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Remembering Hurricane Katrina as prayers go out to those in Idalia’s path

Hurricane Katrina anniversary
The Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered massive damage from the impact of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, leaving 236 people dead, 67 missing, and an estimated $125 billion in damages (Photo courtesy of the Mississippi National Guard)

As I sit on my porch, listening to the rumble of thunder in the distance, I can’t help but be filled with a bittersweet blend of gratitude and somber reflection today, the 18th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Coast has been scorched by a drought this summer. Tonight, we’re blessed with thunderstorms, each droplet an answered prayer. My orange trees might make it after all — my blackberries, not so much.

But as I revel in the sweet scent of the rain, my mind drifts southeastward — to the Big Bend of Florida. A place I know well, a place not unlike our own home here. Tonight, they don’t hear the reassuring rumbles of a summer storm but the foreboding roars of Hurricane Idalia, bearing down on them like a freight train with no brakes. These coastal waters — our lifeblood — will be their undoing, just as it has been ours. Come tomorrow, their world will be upended just as ours was during Katrina.

It’s a difficult thing, carrying the title of a disaster survivor. When Katrina washed away everything old in my life, she didn’t just take brick and mortar; she took memories, security, a sense of invincibility we all hold until we’re reminded of our human fragility. I emerged with a clearer understanding of life’s fickle nature, an intimate acquaintance with loss that leaves you forever changed, humbled, and paradoxically, fortified.

The Big Bend is full of hardworking, honest folk, much like the people who survived Katrina 18 years ago. They haven’t known a storm of this magnitude in generations there. Entire family trees have grown tall without the gales of a hurricane bending them, without floodwaters drowning their roots. But tomorrow, those trees will face a storm that could topple them, and lives will be forever changed.

Idalia has the makings of a historical monster — one that will level coastal communities in its path. And so, let us remember, as we sit under our own life-giving rains tonight, to keep those folks in Florida in our prayers.

Our water is life, but theirs, for now, is fraught with the threat of death. As the heavens weep over us, let our tears mingle with those rains for our neighbors to the southeast. The people there will be hurting tomorrow, their reality demanding every ounce of resilience they possess. May they find strength in their roots, hope amid wreckage, and comfort knowing they’re not walking this path alone.

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