When Hurricane Katrina hit I was on vacation in Montreal. I was there to see the sights, take in the culture, marvel at the architecture, and see how good the exchange rate was. I knew that there was some sort of hurricane headed for the Gulf Coast but didn't think much more of it than most people. CNN was one of the few English TV channels available (the other was the CBC, whose staff is on strike- they did the best they could) at the first hotel I stayed at, but being that this was a vacation I hardly spent any time in the hotel room sitting around watching TV (especially since most of the channels were in French and my French is pretty much non-existent).
It wasn't until I got an email from my friend, D, asking if E had managed to get out of New Orleans, as the storm had hit the city pretty hard. Since I'd by now moved to a different hotel with wirelss internet I surfed my way through the major news sites and was stunned by the devastation that I saw. I fired off an email to her not expecting a response (as I had no cell phone in Montreal). After a few confusing emails to and from my mom and D, I found out that my friend was indeed safe. All we knew was that she had exited safely and was presumed to be staying with relatives of her roommate in northern Louisiana.
I spent Monday night in Toronto at the home a friend. The family and I proceeded to watch the major cable news networks (they get pretty much teh same basic cable news channels that we do in the states). As experts began to speak about levies and water pumps and dead bodies floating in the streets I began to see just how much worse the situation was than I'd originally thought it to be.
Once we hit I-90 in New York on Tuesday I found out that seemingly every rest stop in the NYS Thruway has a TV permanently tuned in to CNN. Every rest area we pulled into we saw more devastation that had spread far beyond the Big Easy. I was also now worried about another friend who is stationed at the naval air base in Pensacola. I tried his cell phone* to see if he was alright. It turned out that he'd gone home to Oregon on leave and the Navy phoned him to tell him not to come back to base just yet, they were evacuating it due to the storm. Relieved that he was out of danger (and knowing that his cell phone worked) I tried calling E and was greeted with "due to the hurricane the cellular customer you are trying to reach in unavailable". Chilling.
I was relieved on Wednesday morning to get an email from E:
I'm ok, in Knoxville, TN too tired to write now, will write some time soon. Won't be back in New Orleans for a long time.
Even though I knew she was out of harm's way, it made me feel better to hear from her that she's safe and sound and out of the pit of Hades that the city had devolved into. As are her cats, her roommate, her roommate's 4-year-old nephew (they were babysitting when the storm hit), and dog. She has no idea what has become of her house. Her grad school program (she has one semester left) is obviously on hold, as is her life.
*By now my cell phone was working again