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The Louisiana Flood of 2016

Lafayette, Louisiana flood 2016
This post is a mixture of heartbreak, awe, gratitude, and pride.

This past weekend my hometown and state were devastated by massive flooding. South Louisiana is underwater and the news is not covering it. I have out of state family that was not even aware of the crisis situation that southern Louisiana currently finds itself in. I would be lying if I said that didn’t anger me. Our people are in need of help and the media can not take its attention off the inconsequential happenings of hollywood and the mind numbing circus show that is American politics right now.

It is heart wrenching to see neighbors, people you know, people you care about who have truly lost everything. I still cannot comprehend the magnitude of the devastation. I see it. I see the piles of possessions- carpet, sheetrock, mattresses, sofas, clothing, pictures, books, memories, piled in front of homes. And those are the ones that have at least been able to return home and begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

There are still countless others that have not located family, can not get back to their homes, or are still trapped in homes. It is heartbreaking. It is unfathomable.

I can’t help but be in awe of the forces of mother nature. In my 30 years I have never experienced anything that remotely compares. And I have lived through several devastating storms. As a resident of south Louisiana I have a certain sense of understanding, hurricanes and severe weather are part of the landscape in this region of the world. Speaking with my mom this week she reiterated these sentiments. She is 64 and has never seen this. She has lived in some of the southern most parishes of this state and through the worst hurricanes in Louisiana history (Audrey, Camille, Andrew), and again, never has she experienced this level of devastation.

I find myself to be one of the lucky ones. David and I escaped unscathed. There was panic Friday morning as our flash flood alerts continued to go off and we watched as our parking lot collected knee deep levels of water in a matter of 1 hour. But then it miraculously began to drain. We were definitely the lucky ones. Most of Lafayette and the rest of southern Louisiana can not say the same. We all watched as the rain continued to fall through Friday and Saturday, bringing with it higher and higher levels of water.

It’s a crazy sense to be grateful that my sister was able to escape with just a little bit of water into her home. Typically any water in your home would be a situation you would curse. But she is lucky. We can rip up the carpet in the 1 room affected. Some of the base boards and sheetrock may need to be replaced, but other than that, they will be fine. Her neighbors 2 streets over can not say the same. They had several feet of water throughout their home. And several neighborhoods surrounding my sister were all evacuated. Lacey is the lucky one.

And thankfully my parents escaped with only roof damage. I say thankfully because they were planning to replace the roof by the end of the year. They are located on the second highest point in Lafayette parish. My sister and myself knew we had a place to evacuate to if we were forced out of our homes. Many others could not say the same.

For the very minor damage my immediate family incurred, I am eternally thankful. This doesn’t make my heart feel any less broken though. Hearing the stories of what people have gone through is incredible. It’s inspiring to see the gumption that people possess. Where do they pull it from? I like to think it’s the cajun spirit.

Lafayette, Louisiana flood 2016

This part of the world bands together in times of struggle. I have witnessed it before. As I said, this neck of the woods is not unfamiliar with its fair share of struggles.

These times bring out the best in our people. It’s in times like these that I am proud to be a Cajun.

We can put aside the differences and band together to help each other. We don’t stand by and wait for help. People use whatever resources are available and get to work.

I saw it in Hurricane Rita and I am seeing it again, civilians rescuing each other. Our Cajun Navy using their own boats for rescue missions and to drop off supplies to stranded families. People opening up their homes to strangers for a warm meal and shower. Neighbors taking in laundry so the people displaced can at least have a clean pair of underwear to put on. Friends finding space to store goods that were salvaged from destroyed homes. Strangers showing up at homes to help in the rebuilding process.

This summer has been a curious one. I have found myself overwhelmed and a bit depressed by the news coming  in from around the world. I was beginning to lose hope in people. But through this tragedy my hope in humanity has been restored.

When shelters and volunteer stations are turning away donations and volunteers because they are filled it is a strange sense of pride and frustration. I don’t think I am alone in that. There is such an overwhelming need and want to help right now that people are desperate to do something, ANYTHING.

I have this to say- no contribution is too small.

Whatever way you can find to help lessen the load on people that have been affected, do it. Do not wait for someone to ask you. Show up. Show up with a meal. Show up with clean clothes. Show up with cleaning supplies. Show up with a donation. Show up with a hug. Let people know they are not alone.

And for those of you looking for ways to contribute:

United Way of Acadiana: donations and/or volunteer opportunities
Red Cross: donations and/or volunteer opportunities
The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette has set up as a donation site and is taking volunteers
The Bayou Church (on Kaliste Saloom) in Lafayette is accepting donations and volunteers
Bayou Art Co-op (by The Daily Advertiser) is open and several of their local artisans are donating their profits to the flood relief
Maven is taking in gently used and cleaned clothing that would be suitable for work

If you know of other avenues to help, please let me know! And keep Louisiana in your hearts. We will overcome this tragedy, but we do need help in doing so.

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