A story of survival and revival

From Nola

This grocery store JUST opened in Gentilly, finally giving the residents access to a local food market, nearly 4 years after the flood. Residents there called it a HUGE step forward

***The following story is from an individual I spent a lot of time with in New Orleans. He is a humble dude, and I'm sensitive not to be exploitative in telling stories about Hurricane Katrina, so we worked together to create an annonymous version so that you can be inspired and he can maintain his privacy.

In my 36 hours or so in New Orleans, I got to see a LOT of the city, and not once did my feet touch Bourbon Street. My main tour guide (We'll call him Clark), took me to the authentic and local areas instead, and I was glad that he did.

Clark & I spent a good amount of time together and (I think anyway) started a friendship (he's stayin' at my place if he visits Boston this summer). Clark's story of survival in the face of adversity will give me strength for the rest of my life, and while there's no way I can capture the experience here, I've asked for his permission to share it so that it might give you strength as well.

When Katrina came, Clark stayed. Unlike many of the residents of New Orleans, who did not have the resources to evacuate the terrible storm, Clark could have left, but chose to stay.  He harbored a distrust of the news media and felt they were yet again fabricating, or blowing out of porportion, the story of the coming storm.  Each time there was a storm, the media would call it "the big one", creating a "boy who cried wolf" scenario with Katrina....at least for Clark.

So while his family left, Clark stayed.  After the realization that the water was coming, he got prepared.  He put 20 cans of tuna, a bag of pecans, and an opener in a backpack, grabbed his wallet and went to his roof....in the middle of the storm.  Over the time of about 4 hours, he slowly made his way from roof to roof: sometimes jumping, sometimes walking through water along fences, sometimes hunkering down, using his tuna-filled backpack as a covering for his head, a makeshift helmet.  All through Hurricane force winds and rain.

He finally made it to the only 3 decker house on the block and hunkered down, waiting for the eye to pass, assuming that it was the worst part of the ordeal.  When the storm past hours later there was over ten feet of water as far as his eyes could see. Only the roof tops of many of the houses were still visible.

Eventually, a neighbor with a boat found him and took him to the 2nd floor of a neighborhood school down the road in Gentilly. He spent his next 3 days there, waiting for the next move. On the third day volunteer workers from Houma, a nearby city, using their personal boats assisted in his evacuation. He was dropped off on the I-10 highway with a family he had befriended over these difficult days.

After the chaos that took place on the I-10 and a nice nights rest on the bridge, the officials responsible for taking care of their citizens finally established some sort of plan.   On Thursday, hundreds of buses began pouring into the city.  Considered one of the lucky ones, he was able to get on one of the first buses out of the city and Clark ultimately made it to Houston.  Where, coincedentialy, the rest of his family had relocated because of the storm.

But the REAL strength of this story isn't that he survived. The true strength is that he never forgot where he was from, and was quick to return to New Orleans.  (People 'coming back' to the city of New Orleans was a recurring theme I heard and experienced while in town

He's currently seeking a double degree (law & urban planning) and is an intern for a local non-profit that supports the Local Independent community in New Orleans. And how did he get that job? He found THEM and asked how he could get involved....because he cares about his community.  And Clark knew that working to support the Local Independent community would help it heal and rebulid faster.  And, if done right, could create an even stronger New Orleans in the future.

Clark - I thank you for your strength, your dedication to your community and your hospitality. I will keep your experiences in my heart for as long as it beats...and when I wonder if I have the strength to do something, I'll think of you.


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