to save, work extra hours and made good use of “layaway.” So, when all the negative racial comments about the few coins the “refugees” received after people used their x-ray eyes to access what the people had nothing to start out with and should be grateful to FEMA and Road Home…..

 

What brought joy to my heart was to see the number of people, white people open not only their pocketbook but homes, allowing strangers to come live with them. They are earthly angels. I wonder if the families kept in touch???? Now, that would make for an awesome story. Their efforts, generous support is the reason, I know people truly love and are concerned about the people of New Orleans and the state of gentrification here. My friends, church family, and workplace helped my family out so much. Assisting me with moving into a bigger house when my Mel came with the kids. One company paid $500 a month towards the rent for a year, continued to pay it after FEMA gave him the rental assistance. A nice older model Town and Country Van was donated to us and so much more. Their support, especially emotional after his murder was what got me through. It was an amazing feeling, seeing for myself that color does not matter when it comes to survival. If you’re reading, I want you to know that your acts of kindness, your generosity not only helped us financially but changed our lives for the better. Mel may not be here on earth with us, but I’m proud to say that his children are doing awesome. The oldest daughter is in her 2nd year of college, living on campus, her sister is following right behind and all his boys are great high school athletes. As you see I became a foster and adoptive parent, the home catering company turned into a real restaurant, so please know your efforts and were not in vain.

To all of you, everyone who assisted families affected by Katrina, thank you for all that you have done for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Started over is hard enough after any loss, but to go through all that they survived, shipped to unknown places without knowing where they were going only after boarding and then to start over… It was heartbreaking when I left New Orleans in the 90s, but I had my preplanned life awaiting me in Minnesota. The day I left home, I knew I would return and it was a lot of work and expensive.

I could not imagine how they did it. It sickened me how people were treated when they were finally given home, rental and furniture assistance. Not only wasn’t it enough to cover the losses but for some, well the government to think it was enough to anger me because it was nothing more than a setup, a way to distract the victims while they were being ripped off.

The government and insurance companies cheated homeowners, they had this plan to make money the beginning, as soon as they accessed the damage, went through the books and saw how much these families paid for their homes, some passed down over generations, they plotted.. If you know anything about home renovations, black mold, replacing roofs and etc, you know the $10-$25K that was given to repair homes that were in need of a total gutting, you know the government manipulated these homeowners, who more than likely denied flood insurance, because of their zip code. Hurricane Katrina survivors had no choice, but to take the monies that were given to them, abandon their family home and start over somewhere else. These same homes in what was the poorest areas of New Orleans have these same homes being brought up like a game of Monopoly selling now for $250K+. There’s a home in my area that was sold for $380K. I do not know any New Orleanian who lived in my neighborhood prior and even now, who can afford to buy a house, no less rent in these areas that were blighted, because of Katrina. The “Carpetbaggers” are really enjoying the harvest of others crops..

PLEASE know the importance of having homeowners insurance and the long small fine print that basically states the premium you pay for flood insurance only covers NOTHING! Also, renter’s insurance is just as important, because if anything happens to your property inside of a rental property, like a fire, the landlord’s policy does not cover your things. All insurance is important, health, life, car, renter’s and home should be a priority when it comes to quality of life and preparing for tomorrow. It can all feel overwhelming, but ask for help, especially with those small print paragraphs, picking the highest deductible may not be the wise, especially when that day comes and it will come and you’re faced with a $1500 deductible and all you have is $15 in the bank. Educate yourself, take a class and ask a trusted person for help.

Now on to NOLA Chic Hurricane Preparedness Tips.. a list of some of the Basic Items I would suggest as well I may include a story or two with it.

1. If the words “Mandatory Evacuation” is put in place for your area, please leave. I’m making this 1st, because we seem to put it at the bottom of the list, as well as put it to the back of our mind. Why?? I’m thinking, because we may feel we have enough supplies, they always tell us to evacuate and then the storm weakens and the list goes on. Some of may think we have the weather all figured out too, still using “Old Wive’s Tales” such as lick their pointer finger, hold it in the air, which we all know will tell us just how hard the wind may blow.. But seriously if an evacuation order is placed this is one of those moments in life when the phrase “Better safe than sorry” should be used proactively.

2. Have a Basic Emergency Supply Kit which should have these items in a waterproof container, safe or plastic bag, such as your driver’s license or state ID card, keys, cash, credit cards, a list of nearby safe shelters, any and all legal documents, especially medical cards, home and life insurance cards, ink pens, tablet for writing and prescriptions with your name on the bottles.

3. Water: *FEMA suggest one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation. I would go suggest the more water the better. You may have to help someone out. Just last week I told my niece who’s visiting from Minnesota, never experienced a hurricane and only knew about tornado safety and as we all know, there are no basements in New Orleans.

I suggested that she fill the bathtub, any and all empty containers with water and get bags of ice for the coolers. I also told her in a worse case scenario the water heater tank can be used. It’s also a good idea to put out clean bins to collect rainwater to flush the toilets, some people use it for drinking, but I would only recommend it if you have some type of filter as well as wire net covering the opening. Animals and Rodents will be on the search for water as well, and who wants to drink behind a rat?? One of my family members recalled walking, well wading in the water on his journey to the Superdome and he saw an older man’s body floating in the water. He describes the scene so vividly, we all were brought to tears… DO NOT DRINK or BATHE flood water or any water that has been standing, the only household use for flood water would be for flushing the toilet.

4. FOOD: Keep your pantry stocked with at least 5 days Nonperishable foods. Typically, the first thing to go is the electricity, no matter what city you live in. So, treat your refrigerator like you treat your pocketbook when the air conditioner is on during the summer and the kids are “coming in and out” of the house. A Southern Mama will lock the door and have them knocking on the door like they do not even live in the house. When I was a little girl, you were “either inside or outside” and after that 2nd time coming in the house for whatever reason you had to stay inside. I learned how to hold my pee for hours after testing my Mama’s patience. Another Old Wive’s Tale, well this a saying, “A hard head, makes for a soft behind” I didn’t catch a shipping that day, but the consequences sank into this hard head of mines. Not only was I banished to my room for the rest of the day, but I couldn’t go outside that whole weekend and I my cousins was at my house for a sleepover…

These millennial kids have it a little easier, as far as parenting goes, we are really soft in comparison to growing up back in the day. Plus, with the doggone technology world, we damn near have to beg kids to go outside and play. It’s like all these kids like to do is be on the phone watching YouTube, watching other kids play and create, basically watching other kids have fun with contentment. Running up your light bill, using up your phone data, eating up all the good snacks and complaining of boredom when the cell phone battery dies….

My point is you may have to guard your refrigerator and let me add your cell phones, tablets, laptops and hide the cord for the desktop from these “millennial inside kids” in the effort to keep all your perishables cold for as long as possible. Going in and out of the refrigerator will only help spoil the food faster… But prior to the storm making landfall, turn the refrigerator to the coldest temperature settings for both the top and bottom, also if you have a deep freezer do the same for it. Turning it to the highest setting without going in and out of it can help with keeping the food fresh and edible for days..

5. COMMUNICATION: Keep your cell phones fully charged, as my grandson states “Nana your phone at 100%” which means I’m supposed to let him use it… Turn off and/or remove all non-essential apps and turn on the battery saver. If possible have an old cell phone fully charged for backup. It doesn’t need to have an active service, because it will allow you to call 911 for emergencies and you may be able to sign in on someone’s WiFi. I have a regular old-fashioned house line which comes in handy in emergencies and when the kids have used my cell phone till it’s dead and I need to make phone calls to their mother to pick up her kids… If you have a disable or elderly family member in the household, a home line will be a great asset, regardless to the weather. There are also those emergency alert buttons, remember the commercial with the elderly lady who says, “Help I’ve fallen and can’t get up?” A family member had one, but the main function of the actual box, sorta like a speaker system which has to be plugged into an outlet. There’s battery backup as well. These systems can be billed under medical insurance, especially given the need for personal safety. https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/medicaid-waivers/personal-emergency-response.html

Please try your best to limit your phone calls during this time, only use to update family and friends, the goal is to save all the juice for an emergency. Plus, this will help to keep the signals from being jammed, as they frequently are. I can remember being worried for over 24hrs wondering the state of my loved ones. No one could get through no matter the service. I highly suggest adding the “Hotspot WiFi” feature to your cell phone service and/or a portable WiFi unit. PCP for People a company for low-income individuals offers this service as well as other cell phone and computer related services at a discounted rate. https://www.pcsforpeople.org/low-cost-internet/

Make sure to have a Portable Radio battery-powered radio and a Weather Radio with a tone alert. You can get a weather radio from Wal-Mart, Target and etc. If you do not or can not afford a weather radio, please download a weather app on your cell phone and make sure to enable the notifications… You can also sign up for the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administrations. (NOAA) http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/

6. BATTERIES: Have as many cell phone charging blocks on hand and please make sure they are fully charged. Make sure you have extra batteries on hand for the portable radio, the Emergency Alert system and all other battery operated equipment. If you can afford a mini generator, back up battery for your car or portable battery jumper that would be great, if not please keep jumper cables in your car. *only use generators outdoors..

7. LIGHTENING: It’s a good idea to have flashlights and candles on hand for all emergencies. I suggest at least two in the home, a mini one on your keychain and one in the car.

8. HEAT: Matches, lighter and torches are a necessity. You may want to purchase a fire starter, clicky thing like on those shows. I’m pretty sure you saw one of the reality shows, such as “Naked and Afraid” and just about all of the contestants pick some sort of fire starter. Fire is a sacred resource. As we know hurricanes do not happen in the winter, nor in the north, so the need for fire will not be for warmth, being warm is not a problem, but hurricane season means hot humid temperatures. One would need these items to light the candles, cook food and can be used to make a fire for a distress signal. Charcoal, fire starter logs or dry wood will come in handy to cook any perishable food before it goes bad. Make sure to grab lighter fluid, fire starter logs and/or propane tanks as well..

8. FIRST AID KIT: Another one of things that should be kept on hand at all times, even in your car and purse. It doesn’t have to be a whole kit, but every lady should at least have a scarf, band-aid, a pin, ya know just a lil something. But in the case of preparing for an emergency, your kit will need to include more than the basics, additional products such as an ace bandage, hydrocortisone cream, allergy medicine/Epi-Pen, gel cold/ice pack. mosquito repellent, clean rags, gloves, peroxide and etc.

9. PAPER GOODS AND CLEANING SUPPLIES: Tissue, paper towels, baby wipes (wipes can be used on adults as well and on the whole body) maxi pads, tampons, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bleach, garbage bags even used grocery bags. I was told by a friend that it came to a point where they used the plastic bags to place over the toilet bowl, as a not so portable toilet. They would relieve themselves, tied up the bag and threw it in the trash can outside. This is actually done in the slums of Africa and India, but the trash can is the small canal which drains into their water reserve. My friend told me they chose this method because there was no other option to flush the toilets. Their house was Uptown in a part of New Orleans that wasn’t hit as bad as others. The house had roof damage, caused by a fallen tree and no water at all, but he mentioned, they walked 6 blocks and couldn’t believe his eyes, he described it as the parting of the “Red Sea.” But the area of town they lived in, as well as he was the primary caretaker of two with disabilities and help, they had no choice, but to stay put, thinking someone would come to rescue them. He thought of the trash bag idea because they were running out of water and cleaning supplies. This helped keep the bathroom free of smell, germs, and insects. By day 3 they had no choice, but to make way to the Superdome to receive medical assistance for his two family members.

*If possible you can place a roll of tissue, baby wipes, and other items inside of a mop bucket which can be used as a portable toilet, Make sure to line it with the trash bags before use as well.

10. TOOLS: Every house and automobile, regardless of the lack of a male residing in it needs some basic tools and one should know how to properly use them. A hammer can be used for a variety of reasons in an emergency. We heard many Katrina survivors stories of hammering their way through the attic ceiling to get unto the roof.

A hammer can be used to board up your windows with plywood. Scissors, a sharp knife or anything that you can use to cut objects such as plastic sheeting to cover openings. A wide tip permanent maker, neon or black spray paint, duck tape, rope, heavy-duty orange extension cord are great things to have as part of your kit too. A wrench or pliers may be needed to ensure that the utilities are properly cut off… We heard of the young man who let’s say “borrowed” the school bus to help people vacant the city. You may have to break into your own car if by chance you lose your keys trying to get out of danger. My next suggestion is not necessarily a tool, but a white sheet can be used for many purposes. If you can recall someone used white sheets and flags to signal for help. You can also cut a piece and put on your car antenna as an indicator for help. A blanket, umbrella, and tent are great especially when the need for rest comes. It’s wise to have a basic face mask to help with breathing in contaminated air, such as black mold or any foreign substances that the wind may blow in.

11. SAFETY: With each topic, I find myself thinking “we should already have this in place” and wondering if it needs to be stated… I know the mere thought of the need to protect, defend, fight for your life and loved ones can invoke fear, worry, depression and so on, but it’s the reality of the world we live in. We have to have a “Safety Plan” in effect beyond the fire drills we learned in school. During a storm we need to educate our entire households, including the babies, a psychically and/or mentally family member, our elderly family members, even if dementia has set in and even our pets. We have to be vocal and stern about what is expected of the entire family even if we do not think they understand. We can not depend on 911, yes we are to educate and call, but there are times when the police, fireman and/or ambulance will not be able to make it, we have to be our own Saviors. Make sure everyone knows whose “their responsibility” where to meet up if someone gets lost if a plan is written out let everyone know the location of it and so on.

It’s imperative that you know where the nearest shelter is just in case you can not get out in time. Also, educate your family about the safest places to be in the house if you’re faced with not being able to leave your home at all. The best place to be during a hurricane, high wind storm is a windowless, small room or closet in the lowest area of the house that’s not prone to flooding. If you live low and have to deal with flooding, I would retreat to a room that’s away from the doors, which is where the water enters 1st. Back in the day, we were taught to get in the bathtub, now it’s like Google never heard of it, but I’ll search a bit more. It had me reminiscing over the “Stop, Drop and Roll” technique if one was to get caught on fire and now from the videos I have seen people are running around causing greater injury to themselves… See, some old school stuff needs to be taught to these millennial…

Most of the time when we think of “Protecting and Defending” ourselves we think only of human beings when most of the time they aren’t out to hurt us. Let me tell you a rat will fight you trying to survive just like you. A rat, not a mouse, but those big ole things you see walking in the French Quarter’s like tourist are not afraid of you, especially when food sparse. A rat will call his krewe and eat you for lunch. We sometimes want to help that stray, unaware if he is rabid and the next thing we know we are on top of a car screaming “Go Away Dog!” During a date, we went fishing, I learned that Bambi may be spotted, but the wild hogs will chase you down if you set an inch on their turf. So, when you think of protecting yourself, know we share our world with wild animals, who respond in fear, fighting for survival just like us.

12. SAFETY INDOORS: I live in the upper apartment on a triplex shotgun house. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, it was a duplex, but the owner turned the lower portion which was garage or storage, but most of it was the foundation of the house. I guess the architect thought it would be a great idea to lift the houses back in the day to avoid flooding. Now the apartment downstairs floods with each heavy rainfall..

Most shotgun homes do not have closets, but thanks to Hurricane Katrina that was one of few upgrades to the house, mines is not fancy like the others in the area, but I’m thankful, because it’s still owned by family and unlike the “carpetbaggers” who came moved here and received a great “Welcome to New Orleans” new homeowners package given only to the wealthy. They were given incentives and perks for moving in the area such as flood insurance. Wealthy people who relocate here are given the key to the city and the people who make New Orleans what it has been allocated the lowest of the low basic funds, which were to be used to renovate these heavily destroyed homes….

 

With that being said I have small closet spaces about 4ft wide and 7ft tall, just enough space for two of us to hide in. Now I’m wondering if my bathroom closet would be a better location, plus at least one more person can fit??? My bathroom does not share a wall with the window, its wall is shared with the middle bedroom wall, which can be a way to avoid the heavy winds that may break the window that’s located about 5ft from my bedroom closet… The hallway would be a great place too because it’s away from the windows if only it wasn’t a shotgun house, because of the front and back doors, the wind would blow us out either one…

If I could have my way, I would have kids as young as 5 years old educated on Basic Life Skills beyond calling 911. I was actually in the beginning stages of planning a “Family Safety Event” at St.Roch Park prior to school starting, but my family had its own tragedy in Minnesota which resulted in the murder of my cousin and the brutal assault of my daughter. I’m proud to say that my daughter is alive today because I wasn’t afraid to educate her on the evils that lurk behind friendly faces. It pains me that she went through the hell-like trauma, but as she states, “she had to survive to make sure that the other children in the house would survive as well,” and she did save two precious lives, by using her safety skills.

Speaking of teaching her about being safe, I not only gave her mace to keep with her, because she rode the city bus in New Orleans, but I educated her on the proper use and how to evaluate the need to use it. One doesn’t give an emotional teen mace without thoroughly educating them and accessing their behavior patterns. All it would take is for some raging hormonal heart-broken teen girl to be approached by the Newbie… Lort, in New Orleans these little girls go too hard for love. I’m trying my best to educate, be an ear and share my boy experience in an effort to assist all my girls, not just my own girls I’m related too.

My loved one whom I recently lost gave me a set of steel bats, a standard baseball bat, and a miniature bat as house-warming gifts when I moved back home to New Orleans. I was told to keep the regular size one by my front door, keep the miniature one under the driver side seat at all times. As well, if the need came to evacuate due to an emergency, I was to bring both with me. She went as far as to give me a story to tell the police, had my car was searched because the possession of a steel bat in some states is illegal, but mines are very valuable family heirlooms.

Personally, I do not like guns, not even toy guns, because of the 1st murder victim, my brother was killed by guns, they shot my car up killing him over a parking space. I saw the pictures of my bullet-riddled car on the news, weeks after his murder I was told I could pick it up, I never did. The 2nd murder victim in my family, my cousin, a male who never touched a gun in his life was killed by gun violence for no reason, after getting off after working a 16hr shift, left me feeling scared and intimated. I remember thinking there are people out there with guns killing off my family and we were raised to stay away from them. Still not a fan, I didn’t want one in my view either, but I felt the males in my family needed to learn about gun safety and shooting. I gifted my younger brother, nephew and son with a gun permit and safety class gift certificates. I am a believer in protecting yourself, especially if evil seeks to hurt you. But before you go buy a gun please take a gun safety class.

During Katrina the media and police reported “gangs of black men” armed with weapons, but never showing a picture or evidence of these gun-toting thugs. However, in *2016 seven New Orleans police officers plead guilty to shooting civilians, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and civil right charges. Therefore, we need not to REACT in fear, REACT off prejudice, just do not REACT at all. How about ACCESSING and RESPONDING, we need to use wise and logical judgement, before we REACT. We may not be “defending” ourselves, but we very well may be REACTING out of stress, anger and everything outside of being responsible. When that happens we are engaging in criminal behavior and in the end we be sitting behind the bars in need of a defense attorney.

Once again have a safety plan in place, educate yourself and family on that plan. If you choose to implement a weapon as part of safety plan, please choose wisely, especially if it’s a gun. Improper storage, lack of education on gun safety, no shooting practice and REACTING instead of RESPONDING will lead to deadly irresponsible and irreversible consequences for you and your family.

13. TRAVEL: Once a mandatory evacuation has been given, the streets, the roads, highway and freeway will be heavily packed with traffic, thousands, maybe millions of people are going in the same direction in effort to survive. Emotions will be high, imbalanced and all people are actually concerned about is getting to a safe destination. Please, please be patient and respectful of the rules of the road, do not cut and dodge in and out of traffic, you will not get anywhere faster, but you may end up in an accident and road rage violence. Who needs to add all that madness at a time when we all are trying to survive.?

Make sure to fill up prior to the order being stated, just as with the roads, the gas stations will be packed, may run out of gas or be closed. As long as I can remember, even as far back to my childhood, my family “Road Trip Rules” were:

  1. #1 Always have an extra driver,
  2. #2 Fill up once you drive out a half tank of gas and
  3. #3 Never get off on an exit if you do not see the gas station from the highway no matter what the sign says.
  4. #4 Keep a map in the car no matter if you have the fancy GPS gizmo; you may lose a connection, phone might die, you may have car troubles and can not charge it in the car. Going back to the good ole days of mapping it out is not a bad thing .

Carpooling is a great option, especially if you do not own a car, if it’s possible this can be part of your safety plan. It was a blessing that some people where able to walk up on someone with extra space, but so many where not as lucky. It’s imperative that you speak with someone months prior to hurricane season about riding with them. You may be asked to assist with driving and a contribution to gas. Even though it’s an emergency, some may not feel comfortable with riding with a stranger, no matter how dire the need. Giving a stranger, even if you live on the same block and know nothing of this neighbor, he or she is still a stranger and allowing this person to be in your personal space with your loved ones may not be wise or safe. That’s why it’s important to know your neighbors, no matter where you live.

I have spoken about the lack of non New Orleanians not speaking, which is a big part of New Orleans culture and most will state they moved here, because they “love the culture aka the people,” I really need y’all to behave as such. You may be that neighbor who needs help, but no one in the neighborhood knows squat about you except that you are a “transplant” and you can’t get mad, sad and pissed, because we feel that way, you’re the one making it as such. We are a cultural of people who love to live as a village, black or white we want to feel like a family unit. Get to know your neighbors before the hurricane, well any emergency hits the city. Neighborhood associations should have meetings about what we should do as a neighborhood if we are hot by a hurricane, go to those meetings. If there’s nothing on “Hurricane preparedness” hey lets put it on the list. Last, but not least, trade information, it doesn’t have to be your phone number, but at least exchange names, “Hey, I’m Nola in the white house with green trim, I’m part of a New Orleans Neighborhood Facebook Group Page, you should join too.” That would be a great way of at least knowing who is who and at least in the internet world you can get to know your neighbors.

As you have seen on social media and the news there are some people who have canoes and floated their way out of the city. You can’t bring anything with you, but you can get out once the storm has passed without much of a risk of injury. If ya can’t afford a canoe, you may have transportation you’re laying on at this very moment. I was shocked when I saw the man floating around on an air mattress last year when it flooded due to Sewage and Water Board pump failure.. I couldn’t believe it, I had so many emotions going on as I saw him floated by. I was impressed, proud and happy to see his survival hack, but the reason for him needing to use his quick wit and survival instincts made me sad. He had to have endured Katrina and decided to come back home, because he loves New Orleans that he was willing to risk it all again, but this time would be different, he would be prepared and he was.. . I was so stunned I did not get a picture, but someone else did and I’ll share it will y’all. At this very moment I have 3 twin size air mattresses and a tent that I brought for a back yard camping trip that never happened. Instead of bringing them back to get a refund or give them away, I decided to store them away, because of whom I named the funny NOLA survival genius. He had this playful yet serious look on his face as he waved to my kids as he floated by.. Yall, know they begged me to blow up an air mattress, but once I spotted that rat in the water, I was done with Swamp Water Play…

I highly doubt that I will ever wait until the water rises as high as it did last year, nearly 3 feet. The mental anguish and fear that I masked rom the kids who were so worried our house would float away, was a bit too much for me and then to add my son called me and was so worried. I promised him, if we’re told to evacuate I would do just that. Even though social media saw us make lemonade out of that scary situation, by playing and singing in the rain, chasing turned over trash cans, toys that were left outside and cheering for all the neighbors who helped push an elderly lady’s car to the neutral ground, I can honestly say that was enough to trigger anyone with Katrina PTSD. I didn’t suffer through Hurricane Katrina, but the news coverage and living with Hurricane Katrina Survivors, that lil 3 feet of water affected me.. The kids were able to calm down and have some fun that rainy day, but they still worry regardless to what time of year it is.. My daughter told me “April showers does not bring May flowers, April showers means no power, flooding and hoping we don’t float away.” Hearing her say that hurt my heart. If it wasn’t for the infrastructure by Sewage and Water Board my kids would be fine with the rain, but now it’s rain is a constant reminder that flooding is next.

Before I end I would like to stress once again,to leave if it’s mandatory for your area, sometimes leaving just may mean going local FEMA approved safe shelter in the city. I know it’s hard going somewhere, not knowing who these people are including the staff, needing to be roommates with hundred of strangers, trying to sleep amongst these people on a cot or chair, being surrounded by armed guards, the uncertainty of what will happen next and etc can cause anxiety.

I feel a panic attack coming on right now thinking that it may be my fate one day, because financial difficulties come at the worse of times. If you’re unable to afford to evacuate; I would like for you to choose your life and I will do the same. If you’re worried about your pets I was told that there are safe shelters that allow you to have your pet with. I’ll try my best to find that link. If you can try not to worry too much, put your focus on being prepared.

My Daddy told me at 17 years old, “Look, Deatra you are not to live in a constant state of emergency” I just wanted some money and new clothes, that right there went over my head and finally resonated with me in my late 30s. Let’s not live in a state of emergency after today, let get to planning and saving for those rainy days too. I know I’m quick to go shopping and go on vacation, but right now I’m committed to being responsible and learning from not only my experiences, but as I tell my girls “watch me, hear me and learn from me, be better than me.” I have been watching some wonderful women over the years and even now. I desire to fulfill the legacy my Momo started. I’m learning and listening to all of the fabulous women in my life. I’m hoping that by reading my writings that you can not only learn about New Orleans, but what it takes to survive the Hurricane named LIFE. You all inspire me to be greater, to not only tell you all what’s hot and popping in New Orleans, but y’all give me the platform to tell my real-life NOLA Life story or as my BFF refers to my world as “Surviving the Life of a NOLA Chic. One thing I know for sure we all are guarantee a life storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and earth quakes that will split us off, leaving us crushed, bleeding and broken in the organ that keeps us alive and some believe it’s the place when love lives, the heart.

We all should be able to relate to survivors of tragedies. We all should look at the lives that were forever changes all over the world be Mother Nature. If you can look at these people with your heart, then maybe you will understand why I’m so vocal about saving New Orleans culture. We are all sorta like anthropologist who stumbles upon a native tribe in the middle of nowhere, hidden from the world. We are allowed to stay, they roll out the red carpet and expose us to their culture, their lives, their world. We are forever changed and have fallen in love with people, their land and culture and we have never met. This person and their experience has become a part of our lives, our world and there’s no way we can go back to his home, go back to work and write a thesis without any feelings are regard for what the person we have encounter has exposed us to. New Orleans, the people of New Orleans are the culture. The people are responsible for that heavy lovey dovy intoxicating feeling you are experiencing.

New Orleans, NOLA as I call my city, stretches her arms out, wiggles her inviting fingers, pulling you into her bosom, she quiets everything and everyone so you can hear her heartbeat, feel her breathing rhythm until your body is in sync with her every part of her soul. It’s then and only then that she feels she can trust you with her secret treasures, placing all trust in you to do all you can to protect it from the thieves that roam the city. NOLA expects her heirs to protect her legacy. She trust that no matter the storm, no matter the enemy we the people will do all we can to protect Her treasures.

We can start by fighting for the culture aka the people, the ones whose lives were lost and forever changed not just from Hurricane Katrina, but from the thieves in greasy palms, fancy expensive suits and heels, the people hiding behind masks and the storms of the past and the storms to come.

NOLA is alive and we are proof that we can survive, but we have to look these evils in the eye and tell them “We have a problem with how you’re treating New Orleans. We have a problem that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and left to die.” Year after year we suffer the injustices that are the direct result of the government, who’s only cares are to line their pockets and pocketbooks. The aftermath of the lack of ACTION by those in power is why so much is being lost and destroyed. Gentrification is not a Hurricane Katrina issue, I didn’t know Mother Nature sat at the head on the private sessions. We will continue to have the list, along with the stories of those who went through. We will continue to have problems, because the emotional pain and economical hardship of the LIFE SURVIVORS of NOLA are continued to be handled with a long spoon placed in the hands of unconcerned politicians. I have to admit that I see that our new Mayor Cantrell has picked up a different spoon, but she’s in the kitchen stirring the pot.

The truth is the TIPS on How To Survive in New Orleans, no matter the Hurricane or Storm that will save your LIFE will not come from FEMA, Red Cross, The Governor, but from the REAL CULTURAL AMBASSADORS who actual survived one of the worst natural disasters in the United States. New Orleanians not only survived Hurricane Katrina, but the People of New Orleans survived and will continue to survive the political corruption that comes with life in the NOLA.

“The city that care forgot.” I know New Orleans, NOLA not only cares about NOLA, but loves New Orleans, because the People of New Orleans are New Orleans. I’ll say this and let y’all go, if you really want to LIVE, you really want to ENJOY LIFE in New Orleans you must develop a relationship with the LOCALS.

If you need Tips on Hurricane preparedness, Tips on Real Life in New Orleans beyond the French Quarter ask the NOLA and you can not find her in Google Only a New Orleanian can look past the neglect of the Government and continue to have a loving relationship with the city. This is the easy part “Preparing,” but seriously once you see the water rising is when it’s time to “Boot Up or Shut Up.” Do not let the media distract you with the crime in a city that’s nowhere near the census stats Pre hurricane Katrina. I’m asking the People of NOLA and the world to watch how the government RESPONDS to the People of NOLA.

To all who endured, suffered, lives forever changed and lost their lives to any disaster, please know my heart goes out to you. Thank you for showing the world that in spite of the blows from Mother Nature, the blind eyes and turned heads of people in power, I’m honored and inspired through your lives. As each day turns to-night, I’m praying for healing and restoration. And I know first hand from the loss of my loved one and those who survived the effects of Hurricane Katrina there’s no amount of money that will ever help you recover the emotional, physical and spiritual loss, but I personally feel more should have and should be done. I believe that you all are OWED more than what FEMA and Road Home threw at you, like a cheap pair of beads and then stole it away…

Let me fix that, no the surviving victims of Hurricane Katrina aren’t OWED anything, they are DESERVING of reaping the harvest to which they work hard day in and out to make this city a place everyone want to visit and live. Millions of dollars, maybe even billions that come into the city, because of the booming tourism. I earnestly feel the People of New Orleans, especially hurricane Katrina survivors deserve a piece or shall I say boucoup bengeits, pralines, poboys, daiquiri, basically part of all the monies and stocks that has grown since gentrification..

WE ARE NEW ORLEANS, please do not forget about the PEOPLE!

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