Updated: Apr 29, 2020
On August 20th, 2005, life moved at a slower pace than usual. Inner-city New Orleans is not a place where life moves slowly. Even those who didn't grow up in rough neighborhoods in the Big Easy are forced to grow up quickly because of stories about family members, friends, or local news headlines.
The 7th ward of New Orleans snatched my childhood innocence during a scorching August evening in 1996. While I stood on the front porch of my shotgun house where I was born and raised, I watched two teenagers run full-speed up my block. The chase ended when the guy trailing pulled out a handgun from his waistband and fired three shots into the back of the person he ran behind. Once the shots that were loud enough to be heard over the passing train ceased, I looked up, and the killer was gone along with life as I knew it.
Nearly a decade later, I stood on my porch, eyeing the scene where the tragedy occurred, and memorable chills shot through my body as my mother and I prepared to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina. Those unforgettable shivers delivered me a sense of tranquility instead of grief. For nine years straight, I avoided looking at the murder scene that lingered in my mind throughout my upbringing. This time I was able to see the beauty in my pain by facing it and learning from it.
Moments after hurdling a nine-year obstacle, my mother and I evacuated to Houston, Texas. After we pulled off, I rolled the window down to feel the summer breeze. Typically, I embellished the opportunity for a hurricane evacuation, but something in the air felt different about this go around. Growing up across the street from a barroom and a public housing project made loud noise a normalcy, but the only sounds that night were strong winds and loose items ruffling into each other. As we drove through the neighborhood, I noticed things I never saw before, and visuals of leaving my community became permanently planted in my memory forever.
Once we merged onto the interstate, I fell into a deep sleep and awakened when we arrived at my brother's house in Houston, Texas. Those indifferent moments in my neighborhood while evacuating were my final ones living there.
The floodwaters left rings around the top inside walls of my house as if it was a dirty tub. The Katrina water residue markings were nine feet high and destroyed all of my baby pictures, childhood writings, family photo albums, and belongings. From the outside looking in, it's easy to assume that occurrence signaled rock bottom, but the misfortune marked the beautiful start to a new beginning.
If I weren’t able to look my pain in the eyes, then I would have only seen the problems instead of opportunities. The grief of losing priceless memorabilia couldn’t compare to the affliction of not seeing my mother every morning, as I did my entire life until Hurricane Katrina. She remained living in Houston, and I moved back home to finish high school and graduate from Tulane University. The unfortunate circumstances awarded me the chance to meet new lifelong friends, live with my beloved father, and exposure to life outside of my natural surroundings. The category five hurricane taught me lessons that a sunny day never could and made me conceptualize the most important aspects of life.
Previous to Hurricane Katrina, it was fair to say that I coasted through life. It was impossible to carry on with that mindset after having everything washed away overnight. Searching for tangible takeaways helps a person find beauty in the midst of chaos. How can life carry on the same after the Corona epidemic is over? It can’t.
Some of the economic and political actions in play should have been measures taken a long time ago, but it’s best not to stress over what can’t be controlled. What can be controlled has been the most remarkable highlights of this global crisis. Quality time with family, prioritizing health, conversations with distant friends, and loving humanitarian acts should have been more significant focal points in society before the Corona epidemic.
Wake up calls are opportunities to rise to new levels. Unsanitary habits were previously the elephants in plenty of rooms and bathrooms. Seeing someone use a public restroom and carry on without washing their hands became an overseen occurrence in society. People who have such trifling habits are now forced to think twice about actions that were once second nature.
Tangible takeaways and positive changes appeared in other areas of life, aside from cleanliness. Economic adjustments have created an awakening amongst employees, entrepreneurs, and potential entrepreneurs. Many jobs that were previously hated are currently needed and no longer taken for granted. More books and business plans will be written now than ever. Business owners have no choice but to see the importance of sustainability over immediate gratification.
Previous to the Corona outbreak, life was no short of its tragedies during my lifespan. Mudslides, hurricanes, bombings, earthquakes, plus more unfortunate events caught international headlines, but the Corona epidemic is a beast of its own. Experiencing Hurricane Katrina first-hand made me grasp the difference between second-hand experiences and personal ones. The further away from the impact, the less it hits home. The Corona virus hit the television and cell phone screens of everyone across the world. Everyone is experiencing this first-hand. Therefore, it’s a collective opportunity to see the beauty in the midst of chaos and take our world to new heights.