Labor Day, 2008
It’s early morning on Labor Day, 2008, and I have one laptop window open to weather.com, monitoring Gustav, while another is open to my blog… trying to make sense of another hurricane bearing down on Mrs. Float and Mrs. Lachlin in New Orleans.
Gustav is already moving over the Louisiana coast. Nobody wants a repeat of the catastrophe of Labor Day Weekend of 2005. Just like the first time, I find myself glued to the TV—half watching to witness the raw power and fury of nature… and half watching in empathy for the people in New Orleans. President Bush has already scuttled his visit to the RNC in St. Paul tonight. The whole RNC has altered its schedule in lieu of Gustav. You can bet John McCain will be showcasing his leadership skills as opportunities present themselves this week. And Obama and company will be close behind. But I think mostly about Mrs. Float and her father, who have been living in a FEMA trailer in her front yard since Katrina. Her house sat empty when I visited in January. Nothing but open stud walls from one end of the house to the other. My job was to finish the demolition with a small crew and prepare her house for rebuilding. I remember falling through the floor just outside of what used to be the bathroom. The 115+ years-old floor-boards were beyond rotten. Fortunately, the ground was only three feet underneath so I didn’t fall far, but enough to scrape up my leg with some minor wounds. I thought it was the least I could offer on the altar of sacrifices compared to what others had suffered. I also think about Mrs. Lachlin and her newly rebuilt house on the east side of the city near Lake Pontchartrain. A large crew of 15 of us from Calvary hauled away the rest of the debris from the final demolition—it took two days. Then we dug in and finished off the inside structure and walls, installed a new roof, and sealed up the whole house from any further damage from the elements so that her bank could issue her a rebuilding loan. There are thousands of Mrs. Floats and Mrs. Lachlins in New Orleans and Louisiana. I don’t know what they’re thinking or feeling this morning. But I have a little idea… because I remember how I felt as a 13 year-old boy whenever a strong wind came up in the late evening, living in a trailer house, in the days and weeks that followed the Tracy Tornado that obliterated our house while we huddled in the basement.