Story Circle Network

Catastrophe, Survival, and Recovery: Stories from the Storms

My Katrina Story
JoAnne Harwell, Willis TX

I picked my mother up at my brother's place in Waxahachie, Texas a few days after Katrina hit. My sister had contacted me since they lost all power, sustained damages to their house, and knowing that Southeast La would never be the same again. You see my sister lives 30 miles from Slidell, La and didn't realize how their lives would change from the impact of Hurricane Katrina. My mom is a cancer patient and had recently been discharged from the hospital before the hurricane hit. Now without no power in the parish meant no chemo for her for awhile, and that's the reason for her flight to Texas. I live near Conroe, Texas, and work at a local hospital here. I knew working their would enable me to get resources for mom.

Mom had lost all her medical supplies, clothing and all her basic needs. The people here in Texas, were glad to lend a helping hand.Many of them broke into tears as well, and many of them embraced her, just to say we feel your pain. The generosity of these people was so amazing. They were not rich or well-to-do, but rather normal, average hard working people—like my family and I before the storm. They probably could not afford to give much, but they took the dollars that they had in their pockets and gave them to her. Mom has been through many a hurricane but Katrina was beyond belief. She was so sad for her place she called home, all that she ever had.

Now after a few weeks with mom replacing things she had lost, along comes news of Hurricane Rita, and heading to Texas was a big concern now. I have gone through emotional swings of fury, frustration, despair, hope, irritation and deep sadness. The shock of Katrina is wearing off, and I have had enough of this, and I just wanted things to return to normal. Mom had been without chemo now for almost 6 weeks., and now is developing a wound to her foot... I knew I had to do something. My husband and I made the choice to get her home... This whole month has been so stressful, yet a race to get mom home would be a difficult task for us to accomplish.

We set out for what would become a grueling 16 hour trip to Louisiana, that had never taken more than 5 to 6 hours.The main freeway heading east out of the city of North Houston could very well have doubled as the world's largest parking lot. We soon found out no one has gas. They're either closed or they're out of gas. So we rode halfway there with our windows rolled down to conserve what we had in our gas tank, on a day that temperatures soared to nearly one hundred degrees. The traffic on many clogged roadways were being clocked not in miles per hour, but hours per mile. We were inching along in many areas. Along the way seeing many people stranded,all around us. A lady a few cars ahead of us suffered a heart attack. Later we would find out people had suffered heat exhaustion, strokes, along with a bus load of senior citizens that burned to death near Dallas. Just a few of many tragedies that happened on our way to getting mom there. I had started asking myself would we ever get there, and would we be safe. People kept cutting in the traffic, some were more than impatient. With God's grace, we found a place near Breaux Bridge, La where we found gas and food and was able to get mom home by one am that morning.

And as you now know Hurricane Rita hit the Southwest side, but Mom was back home and under her Doctor's care once again. Things are getting back to somewhat normalcy there, a long road ahead to rebuild the Southeast side as well as the Southwest side now, but we will be okay. We will take it one day at a time. Rebuilding not only the areas both hurricanes had devastated, also the lives of many who were affected on the coast.

Last updated: 06/05/06