Last year at this time I was preparing to go to bed, as I will tonight in a matter of minutes. My older daughter had spent the night at my house the night before the storm and would stay one more night before going home. My younger daughter was home with her family. Hurricane Katrina had come and gone, but her trail of destruction would scar hearts across the country.
Compared to people a few miles closer to the Gulf, we'd had smooth saililng. Both of my daughters' homes had lost electrical power and I lost cable TV. Period. Not complaining for a moment about that. Even that had been restored before bedtime.
Throughout the day we'd been able to pull in the shaky, grainy picture of one local channel, and we'd watched it all day long, mesmerized by what was happening so close to us. Little did we know that that was only the first day of the tragedy unfolding, that things would get much worse as the week went on.
Both my daughters went to work at the Red Cross shelter over the next few days, and both of them told me stories about the people they met there, people who suddenly found themselves living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. They brought lists of names to me and asked me to do computer searches for those names on databases that were springing up to help people locate their loved ones. Surreal doesn't even begin to describe that week.
It's been a long year if you measure by the damage that's still visible and the people who still don't have permanent homes. On the other hand, if you live anywhere near Katrina's path and there's a tropical storm in the Gulf (which there is), you can measure the brevity of the year by the gooseflesh on your arms.
May God bless all those people whose Katrina memories are so much worse than mine.
For some of the best photos and essays about Hurricane Katrina, check out Operation Eden by Clayton Cubitt.