Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy Third Birthday, Katrina! Part 5

Part 1 Part 3

Part 2 Part 4

We arrived at my friend K’s house. They lived in a suburb outside of New Orleans. We got in town too late to go to the house to do our look and leave. Part of me was glad that I had to wait til the next day but a bigger part of me was antsy to get in there and….well, SEE.

After a restless, sleepless night, we got up the next morning.

I asked light of my life if she still wanted to go to the house with us and, bless her heart, she decided she didn’t want to go. After seeing all the piles and piles of debris in the towns we drove through, she got scared and didn’t want to go.

Her being 5 years old and all, I didn’t push it. I praised her for being brave enough to consider it in the first place and I told her I would call as soon as we got to the house to let her know what it looked like.

When we hit the Jefferson Parish/Orleans Parish line, I whipped out my video camera as I knew that it would only be a few minutes before we got to the house.

The streets were bare. We were the only car for MILES. The streetlights were out, there were no cars in the parking lots…not a single human being around.

We passed a National Guard checkpoint about half a mile from our house. A lone Guardsman sat under a flimsy tent and just half-heartedly waved us on. At this point, we were approaching the water treatment plant.

That’s when we started seeing the flood lines.

Those dirty, slimy, stinky, awful, heartbreaking flood lines.

You could see where there was an incline in the roads because the lines started out about 6 inches or so above the ground. They steadily rose the further into town you got. When we got to the house that was on the corner where we turned to get to our house, we could see the line. It was taller than light of my life.

Think about that. It was taller than my child. If she was standing on the ground, the water was OVER HER HEAD!!!

By this time, I can’t see straight anymore. My eyes were so filled with tears, my stomach was in knots, I felt like I had to barf.

I kept the camera on as we turned down my street. The grass in the park was dead from over saturation of water.

So many trees were missing.

There were abandoned cars that either had flood lines on them or no flood lines at all. It took me forever to realize that that meant that the water was OVER THE TOP OF THE CARS at some point.

We get to the cross street about 2 houses from my house. I’m straining to see if we can see the flood lines at our house and how high they might be.

Before I could see anything, we saw our neighbors house on the corner. The pile of Sheetrock and debris and appliances broke my heart. The doors were opened and you could see the gutted interior. He is a state trooper, so he was able to get back to his house before anyone else and could start working on it right away. My heart ached for their loss.

We pulled up in front of our house and we could see the flood line. It was on the second to the last wooden plank. I know that our neighbor had previously come to the house and declared that the houses weren’t breached, but until I could actually see it for myself, I wasn’t convinced.

With trepidation in our hearts, we walked up the front steps to the porch. We decided to go into my half first. We figured it would have the most damage.

Before we opened the door, we pulled our regulation face masks up on our faces. We were anticipating a foul odor from the rotten food in the now defunct refrigerator. We were anticipating mold spores big enough to pluck out of the air.

We got nothing.

That’s right…nothing.

We opened the door and I almost collapsed in relief. It was obvious that water had not entered up through my floorboards and ruined everything I owned.

The house smelled musty. Like it had been shut up for years and years and years without any visitors.

I started laughing in relief. We started running around the house checking on things.

Remember back in part 1 when I mentioned light of my life’s pet fish Freddy who we had to leave behind?

I had been telling light of my life that he was dead. He had gone 30+ days without food and he was just an itty bitty beta fish.

We had already grieved for him and whispered prayers for him in the dark. I explained that when we got back to the house, if possible, we would bury his little fishy body and place a gravestone over his final resting place.

After we got in the house, my mom headed straight for light of my life’s bedroom to check on the damages there and to see what condition his little body was in for burial.

I’m in the kitchen assessing the damages when I heard my mom shout. I ran back to the bedroom and she’s screaming, “He’s alive, he’s alive!” and I’m yelling over and over “You’re shitting me, you’re shitting me!”.

Yep, that little fighter was still alive…barely.

Mom said that when she went into the room, she saw his little body at the bottom of the tank. She just knew in her heart that he was gone. She knew that when fish died, they usually floated belly up on the surface, but it had been so long, she thought that maybe the decomp gasses had already left his body and he sunk back to the bottom.

Just for shits and giggles, she tapped on the glass tank with her flashlight and lo and behold, he swam up to the surface and started swimming all round.

I about near killed him with all the food I tossed into the tank!

I called light of my life immediately and I don't think she understood at first what I was telling her but when it finally clicked, I could hear her crying on the other end. After I got her all calmed down, she started giving me instructions on what to get out of her room that she decided were things she all of a sudden couldn't live without. I complied, because, well...why not? Her fish was alive, our house wasn't ruined, life was good.

Mom and I discussed how this miracle occured and we decided that what saved him was the fact that he was in a 10 gallon tank instead of a bowl and that he had survived by eating his own feces and any algea that had grown on the rocks.

I also discovered that when they tell you that betas get their vibrant coloring from the food they eat, they aren't lying. Freddy, before the storm, was a bright vibrant deep red but by the time we saw him 30+ days later, he was a pale orange and very sickly looking.

I then left him in peace to eat his food while we went to inspect the rest of the house.

To be continued….


16 really cool people who give a rat's patootie:

Ashley. Unscripted...

Hi Mama Dawg! It's RphMommy, back with a new blog. Had to make some changes, but I'm back.

Love your new design too!

Mama Dawg

Thanks! I was wondering what happened to you when I clicked on your link. I'll get it changed.


This is a crazy (good) story. And I'm glad that everyone is safe this time around, too.


Oh, man, I've been reading this with bated breath. I'm so glad your home was ok! What a relief. And those Beta fish, they're tough. Ours go long periods without food (boys forget to feed them) and survive. Although 30 days is a looong time. Impressive.


Oh.My.Goodness. I am so happy that this has a good ending. I know that you aren't through yet, but I'm all teary eyed again thinking about the relief you must have felt when you got home.

Insane Mama

Wow, what a relief. What a freaking fighter fish!

Trooper Thorn

What an amazing small miracle amid a sea of despair. Keep the chapters coming Mama D.


Those flood lines are something. My aunt and uncle live in Missouri - and went through the flooding of the Mississippi back in - when was that? Early 90's? Anyway...I remember you could see those flood lines YEARS later...

You are telling an amazing story!

Middle Aged Woman

Holy Crap, I'm crying FOR you!


Okay, so I'm imagining it must have been like Christmas running in your home and finding it virtually unscathed. But I am crying just hearing about that fish. My son has a betta fish. Those things have a personality. To my son, his fish is a symbol of his responsibility and ownership. To you, that little guy is so much more. Oh, the tears!

Captain Dumbass

"He's alive! He's alive!" That was great.

the sits girls

This story has been amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us. We're so glad you got out safely and your home was saved. Amazing.

Trollpop Janglestein

I must thank you (or Emily, if you be her Mama Dawg) deeply for such flattering words upon the Web Log of Sarah Nielson. Such praise shines brightly amidst the cries of "creep" "stalker", etc, like two brightly colored dogs running, through a sea of greyhounds, south :-).


I'm so happy that your home was not damaged at all..What a miracle that fishy lived..So happy for you all..

Thanks for all the love you've left on my brother's blog as well as mine for our dad. It meant a lot..


sassy stephanie

Guurl, you a Jeff girl? I got peeps all over tha Ridge. Some that moved to the north shore.

BTW...sigh, again.


Did I ever tell you that yours is the firsthand account of Katrina that I've ever read? I mean, of someone that I "know?" Good stuff. Keep going...I'm reading...

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