First order of business: the photos from the trip are here.
Friday, we flew most of the day. It sucked, because I hate to fly and I developed a bad case of motion sickness. Yuck. That night, we went to a family gathering at my aunt and uncle’s hotel suite. This particular aunt and uncle (Pam and Mark) are the parents of the groom (Kevin) whose wedding we were all there to attend. It was nice and low-key, just family, lots of catching up and all that good stuff.
Saturday, we got up relatively early and went out sightseeing with a different aunt and uncle (Susie & Stanton, my cousin Cat’s parents) (aside: Hi, Susie!). We drove around to some of the more devastated areas – the lower 9th ward, St. Bernard parish, etc. We saw Mark and Pam’s house in St. Bernard parish, totally destroyed. We went in and took pictures, and it didn’t occur to me until later that it might not have been the best idea for someone who’s allergic to mold (such as myself) to go in there.
We drove around a bit longer after that, and I was ok with seeing all of this devastation until we passed City Park, and I saw that the little toy train ride was gone. I know they’ll rebuild it, I just had this idea in my head of someday taking my kids on the little train ride that I had ridden when I was a kid, and I started to cry.
Right after that, we went to my grandmother’s old house, and I lost it. That house wasn’t even the one that I generally associate with my grandparents, because my grandmother moved there when I was probably about 10 or 12 years old (after my grandfather was already in a nursing home), and it’s not the one that I associate with my childhood as much. But something about it got to me – it was such a cute little neighborhood, and it was just completely in ruins. I couldn’t even get out of the car for a good 5 minutes because I was crying too hard.
Everyone else went inside to see it – seems weird, sort of like trespassing, but the house was totally abandoned, so I guess there’s no harm in looking around. Dave sat with me in the car while I cried. It occurred to me that although it was probably fine if I didn’t want to go in, this was almost definitely my last chance to ever see the inside of my grandmother’s house. So we went in. The people who bought it after her had remodeled it, and you could tell that it was beautiful. They had added a den and bathroom onto her kitchen, where she used to just have a little carport. And… it’s all gone. I mean, it’s there, but destroyed. My sister took photos, but I couldn’t.
Also, I don’t know if everyone has seen pictures of the post-Katrina houses with big X’s spray-painted on them? In the top part of the X is the date that the house was inspected, to the left is the code of the crew who inspected it, something else on the right (can’t remember what) and underneath the X is the number of bodies found in the house. Most of the houses that we saw were zero’s, but we saw the occasional 1 and 2 here and there. The one that would have killed me if I hadn’t already cried my eyes out was one of the last houses we saw, which had a “1 dog DOA” spray-painted on it.
Is it weird that I’m more affected by the animals than the humans? I guess I just tend to think that the humans have more options for escape available to them. They can open doors that allow them to run away, that kind of thing. That’s not always the case, of course, like with the nursing home in St. Bernard that wasn’t evacuated. But for the most part, I tend to cry more for the cats and dogs who were trapped in their houses than the owners who were too stubborn to leave. (Yes, I know a lot of them were poor and didn’t have options. I’m just talking in generalizations.) And this was in a relatively nice neighborhood, so my assumption is that the owners evacuated and left the dog alone in the house, figuring they’d be back in a day or two and the dog would be fine. If something like that ever happened to one of our cats, I’m not sure I’d ever forgive myself.
After emotionally exhausting ourselves, we had lunch and went back to the hotel to take naps and get all fancied up for the big wedding. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful, in this really huge old church that somehow survived the hurricane. My mom didn’t bother to mention until after the wedding that it was the same church where my grandparents got married. I wish I had known that in advance, because it’s a pretty cool part of my history. I also wish that I had taken pictures of the church, but sadly, I had left my camera in the car.
The reception was a lot of fun too. Very loud and boisterous. And man, if you get either my father or Dave around an open bar, you are in for one hell of an entertaining night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either one of them dance as much as they did that night. It was a riot.
Sunday, my folks and my brother dropped Dave and I off at the airport along with my sister (who was flying out around 10 minutes before us). We ate brunch there and headed in our different directions. I had motion sickness again, all the way home, which sucked. But when we landed in Seattle and it was only 70 degrees? Both Dave and I nearly kissed the ground the minute we stepped outside. Seriously, this trip was emotional and wonderful and a lot of other things, but it was also a great reminder of why I try to avoid the south during the summer months.