Catastrophe, Survival, and Recovery:
Stories from the Storms
"Perhaps catastrophe is the natural human environment, and even though we spend a good deal of energy trying to get away from it, we are programmed for survival amid catastrophe."
(photo of Shelia Dixon by Matt Rourke,
"I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain."
Share Your Story
Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are the greatest national disasters that Americans have yet faced. In these historic days of catastrophe and challenge, all of us feel the pain of those who have lost loved ones, homes, workplaces—all the familiar faces and places that we call "home." For many, these hurricanes awakened memories of other disasters, other fears and losses. Whether we experienced this natural disaster personally or through families and friends or witnessed it through the national media, we all ache for what is lost. While we are hurting, we all seek ways to cope, ways to heal. Many have opened their homes to evacuees, many have given money or time or physical labor. But many others feel helpless, not sure what we can do to help others heal, or to heal our own aching hearts.
Sharing Stories of Catastrophe, Survival, and Recovery
But there is a way. We can record and share our experiences through words. We can write our stories of this event: stories about what we experienced and witnessed, either on the scene or on television; stories about how we felt, either during the hurricane or as the long days unfolded; stories that honor the courage and endurance of survivors, the faith and determination of those who are recovering. As we search for words, we will understand more about the experience and how this experience has changed us. As we write our feelings, they will become less confused and more accessible. The profound pain we feel may not be immediately lessened, but expression gives voice to our grief, and our stories help us to heal.
Sharing our stories can also be a means of healing. Grief and loss may isolate us, and anger may alienate us. Shared with others, these emotions can be powerfully uniting, as we see that we are not alone, and realize that others weep with us—realize, too, that others admire the courage and fortitude of those who have survived and share their faith in a brighter tomorrow. When grief, pain, and loss are shared, the anguish is somehow diminished. When faith, fortitude, and determination are shared, they are magnified, and healing becomes more powerful. We invite you to share your stories, and to lend your voice to the chorus of those who have survived, who are healing, and who are recovering.
Some Ways You Can Use Writing to Heal
- Write down precisely what happened to you and/or to those you love, recording the events as accurately and in as much specific, concrete detail as possible. What happened before the storm struck, while it was going on, afterward? Where were you? Who was with you? What did you see, hear, experience?
- Write down how you feel about what happened. Name each emotion you feel and describe it as clearly as you can.
- This experience may remind you of another painful experience in your past. Write about it as well. What are the connections between these experiences? How are the feelings similar?
- Write every day, for 10-15 minutes. Write, even if it feels to you that you are repeating yourself, and saying the same words over and over. Trust yourself.you'll know when to stop. Many of the feelings you record will be dark or negative. Try to recognize those dark feelings, and include at least one positive feeling in each of your daily writings. Grief and loss are painful teachers, but their lessons are powerful, too.
- If you have young children, ask them to write their stories about the hurricane. If they're too young to write, ask them to tell their stories as you write them down. These can become precious family possessions.
An Invitation to Share
We invite you to share your experience of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, whether you are an evacuee, a volunteer, or a witness via the national media. You may send your stories via the online form below.
We can publish stories up to 1000 words, each on its own separate page (see below). Please include your name and location. Give your story a title that we can use as a link to your writing. When your story has been posted, we will send you the location of the page so that you can ask family and friends to read it, if you wish.
We welcome stories from women and men, children and adults. Copyright remains with the story's author. However, we reserve the right to edit contributions for clarity and brevity, and we cannot accept any writing that is primarily a partisan political statement. By sending us your story, you agree to these terms.
SCN does not endorse the content of these stories...
- Shelia Dixon & Emily Lucien, New Orleans LA: Thanks for your support
- Ed Morse, Ohio: Pictures, Photos, and Images
- Becky Szymcik, Westborough, MA: A FEMA Worker Story
- Becky Szymcik, Westborough, MA: A FEMA Worker Story
- Mary Moss, Richmond VA: The Earth Stopped Spinning—Katrina Aftermath
- JoAnne Harwell, Willis TX: My Katrina Story
- Laylee Muslovski, Orange TX: Running from Rita
- Betty Jean Harmsen, Omaha NE: Foam Visors, Alphabet Beads and Scary Things
- Kendria and Warrren Jones, Spring TX, via New Orleans: The Ones That Didn't Get Away!
- Emily Rosen, Boca Raton FL: Katrina: The Disconnect
- Lavon Urbonas, CA: Hurricane Haiku
- Darby Beattie, New Orleans: Memories of Katrina; Memories of Katrina; Katrina Anniversary
- Shawn Alladio, New Orleans - Orleans Parish 9th Ward: Underwater City: The Big Easy Becomes Difficult
- Stephanie Barko, Austin TX: Katrina Aftermath
- Ann Cabot, Austin TX: The Meaning of Leaving Home for Some Evacuees
- Joyce Boatright, Houston TX: Rita Rips By
- Alene Dunn, Jasper TX: An Angry Woman Named Rita
- Lee Ambrose, Naples FL: Doing Time in Hurricane Alley
About the Story Circle Network
We are a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping women tell the stories of their lives. For more about us, or to join (women only, please), go here: www.storycircle.org.
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