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It started to rain one Thursday afternoon and didn’t stop at all for two full days. That’s what happened in Louisiana this month. There has been very little national media coverage of The Great Flood of 2016. This news has been spread via social media. Even among those who are aware, many don’t fully understand just how that plays out for the people who experienced this 500 year flood event . Yes, 500 year. That’s how rare and terrible it really was.
People, who left for work one morning, were not able to get home to their families that afternoon. Hundreds were stranded for over 30 hours on I-12 before the LA National Guard could get there to airlift them out.
Thirteen lives were lost in the flood waters. Their families faced with the loss of what is most precious to all of us – a loved one.
The first shelters were provided by a private citizen. Patrick Mulhearn opened Celtic Movie Studios to offer shelter for well over 2000 flood victims in the first few days. Helicopters landing one after another in a grassy area near the studios, discharging people as quickly as possible and lifting off to get more in a matter of a few moments. The call went out over social media and local news for supplies and volunteers – and they came. Churches, private citizens, businesses, and medical professionals made their way to the studios to provide whatever they could.
Hundreds of private boat owners, we call them the Cajun Navy, launched into the flood waters to find and rescue those who were trapped by the waters. They rescued people, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, cattle and more at significant risk to their lives. When people refused to leave their homes, they gave them much needed supplies. Oh, did I mention they accepted no payment. The costs came from their pockets because that’s what neighbors do here.
The waters didn’t discriminate. The poorest of homes to our Governor’s Mansion were flooded. Even the dearly departed were not spared. Caskets were pushed from their resting places and floated far and wide. There are countless photos of caskets tied to trees, phone poles, and mailboxes to try to keep them close to where they belonged. These were collected, prayers were offered and first responders escorted them to local funeral homes until they can be identified and returned to their families.
Roads were closed all over the state and interstate traffic re-routed to the north. Many roads and bridges were destroyed by the flood waters. Even those folks lucky enough to avoid the water, were unable to go very far. Worse, supplies could not get in. Food and fuel ran out pretty quickly. AT&T had a main tower flood and service was lost for their subscribers throughout the area for days. Power failed or had to be turned off – water and electricity don’t play well together. Water supplies were contaminated by flood waters and boil advisories were posted. Most were not prepared for any of this – remember, it started with a summer rainstorm. Not an event that sends people scrambling for emergency supplies.
Thousands of children are still not back in school – there is no school left for them to attend . In my community alone, over 5000 students are displaced. The school board has worked hard to keep the kids and teachers together from each school. When they go back next week, it will be on a split schedule for the high school students. Dutchtown High students will attend from 7-12 and St. Amant High students will attend from 12-5 – all of them sharing the same school campus. Proceeds from the parish-wide jamboree football games will be donated to the St. Amant High Gators to help them rebuild, setting aside long held rivalries.
Estimates are 1 in 4 of those flooded was not covered by flood insurance. How does that happen? Remember, this is a 500 year flood event. Those areas had NEVER even come close to flooding. They were not in flood zones and had no requirements for flood insurance. They are also restricted in aid that can be received from FEMA to approximately $30K total because they did not have flood insurance. Think about how far that money would go if you had to demo and rebuild/refurnish your home or business.
The Baton Rouge Food Bank was one of those organizations located on very high ground that was not high enough. Food supplies were lost along with all their equipment in the flood waters.
So many have asked how they can help. The heavy lifting of rebuilding has begun even as some areas are still flooded. Food and water for those working to clean up in the oppressive LA heat is a big deal. Help to do the work for the elderly and physically challenged who can’t demo and clean up the mess is much needed. All kinds of supplies for cleanup – brooms, mops, rubber gloves, face masks, mold spray and storage containers. Donations to local organizations like the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Baton Rouge Food Bank with a long history of good stewardship of donations for this area will ensure your contribution is used efficiently. What about those schools? Our first lady, Donna Edwards, is partnering with LSBA to help Louisiana’s schools. How about animals? Cara’s House is providing care and shelter to pets and livestock at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center and donations are welcome at the various animal shelters in the flooded parishes. A local vet, Brennan Fitzgerald Lee, is caring for horses injured in the waters at her own expense, she could use some help. There are many organizations working hard to help Louisiana recover, these are just a few I can name quickly. There are countless family GoFundMe accounts and many organizations have Amazon wish lists published.
Louisiana has proven she can rise to the challenge in the past few weeks. We appreciate every offer of help, support and encouragement we receive. But above all, the people of Louisiana are grateful for your prayers.
On a personal note: We were among those few who avoided the flood waters, though it was a close call. My grandchildren have used some of this time off from school to volunteer at the local shelter – getting a valuable life lesson in the process . Unfortunately, my sister-in-law lost her home and it’s contents. That home and her heart were opened to so many over the years when they needed a place to go, including my family. Please say a little prayer for her and her husband as preparations are completed to bulldoze what was left of their home after the flood.
Ten fingers, Ten toes
She’s laughter and teardrops
So small and brand new
And amazingly angelic
She’s sent to bless you
She’s one special Baby
The best of life’s treasure
And will grant and bless you
Many hours of great pleasure.
Today is a special celebration for us as our first grandchild, Maggie, passes a milestone and becomes a teenager. She has had a challenging couple of years, surviving what should have been a fatal head injury just a few days after her eleventh birthday two years ago. If you are unfamiliar, the story is here. There has been a lot of healing for all of us this year, but especially for Maggie. I began speaking on behalf of victim families for a local program called Sudden Impact sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and the LA State Police. Maggie agreed to an interview for the Children’s Hospital magazine as part of a much smaller article on the Sudden Impact program and is featured in the Spring 2012 edition of Wee Believe Magazine. She was then invited to dance at a Children’s Hospital Fundraiser where she met one of our local legends, Coach Les Miles of the LSU Fighting Tigers football team. The two hit it off when she challenged him to a “split off” and she recently met up with him at the season opener radio program. The next thing we knew, she was invited to practice with the LSU Golden Girls (her goal is to make that elite team in college) and the Tiger Band before the Washington game – all this on the weekend of her 13th birthday. They surprised her with a birthday card, signed poster, and a special Golden Girl shirt they had made for her. The Girls then took her over to the Pep Rally at the P-Mac where Mike the Tiger bowed and gave her a kiss on the hand. Her day wasn’t over yet, they surprised her with an invitation to march down the Indian Mound on campus in the pre-game parade to the stadium with them. Can I just say, this little girl was over the moon happy as she shared every second with me late last night. Once again, she was touched by angels – this time wearing purple and gold. I can’t thank Coach Miles, the LSU Golden Girls, the Tiger Band, the LSU Cheerleaders, and Mike enough for giving Maggie the gift of new and happy memories for a time of year that can be challenging. They truly do Love Purple, LIVE Gold!
The ZIA (Zentangle Inspired Art) I have posted today is for another special little girl, the baby of a friend of our youngest daughter and his wife. She got a tough start, but has proven to be a strong little fighter from the beginning and a blessing for her parents and family. I have held back on posting as I wanted her parents to be the first to see it. The piece was framed and delivered to the proud parents today. I love doing these as few decisions get more thought or are more meaningful than choosing the perfect name for a new baby. Best wishes to little Jensen and her very lucky parents.
A few things to know about Louisiana:
- Possums sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air.
- There are 5,000 types of snakes, and 4,998 live in Louisiana.
- There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 live in Louisiana, plus a couple that nobody has seen before.
- Squirrels will eat anything.
- Unknown critters love to dig holes under tomato plants.
- Raccoons will test your crop of melons and let you know when they are ripe.
- If it grows, it sticks; if it crawls, it bites.
- A tractor is NOT an all-terrain vehicle. They do get stuck.
- Onced and Twiced are words.
- It is not a shopping cart, it is a buggy.
- Fire ants consider you their picnic.
- People actually grow and eat okra.
- “Fixinto” is one word.
- There ain’t no such thing as “lunch.” There’s “dinner” and then there’s “supper.”
- Sweet tea is appropriate for all meals, and you start drinking it when you’re two.
- Backwards and forwards” means, “I know everything about you.”
- “Jeet?” is actually a phrase meaning “Did you eat?”
- You don’t have to wear a watch because it doesn’t matter what time it is, you work until you’re done or it’s too dark to see.
For the Diva Challenge this week, Laura Harms asked for representations of the place we live. Gumbo, the swamp and sugar cane all come to mind for my home, south Louisiana. This made my tile pretty easy to accomplish. I also think of the crazy culture down here – maybe it’s the humidity (we blame everything on the humidity.) Take a look at www.spicycajun.com for some more fun stuff about life down here and a few great jokes too.
I have also decided to share my gumbo inspired tangle: Okra. Bon Apetit, y’all!
(Upon being denied a loan from his bank) “That’s it! I’m gonna take everything I owe to another bank! Then they’ll be sorry” David “Possum” Redmond
For some reason my late father-in-law has been on my mind for the past few weeks. To me, he was the epitome of the Cajun people of Louisiana. I never miss the show Swamp People because Troy Landry reminds me of my father-in-law. He loved Louisiana, beer, his wife, automobiles, cards, casinos, Disney World, his dog, good food and his family – not necessarily in that order and subject to change depending on the day. He had a sharp wit that managed to be funny without offending and loved to laugh.
Known to family as “Honey” and friends as “Possum”, David Redmond was from a very tiny town in deepest south Louisiana – Montegut. Most folks down there have nicknames traced to childhood and his was no exception. He was a preemie and so tiny, his dad would put him in his pocket – just like a ‘possum carries its young – thus the nickname “Possum”. “Honey” came from his wife, then all six of his kids and finally their wives and husband began using that nickname. Honey adored kids and often said they would have had twice as many if his wife could have managed it. He often told about trying to find a little “alone” time with his wife after being offshore for a week. With six kids clamoring for daddy’s attention, he would remove one coin from a roll of pennies and toss the remainder into the yard with the instruction to the kids “You can’t come inside till you find all 50 pennies.” As parents, he sometimes drove us all crazy. “Don’t punish them children. I can’t stand it.” To him, there was nothing his grandchildren could do wrong. In short, he was a perfect Peepaw. Though he wasn’t past pulling a fast one on them. For years he collected dimes, telling the kids if they brought him 15 dimes he would give them a dollar. They fell for it every time, even after they learned how to count money. He once taught my niece his version of the Our Father prayer – “Give us this day, our daily beer…” He got in a lot of trouble with my sister-in-law when her daughter said her prayers after a visit with Peepaw.
Not being Cajun or even from Louisiana, my early married years were interesting. My maiden name was Snodgrass, a very uncommon name in southern Louisiana. After the wedding, he told me “About damn time you changed that name.” My “Texas” cooking wasn’t always a hit with my in-laws, though they were amazed when I made mashed potatoes from real potatoes. Red-haired, white as a ghost, shy and a Texan to boot, being dropped into this rowdy gang of anything goes Cajuns was like landing on Mars. My unlikely champion turned out to be Honey. Our first Thanksgiving was apart as my husband was offshore for the holiday. He gave me a song and dance story about his pitiful Thanksgiving with only ham sandwiches to eat. I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Honey saw how upset I was and immediately called my husband to rip him up about teasing me with the final words, “Don’t you ever make her cry again!” and promptly hung up the phone. One of my favorite memories of him. Along with the time he told me I was so skinny I looked like a thermometer.
Honey was a cancer-survivor from a time when that was very rare. He was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the 1960’s – a virtual death sentence back then. He went to MD Anderson in Houston for treatment, losing most of his scalp and lymph nodes in his neck. He got clearance in 1977, the year I joined the family, to discontinue his annual check-ups with them. They considered him cured. He never did, making his annual Houston trip until he suffered a stroke just days before his appointment in 1999. Ever competitive, he “raced” my 7-months pregnant daughter to see who came home first – him or his new great-grandchild, Maggie.
Honey passed in 2003. I have no idea how many people came to pay their respects, but it must have been several hundred. We had to ask that flowers be stopped the day before the funeral, there were just too many for the church and we were hauling them to the house by the pick-up truck loads. It was a wonderful and affirming experience to see that others saw what a special man he was too. I told my husband years ago that I knew what he would be like when he got older, just like his Dad. He replied, “I think that’s pretty damn good.” I was right, and so was he. We miss you Honey.