Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hurricane Katrina - Our Story - Part 4

The first thing I did when in Dallas was visit the Hibernia Bank. That was our bank which was based out of New Orleans. Luckily there was one in McKinney where my in-laws lived. Well, when I walked into the McKinney branch the first thing I noticed was a table with toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, and other amenities for evacuees. They knew we were in town. It was sad. It made me feel sad. I didn't feel like a victim but the whole world was aware of what was going on in my life. I didn't take anything from the table but felt appreciative of their efforts.

When I approached the teller she gave me this very cheery hello. I told her my situation. The first thing she said was how sorry she was. Sorry for what I thought? I am not even sure what to be sorry for yet? She gave me a very genuine sympathetic look. I found it hard to look at her in the eyes. I just said I wanted to know if my husband's check cleared as I had payed all our bills online before we left for vacation expecting his direct deposit to go in. She said she couldn't check that information because all the computer systems were down for our account because of the storm but they were working to setup the backup system in Houston. It would be a day or two more. I was concerned about checks bouncing. She said not to worry that all fees would be waived. She asked me if I needed any money. I just gave her a questioning look and she explained that they were giving all their customers emergency cash up to $1000 to get them through and it would be deducted from their account when it came back online. I was impressed but declined. I had some cash on me leftover from vacation. Plus, my brother graciously gave me all his cash he had left before we left Virgina.

The next thing I did was call my insurance company. My in-laws used the same company as we did and had a great agent who went above and beyond to help us. I had no idea where to start or even what to tell him. I didn't have my policy with me of course. Who did? (I take it with me now when we evacuate! Along with birth certificates and other important documents!)

Ron Pope from Farmer's took care of everything and fielded every single question I had. He found answers to everything if he didn't know. He followed up with us even when we eventually went home! He assured me and told me everything would work out and be ok. I so wanted to believe him. I needed that reassurance.

After taking care of that we moved on to finding an apartment to live in. Hubby's boss was saying that there was no going back for a long time and to find housing. So off we went for 2 days looking for apartments. It was so bizarre. Here I had this broken house 9 hours away and it was as if I was building a new life overnight in a new city.

Well, just before signing on an apartment, the brakes were put on the apartment hunt by his boss. He was all over the place with the plan and it was not making it easy on anyone working for him. One day they are doing this and then the next day they are doing that.

The apartment complexes were offering evacuees month-to-month renting or no deposit to rent offers. We didn't need certain records to rent as we had no access to them. It was as if the evacuees were celebrities in Dallas. Restaurants ran evacuee specials, etc. Just show your proof of residence.

In the midst of all this I saw an ad in the local paper that they were having a food and supplies drive at a local church for Katrina Victims and needed volunteers. So I decided I needed to go. My MIL watched my daughter. I showed up to a husband and wife team running this whole thing. They put their own money forth to rent the semi trucks to fill with food and supplies. They rented three! They used the church parking lot as their collection center. The amount of people who showed up to volunteer was incredible. Almost too many. But it was the amount of people that turned up to donate that was even more astounding. At one point I had tears in my eyes. They were essentially doing this for me and my city of residence. Yet, I was there to help and expecting none of this to ever be mine. I in no way was feeling like a victim. For some reason I just couldn't.

At one point the man who organized it all gave a little speech to thank everyone. I asked him if I could say something. So I told them all where I was from, how I was on vacation so I wasn't there when storm hit and that I wanted to thank them all on behalf of everyone in New Orleans. And to this day, I still think the guy who organized it thought I was lying about where I was from. I can't explain it completely. He kinda cut me off and took the microphone away from me when I spoke and then blew me off the rest of the day. Never said another word to me until I went to leave. He said this, "For an evacuee that is a pretty nice volvo. Texas plate too." I turned around and said, "It is my father in laws. I don't have a car here. Mine is still at the New Orleans airport." I got in the car and left in tears.

I just gave 6 hours of hard work loading 3 semi trucks and that is what I get from him? Some rich dude who apparently thought all the evacuees in New Orleans were black and poor. Ignorant.

There were many volunteers who did come up to me after and hug me or ask me questions about my home and state of affairs as I knew them. I appreciated their concern. I thanked them again on behalf of all New Orleanians and Gulf Coast residents.

Continue to Part 5

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