Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Husband, a Hurricane Hero

On Wednesday night I attended a concert at Grace Lutheran Church in New Orleans. Grace is located on Canal street, right off the 610 freeway, and was flooded with probably 10 feet or more of water.The last time I was there there was mold growing on the ceiling, and stacks of ruined organ pieces piled high. It was wonderful to see this church being restored.

The event was a concert of Hope and Healing given by Ken Medema, who sang several songs that he had written, and then spent the last half of his concert hearing people's stories and making up a song about them on the spot. The best song was one about Winnebagos from Minnesota bearing snow shovels. Snow shovels? Well, what better thing to use to shovel out the muck and mud from your home after it's been sitting underwater for several weeks? And you can't buy them around here!

One of the songs he sang was about the call of ordinary people to be heroes. Surely you've read stories in the news about ordinary people who behaved heroically in the days, weeks and months following Katrina's arrival. You probably didn't hear about my neighbors, who took in their family whose homes had flooded: 4 adults and 4 children (added to their own 4 children) and NEVER ONCE complained. Who refused our offers of our guest room.

You also probably haven't heard about my husband, but I think he behaved rather heroically, and I'm going to brag about him for the rest of this post.

When Katrina started making a beeline for New Orleans he was out of town, in Mobile, at a conference. He called and said "leave now." So MQ and I headed up to Kentucky with our friends who had just arrived, hoping to spend a long weekend with us before our friend shipped to Iraq. Instead, we spent a long weekend on the Army Post watching CNN and awaiting news.

My husband returned home, and did all the things I did not think to do. He grabbed the scrapbooks. He videotaped all our belongings. He took our love letters out of the back of the closet, the old yearbooks out of the attic. He helped neighbors move things in out their backyards. And then he "evacuated." He went to stay with some friends in Folsom, Louisiana. I looked at a map, and yelled at him on the phone "that's not evacuating! That's crossing the street!!!" Sure, he got out of the mandatory evacuation area, but he was by no means out of the blast of the hurricane. He hunkered down there, staying with Boy Scouts and Red Cross professionals, wanting to be of help in the days after the storm.

When the storm passed they went out with chainsaws and started clearing streets. They cleared a path so the sheriff's officers could get out of the station where they had hunkered down. He cleared out a path to our home, and to other homes. He started trying to locate the friends and people from our church that we knew had stayed behind. Then, he took the church directory, and checked the home of every single person on it. He took notes of what needed to be done, and dispatched the motley crew of workers from our congregation to cut trees off of roofs, put tarps over holes, check on missing people. He would leave notes at homes, telling people were to find them. When we were finally (and sporadically) able to speak on the phone, he would give me updates, and I would call and e-mail people to let them know the damage on their house. He would check on homes of other friends and acquaintances that I and other people passed on to him. A friend of ours contacted us when her boss could not find his mother who had been evacuated from a hospital in New Orleans. He went to local hospitals and looked for her (she was finally found in Atlanta). He took his turn as a guard of our neighborhood, keeping out looters (this is when we discovered that we are the only people in the neighborhood who don't own guns!). He helped gather food from every one's dying freezers, and at the end of the day they would gather together, this crew of 40 or so people, and feast on whatever they could find... from steak to MREs. My husband, terrified of heights, stood on roofs with a chainsaw.

In those weeks after Katrina, when MQ and I had moved on to stay with my parents until it was deemed safe for us to return, my husband was a hero. He helped many, many people. He brought a community together, and those people were heroes, too.

24 comments:

Mad Hatter said...

What a wonderful story to read on this grim anniversary.

Tracey said...

It's the unsung heroes that make the real difference. What a great man your husband is. And I hope your loss wasn't too great in the hurricane...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

That is a true story of heroism. You must be so proud of him for his courage, compassion, ingenuity and for remembering the love letters in the closet.

This is not bragging, Maypole. This is giving hope to us all that there are still some wonderful people in the world who do good deeds quietly, without fanfare or cameras rolling.

thailandchani said...

I agree with Hearts, above. That is exactly what makes him a hero. In the real sense of the word.


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

jen said...

oh, wow. i had no idea. he is the best kind of hero, sister.

the very best kind. i am so happy right now, reading this.

River said...

That husband of yours is definitely a "keeper" Never let him go. Such a gem.

Luisa Perkins said...

Wow. What a prince, and what a beautiful tribute you've written. Up here in NY, we heard so much of the bad stuff that people did in Katrina's aftermath. It's very encouraging to read about a real-life hero. River is right! He's a keeper.

bubandpie said...

Wow.

Wow.

slouching mom said...

What a good man. Yes, definitely a hero.

NotSoSage said...

Brag away, PM. He is a hero and a partner in every sense of the word. You, and many others, are so lucky he's around.

I'm glad that his deeds are being listed somewhere, even if it's just in this little corner of the blogosphere.

Diana said...

I was actually just thinking about how wonderful your husband was while watching Higgly Town Heros with Hannah this morning (it was a tribute to Hurricane Katrina, or at least I felt it was). It made me remember all the things you told me he did there, and also how much he helped us out here when you lived here, even though there was never really any big need for it. You are both such amazing people and I am blessed to count you as friends.

Emily said...

Good heavens. That is definitely a man to brag about.

blooming desertpea said...

We need more people like your husband in this crazy world - and he is definitely entitled to wear the name of "hero" because heroes are born from the heart!

Julie Pippert said...

Hero, indeed. What an awesome story about a great person. :)

Julie
Ravin' Picture Maven

Christine said...

this made me all teary and proud for you. w hat a wonderful man. keep bragging. mq should tell these stories to her grandchildren one day.

stacy michelle said...

i seem to remember that you didn't think he was too heroic when you found out where he was "evacuating" to. ;)

just kidding, i totally agree with you. the "big guy" is a pretty good guy, i knew that before katrina. i was glad to have him (and you!) on my side when jeff and i were out in california..

Jennifer said...

This is so wonderful. He is definition of hero! Thinking of a husband saving the scrapbooks makes me all teary, in a very good way.

niobe said...

What a wonderful story. What a wonderful husband.

Magpie said...

That's a great story...thanks for sharing it.

nomotherearth said...

Your husband is a hero indeed.

ewe are here said...

Your husband sounds absolutely amazing. You must have been incredibly proud of him.

Amy York said...

After hearing so many disturbing stories about Katrina and her aftermath, it was such a joy to read something positive! Your husband IS a hero! You must be so proud... :)

Alpha DogMa said...

Mr. Maypole sounds lovely. He is a hero.

Give him a "Helluva job, Brownie!" from me.

So is Stephanie March as boot-i-full in real life as on my tv screen? She is just stunning.

cry it out! said...

Hero indeed! Thanks for the great perspective!

Mike