Thirteen years ago, Kyle and I were living in New Orleans. Technically, Metairie. And technically, as we were just days away from our marriage, he was living with his aunt in Luling, and I was living in our to-be-shared 500-square-foot apartment in Metairie, which is right outside New Orleans.
Thirteen years ago, two days from now, we watched as Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and wrecked our plans for our life.
We had planned to attend the seminary in New Orleans. Kyle had a part-time job as an assistant football coach at a high school and I was a barista at a Starbucks. We were apparently going to pay our bills on sunshine and dreams. Because we were young, in love, and filled with optimism.
Then Katrina came, six days before our wedding.
We still got married. The cross necklace, a gift from Kyle I planned to wear on our wedding day, was buried under at least six feet of water. I borrowed my aunt’s necklace, a diamond solitaire. I borrowed clothes to wear on our honeymoon.
And, six days before our wedding, we were scrambling – scrambling to find a home, jobs, and a new plan – a God-given one.
Because we moved to New Orleans without praying for guidance. It sounded pretty awesome to us, and we went for it. We moved down there in August 2005 and we moved back up to north Louisiana a month later.
When Katrina struck, we prayed – we sought wisdom and insight. We asked for mercy, not only for us but for all those in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Because we were safe. We were together. But not all families had that luxury.
Our Katrina story is actually a happy one. With God’s provision and the support of dear friends, within that week, both of us were employed – and jobs using our college degrees as well. We found an apartment within our first month of marriage. I was able to start a master’s degree that fall, and the only thing we actually lost in the hurricane was a cheap entertainment center and the food from our fridge.
We were lucky. So lucky.
Very few individuals had the same story we did. Our story could have gone a complete different way. We could have fought our way back to New Orleans and stayed. Many people did – and many people needed to. Because that was their story.
But it wasn’t ours.
Our story was to come back up to Ruston, where we made a home. Where we are raising our daughters. Where we plugged into a church home.
I will always have a soft spot for New Orleans. I will always feel like it’s a second home to me, because, for a very brief spell, it was. When I cross Lake Pontchartrain, I feel energized. I feel like I have arrived somewhere beautiful, because it is.
We are embarking on the 13th anniversary of Katrina, and while the date always reminds me of the hurricane, it also reminds me of the beauty of south Louisiana. The people, the food, the culture. There’s something special about Magazine Street, about Jackson Square, about Metairie and Kenner and the surrounding areas. There’s something about it that always calls to me.
We remember Katrina – but we also remember that New Orleans survived. It rose. It thrived.
And it always will.