Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Post-Katrina Legacy a-la Amman

Many of you may not be aware that El 3atal, the Beans, and I moved to Jordan from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Baton Rouge is about 60 miles (an hour driving) from New Orleans. Back in August of last year, as I'm certain most of you remember, we had a little drenching called Katrina. Now, fortunately, the 60 miles difference makes an exceptional degree of difference in impact of the storm. The biggest challenges we faced were 4 days with no power in 95 degree (high humidity, no breeze) heat, two small trees felled, and horror stories from friends who lost everything they own. So, I consider us to have escaped fairly unscathed. And yet, did we?

Today, I took the beans to a small nice park that a fellow blogger kindly told me about. It's not our regular park, but we go there whenever we're in a bit of a hurry. It's small and easier to take the beans there when we have less than an hour. It was VERY hot and extremely sunny. As we played, we noticed a plane fly overhead. Then another, then another, then another. We've been to this park several times at the same time of day and this truly seemed extraordinary to me. In fact, my pulse started to race and I started to feel the worry kick in. You know, what's going on? is there an emergency? should I get us home immediately? Or maybe you don't know. I wouldn't have understood pre-Katrina. The part of the post-Katrina experience that I've left out is that, being 60 miles away and fairly untouched by the tragedy, Baton Rouge became the primary staging area for all rescue efforts. We were on the New Orleans side just off the interstate into town. We also lived near the fairgrounds where they staged the volunteers. The fairgrounds turned into a small city with air-conditioned tents (something I had only ever seen before in Kuwait, by the by). It also had a helipad and we had a small airfield not far away. As a result, rescue helicopters took off every hour at a minimum from 6 am until well after sunset for at least 4 months. In addition, large supply planes flew so low over the house that we could read their markings. After the first two weeks, you begin to push all of this out of your consciousness. You stop noticing the chop of the helicopter blades. You only notice the planes when they are so low that you fear for your roof. In short, your life goes on. You say a prayer every time you notice the choppers and then go on. Once the helicopters finally stopped their hourly runs, it took me about a month to notice I hadn't heard one in awhile. And then, after 6 months of no helicopters and planes, I had begun to forget. Until the near-panic set in today as I wondered what the emergency was. My mind immediately ran to whether a serious tragedy had occurred in Iraq after the first three planes. Then, I saw the three fighter planes and immediately felt the need to grab the beans and RUN to the car. I needed to get inside, to get safe.

It was only after we started driving and I saw the vendor selling Jordanian flags that I remembered Independence Day is tomorrow. I suspect (like most countries' Independence Day celebrations) that there will be quite an airshow tomorrow. I'm expecting fireworks and other things as well, although this is my first in Jordan. And, although it made me feel foolish, the experience reminded me that terrible tragedies stay with us for a long, long time. They affect the psyches of even the mosty peripherally involved. And, as I tear up writing this and thinking about Hurricane Katrina and the impact she had on my former home, I send a prayer out to all of those still trying to rebuild their lives. All of those dreading the one-year anniversary and the active reminder of those 1000+ souls lost in New Orleans. My heart and prayers are with you. Take care and God Bless.

Sanity (and Hope).


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