FROM READERS: Images of Katrina make threats of Isaac more ominous

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | 11:53 p.m. CDT; updated 2:07 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Eliot Thomas is an MU graduate and Missouri native who is now studying law at Tulane University in New Orleans.

As I write, I’m watching the TV display a terrifying green and orange graphic swirl in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Isaac is headed right for my home of New Orleans. I’m watching from six hours away in Houston, Texas, after having decided to evacuate Louisiana (when CNN sends in Anderson Cooper, you know it’s time to go). I can’t shake images of Katrina from seven years ago.

When Katrina hit in 2005, I was still living in Missouri.  From afar I watched coverage of storm waters invade New Orleans. We all remember those images of people who didn’t have the resources to evacuate, some standing on their roof, waving desperately for help. It’s one thing to see images on TV, but it’s another thing to see the long-lasting effects in person. I moved to New Orleans from Columbia just over a year ago to start law school. Driving around the city, you can still see the spray paint code on storm-ravaged homes, indicating whether or not bodies were discovered there. 

I’ve talked to countless people who each have their own “Katrina story.”  I can’t possibly do justice to them here, but if you ever have an opportunity to hear one first-hand, sit down and listen. Your life will be thrown into perspective faster than you knew possible.

So it becomes even more ominous that Isaac is invading New Orleans seven years to the day after Katrina began its devastation. The tension the storm brings is apparent.  Several days before the storm’s scheduled landfall, the water aisle at grocery stores started drying up. Some people’s priorities were different – alcohol sales have gone up.  I weathered Tropical Storm Lee last fall, but this is my first hurricane since moving South. I considered hunkering down.  But the more I thought about staying, the more I remembered those images from seven years ago. I know Isaac isn’t projected to be as destructive as Katrina was. But do I really want to tempt fate? Not only is Katrina in my mind, but also so are the tornadoes that tore through Joplin and my hometown of Branson.

Watching the storm move into the city makes me relieved I left. But I still sit here fearful. I don’t fear for what I left behind. I fear for my classmates that chose to ride out the storm. I fear for those who wanted to evacuate in the poorer neighborhoods of the city but don’t have the resources to do so. I’ve done a lot of legal work with the low-income and HIV-positive population of the city, and I fear they will not have access to their medication. These natural disasters are more than just bringers of structural damage. They disrupt lives and far too often end them. No one is really sure what Isaac will do. I’m not a praying man, but tonight I pray for my city. I hope Missouri joins me.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor is Joy Mayer.

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