more hurricane stories about my family

Here’s one of those stories that should be on the news, but probably won’t be. Ok, first we have my cousin, who I’ll call “Mr. Used to be an arrogant jerk in dire need of an ass-kicking, but I hear that becoming a father this year has magically transformed him into a compassionate human being with an actual soul, but I haven’t seen him in 2 years so I’m withholding judgment for now.” Actually, that’s a pretty long nickname, so I think I’ll just call him my cousin. I’m sure that the few family members who read this have NO idea who I’m talking about. (And if certain other relatives read this, I might get in trouble, but you know, calling him an arrogant jerk in dire need of an ass-kicking is nothing that I wouldn’t have called him to his face. So really, no big deal.) Anyway, he’s a doctor now, doing his residency (I think?) in North Carolina. He’s from St. Bernard Parish, one of the outlying areas of New Orleans that has been severely flooded because of the hurricane. He also married a girl from that area, whose father is (go figure) a doctor. (Yes, it’s a theme. Go with it.) So I guess that makes him my cousin-in-law’s father? Anyway, Dr. CILF, as we’ll call him, being a responsible citizen, evacuated his family from the area. A couple of them went to NC to stay with my cousin and his wife, but Dr. CILF had to stay behind because he’s a family doctor in addition to being the St. Bernard Parish coroner. And sadly, in situations like this, there’s usually a high demand for coroners.

So, Dr. CILF was able to talk to his family as the hurricane was passing through – I believe it was on Monday morning – and he told them that the water was coming into the hospital, all the way up to the second floor. Problem: it’s only a two-story hospital. Then they didn’t hear from him for a few days, because communication to and from that area was essentially wiped out. Naturally, his wife (my cousin-in-law’s mother, or Mrs. CILM) was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because she had no idea where her husband was or if he was ok, etc. My cousin and cousin-in-law were both upset and worried as well. Finally, on Friday morning, he was able to get through to them. Apparently, he evacuated the hospital and set up a temporary shop at the parish jail (of all places), and since they had no food or water, the nurses and docs were giving each other IV’s so they wouldn’t dehydrate and pass out. He’s usually a very stoic kind of guy, but apparently he was quite emotional when he finally managed to talk to his family. My cousin, the doctor, asked if he needed some help – probably expecting him to say “oh no, everything’s under control, you just stay put” – and instead, Dr. CILF told him that would be good.

So my cousin, along with one of his fellow doctors from the hospital in North Carolina, loaded up with supplies and prepared to set off to Louisiana, only there’s no easy way to get in or out of the area. So he found a friend who had a small plane, and he flew them from North Carolina to Lafayette, Louisiana. They were told that they couldn’t take a boat into the area, because odds were high that they’d get shot at. My mom used the term pirates, but I think I’d call them boat-jackers. As opposed to car-jackers. I mean, if you don’t have a boat, but you need a boat, and you have a gun and you see someone who has a boat, why not work that to your advantage? Not that I’m advocating that sort of behavior at all, just that I think I understand where the desparation comes from. I’m certainly not saying that the people who do this kind of thing aren’t assholes, because they are. Anyway, they’re stuck with the dilemma of how to get the two traveling doctors out of Lafayette and into the area. So my uncle, who works for an oil company (and let’s face it, their Louisiana branch isn’t doing much of anything these days since all of the offshore oil rigs are shut down) called in a favor and managed to get them a helicopter ride straight into St. Bernard Parish. They arrived safe & sound at the makeshift hospital/former jail yesterday afternoon. No idea of how long they’ll be there, but I imagine that if you’re from that area, and you have the ability to help people, it would make you feel much better to be there and do what you can.

So ok, maybe he’s not such an arrogant jerk in dire need of an ass-kicking. Although I certainly don’t envy his wife, alone in North Carolina with a 6 month-old baby, I still think it’s pretty damn heroic that he’s doing this.

And while I’m bragging on my family: my little brother, who lives in Houston, is planning to volunteer at the Astrodome this week. He doesn’t really have any specialized skills or training for these types of events (much like the rest of us), and he’s broke, so he can’t donate much, but he’s willing to give his time. So he can hand out food and water and whatever else they need down there, and I’m damn proud of him for that, too.