Remember the elves at the Threads’ Birthday Party on Sunday? Well, one of the most joyful elves is a guy named Bob Tick who has a 500 watt smile and is a GIANT of a good guy. Watching him on Sunday, one would think he has never had a care. WRONG! It has been my experience that deeply kind and joyful grownups almost always have the gift of resilience due to having fallen down and gotten back up. On the eleventh anniversary of Katrina’s landfall in New Orleans, here’s Bob’s story:
“Another hurricane heading towards New Orleans! They usually turn or just skirt the city. So as required by my job, all managers of the Hotel must be on property in the threat of a storm. Our GM said bring your family and pets so we picked up the container that held everything important, took a few photos and headed to the Royal Sonesta in Ed’s truck. A couple of days in a luxury Hotel in the French Quarter would not be so bad or so we thought.
My first meeting was with all managers and the director of security who advised us that if New Orleans took a direct hit we would be standing in two feet of water on the second floor. By Saturday night the Mississippi river began to flow backwards meaning the eye was heading our way. So we began by securing all doors and windows, banquet rooms restaurants, bars and the Engineering department. The National Guard, CNN and ABC took up residence in our Hotel.
The storm came in Sunday night into Monday morning. We had no electricity, gas or fresh water. There was no phone service and all cell towers were down. We couldn’t even tell anyone we were OK. We were told we could not even shower in the water as it was contaminated. Fortunately the Hotel had generators that could run hall and lobby lights.
Wednesday morning the Mayor issued a mandatory evacuation. We left in the truck with five other people and five dogs. The police forced us to leave via the west bank. We wanted to check out our neighborhood but they would not let us and they said nothing was left standing in our neighborhood so we left thinking we lost our home. We dropped off the first group in Baton Rouge and continued north to Shreveport where we left the others and finally stopped to eat. We were exhausted and hungry and a mother and daughter came over and handed us a napkin saying this is for your kids. We said we didn’t have any kids but they saw our dogs in the truck and gave us a piece of bacon for each of them. They heard us talking to the waitress and knew we came from New Orleans. They picked up our check and gave us a hug and we were in tears.
We got on I-20 and drove east all night heading to Atlanta. It was very scary because every gas station we stopped at was out of gas. People were sleeping in their cars waiting for the next gas delivery to the station. By the time we reached Alabama we were running on fumes but did find a station that had gas and we continued on to Ed’s Sister’s in Sandy Springs. After a 24 hour drive we fell into a warm welcome bed and crashed until the next morning. We finally were able to let other family members and friends know that we were OK. No ATMs were working in New Orleans and no branch of our bank operated in Atlanta so we lived off our American Express card for several months.
After about two weeks we were able to get in touch with a neighbor who told us our house was standing and we had about 2 feet of water downstairs. Four blocks away there was 6 feet of water. We were not allowed back in the city for five weeks because they had to pump the lake water back out of the city. Our home was a duplex and we lived upstairs so it was our renters that lost all of their furniture. However the entire downstairs had to be gutted from the floor up 4 feet due to water and mold wicking up the sheetrock.
Aside from the floors, walls, kitchen cabinets and appliances down there we also lost 2 washers, 2 dryers, 2 hot water heaters and all of Ed’s art supplies in our garage. My car and the tenants’ cars were all lost as well. Electricity was restored first so we had to buy electric clothes dryers instead of the gas dryers we lost. We also bought electric hot water heaters. The electricians from the Hotel installed the hot water heaters and electric dryers. Our garage quickly became the “Laundromat” of our neighborhood as we were the first on our block to have washers and dryers and we offered them to all of our neighbors.
Returning after five weeks was sickening. You could not get away from the stench. No electricity meant that all meat, dairy products and produce in every grocery store, hotel, home fridge and freezer had rotted. All trash was hauled out into the streets. Ten thousand fish from the New Orleans Aquarium rotted. That smell made you want to throw up and it is something you will never forget. Our favorite restaurant at the end of our block was split in two by a 100 year old oak tree that came down. Our beautiful city park had cars in trees and no birds came back for months…but there were horrible gnats and bugs everywhere.
By December I could no longer live there. Every hard rain the streets flooded which was not unusual for New Orleans. We had a condo in Sandy Springs that we were going to move into when we retired in about three years, so we moved to Sandy Springs. Ed went back for six months to oversee the renovation of our house and we sold it to a tenant who rented our downstairs. Her home was under eight foot of water and her entire neighborhood was bulldozed. So here we are in Atlanta where Ed always wanted to live…just three years sooner than planned.
We looked for a church and God sent us to All Saints’ via the internet:
The website seemed too good to be true so we thought we would give it a try. We were welcomed with open arms and never thought we would find such a wonderful home parish.
Much has been left out but we’re sure you get the gist of our experience. We still wonder to this day why we were spared. In some respects Katrina was the worst and the best thing that ever happened to us. All of our neighbors, friends and everyone’s pets survived and that was the biggest blessing of all.”
Isn’t that a powerful comeback story? We are so glad Bob and Ed washed up here at All Saints’ for they are deep blessings in and through the congregation. Look at Bob helping children find garments for new life!
Around this block, after the flood comes new life. Really. We believe by the grace of Christ. Come and See.