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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Media (in any form) (11/11/10)

TITLE: Katrina Was No Lady
By cheryl schoenberger


August 29, 2005 Times Picayune Headline: GROUND ZERO
New Orleans Braces for Nightmare of the Big One

An eerie stillness in the night air nudged us with the uncertainty of the peril that lie ahead. It felt as if Mother Nature was holding her breath and preparing for the worst storm of the century.

On the north shore, 50 miles north of New Orleans, we nervously awaited her arrival. My elderly parents and cousins were forced to evacuate their homes, and they joined our family unit to ride out this storm. Our new family consisted of 7 adults, 3 teenagers, a newborn, 12 cats, and 3 dogs bunkered up in our two story three bedroom home.

Unfortunately our electricity and cable television went out hours before Katrina reached land and the first drop of rain fell. Luckily, we had a borrowed generator that powered a radio, refrigerator, and a small window air conditioner. So we huddled around the radio, our only form of communication, and prayed that we would be spared.

At 5am, Mother Nature began to slowly exhale in our direction, with a 40-60 mile per hour wind gently bending the 75 pine trees on our acre lot. An audible slight whoosh was heard followed by the trees bending in synchrony like a well rehearsed ballet. Information was limited to one radio station with only listeners calling in with weather reports in their area. As the hours progressed so did Katrina; the winds were abusing the pines now with a 140-160 mile per hour force. We frantically prayed as the worst of the storm was heading our way. News and information was no longer available as our only radio station was silent.

Around mid-morning, my eighty-year-old mother stopped speaking mid-sentence and asked, “What is that noise? It sounds like a train.”

Like clockwork, all adults manned a window as we witnessed several tornadoes hit our property. The pine trees were rapidly spinning in circles and falling all over the acre. Twenty trees had fallen in less than twenty minutes, miraculously missing our house.

As quickly as it had begun, it abruptly ended. The eerie silence returned as the eye of the storm stared down on us. The pause gave Mother Nature a chance to inhale one more time. Fifteen minutes later the winds and a cluster of tornadoes reversed direction. We witnessed the pines now spin counterclockwise and ten more succumbed to the storm. Again the trees fell like dominoes with a vibratory thud shaking the ground but sparing our house.

Alas it was finally over, but the nightmare for New Orleans was only beginning.

August 30 Times Picayune headline: CATASTROPHIC
Katrina: The Storm We Always Feared

Reports of devastation in New Orleans and surrounding areas were broadcasted on our radio station. New Orleans was under water and lives were lost. Stories of helicopters rescuing residents from their roofs and attics were widespread.

Although we were spared, the heaviness we felt for our city and residents was indescribable.

For the next three weeks, our routine consisted of lines, lines, and more lines. We would leave at daybreak to wait in line for hours at Home Depot in an attempt to acquire a generator, then to the grocery line for nonperishable items. Finally, the men drove to Baton Rouge in search of gas, while the women waited in the FEMA line for water, MRE meals, and ice.

Katrina had stripped away all the modern conveniences, and served to remind us to focus on what really mattered; God and each other.

Although we had minor trials over the next few weeks, we still thanked God for laying His Hand over our house and protecting us during this disaster.

It would be weeks before we would view the footage of the devastation being reported to the rest of the world. The media that entered our homes daily with all the latest news and reports was silent during our worst hours. All we had was our faith in Our Lord, and we learned an important lesson; that was all we needed.

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This article has been read 375 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Virgil Youngblood 11/18/10
This must have been a harrowing experience that drew your family even closer together to God. Minor note: In the paragraph that begins "Alas", I'm sure you meant "at last." Thanks for reporting from the eye of the storm.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/18/10
I can't imagine the fear and faith that the storm took you through. You did a great job making me feel like I was there with you listening to that radio. Great vivid descriptions.
Noel Mitaxa 11/18/10
I've felt drawn into your story and your faith, as you have depicted the savagery of an unforgettable event with such powerful word pictures.
Noel Mitaxa 11/18/10
I've felt drawn into your story and your faith, as you have depicted the savagery of an unforgettable event with such powerful word pictures.
Theresa Santy 11/23/10
Wow! This is a riveting story, given from an inside view--very powerful. I can see this as a magazine article or as part an anthology.

If you consider submitting this story somewhere, and I think you should, I recommend a few changes: This is an action-packed story about a very active force of nature. Small changes would increase your active voice. For example in Paragraph 5, "began to slowly exhale' would feel more active if you changed it to, 'slowly exhaled'. In fact, if you avoid 'began' and forms of 'to be' (was, were, etc.), you'll increase your active voice.

I loved this piece, and I believe it has the potential to become a much larger essay, in print, somewhere.