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War Stories – Katrina

28 April 2021

To Our Valued Clients and Friends:

On August 26, 2005, the Friday before Katrina struck, I was on the 21st floor of an office tower across from the Superdome, wrapping up a project for an important client. As I looked out the window on that dreary, rainy day, I began to hear reports of oil and gas rigs being evacuated due to the oncoming storm.

When the dust of my own evacuation settled, I found myself, a 40+-year-old man living with my wife, Jennifer, and our five-year-old daughter, Meghan, in a spare bedroom of my parents’ Baton Rouge home. I didn’t know whether we had a home to return to. I didn’t know whether I’d have an office to return to – at the time, our firm was on Poydras Street across from the Superdome, as noted, which had suffered significant damage.

I didn’t know whether I had a functioning business left. I did know I had a substantial number of insurance claims to file. My entire future looked and felt very uncertain; this created enormous anxiety for me, and I could do little, at that point, to relieve it. Any action I could take was welcome.

A buddy of mine, also sheltering near Baton Rouge, called me. “Look. I’m going in.” He and his wife had tragically lost their 5-year-old daughter the previous Thanksgiving, and in their rush to safety, had left many of her baby pictures in New Orleans.

As the father of a little girl myself, my heart went out to him, and all of me went with him on his journey.

Well, it was certainly an adventure, I’m here to tell you. We drove down to New Orleans, my friend got us a pass from the State Police so that we could get into the city, and we boarded a flatboat near the Southern Yacht Club on Lake Pontchartrain to navigate down Canal Boulevard.  

The sight still resonates in my mind – I can see it anytime I close my eyes. As we motored down Canal Boulevard, we had to be very careful, because the water was even with the power lines, which were 14 or 15 feet above street level.

But after a painstaking, cautious navigation down what was then a waterway in Lakeview, we finally reached my buddy’s house; the front door was partly opened but jammed in its frame. Together we kicked it down. The dining room table was upside down, chairs were upended all over the place – and that was the least of it. The house had flooded badly, we could see to where the water had risen by the lines of mud on the walls, about 4 feet above floor level. It remains one of the most devastating sights I have ever witnessed in my life.

But none of that mattered – we were on one single mission – get those baby pictures.

And we got them! 

Helping my dear friend in his and his wife’s need was one of the proudest days of my life. 

Katrina was life-changing, and perspective-changing as well, for many of us in the Gulf region. 

What events have shaped your life in a similar way? 

Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to hear from you.

Until next Wednesday – 

Peace,

Eric

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