It's almost become a ritual this time of year. Every time a hurricane comes through the Gulf of Mexico I put in a call to Laurie, a good friend of mine who lives in Pascagoula, Miss. just to see if she and her husband are evacuating.
After it passes, I'll call back and make sure everyone made it safely through the storm. Up until now there haven't been any problems.
Then along comes the storm of the millennium. Not even the storm of the century; 100 years is too small of a time frame to encompass the disaster from this one.
Now some in the media tend to lean toward the use of exaggeration. I try not to be one of those, and in this case, I don't think I'm exaggerating. Katrina was a monster like we have never seen before.
I called Laurie the night before the storm hit, hoping that no one would answer the phone. Thankfully they didn't. I left a message, and said I would be looking to hear from them once it was all over. The problem is it's nearly two weeks later and it's still not over.
I've never gotten so many busy signals in my life. The phone lines in Pascagoula, as well as nearly the entire gulf coast are knocked out. I keep wishing someone would fix them so I could find out if my friends are OK.
But then I realize that's a little selfish. I would rather everyone continue to focus on rescuing those stranded in the debris and flood waters. It's been one horrific scene after another in New Orleans and across the coast to Alabama, and rescuers have their work cut out for them.
I still haven't been able to get in touch with Laurie by phone or by e-mail. I know there's no power down there, but I keep hoping she is tucked away at an Aunt's house in the northern part of the state, safe and secure.
I think a disaster like this in our own back yard would still have sparked a sense of sorrow and a desire to help, but the fact that I know someone near ground zero has made it all a little too real for me.
All of the relief efforts are appreciated. Please donate money or goods to a reputable organization that is sending relief to the areas in disarray right now. That will be a huge part of the recovery effort, one that is desperately needed.
But as for me, I won't be happy until I get to see my friend, give her a hug, hand her a case of water and food and begin picking up debris out of her yard. I don't know when authorities will begin letting people into the devastated areas, but if at all possible, I will be there.