Like father like daughter: A must read from Nola

My friend and former colleague Jon Donley, editor of, worked nonstop through the hurricane and flood not knowing for days whether his daughter, Sarah, was safe. He had to post a missing-persons alert for his own daughter on his site. She finally was found not in her own home nearby a broken levee but huddled in the family’s home across the lake. So now “as payment for sleepless nights and a father’s fears,” Jon made Sarah write her story for his blog, which is filled with the human details of this huge event. It is just one story with a million like it from the Gulf Coast but it is incredibly dramatic and, as you’d expect from the daughter of a writer, well-written. You won’t be able to stop scrolling.

That night we were invincible. We had no idea a bitch named Katrina was waiting in the wings….

The last call I received was from my friend Toni, who was staying in Baton Rouge. She informed us that part of the Superdome roof had been ripped off, and windows in the Hyatt had been broken.

Then I lost cell phone service.

Then started the longest four or so hours of my life.

Because then had started the storm, raging through our small corner of the world.

We didn’t spend the storm huddled in my father’s closet. Nor did we spend the storm sitting on the roof. We spent the majority of the storm sitting on the front porch, an alcove protected from all winds save the ones coming straight at us, from the east.

I’ve always loved watching storms, for as long as I can really remember. But I’m fairly certain after watching this one I won’t be eager to watch another anytime soon.

It’s downright scary to watch 90 foot pines bow their heads to the ground in a strange obedience to the awesome power of Mother Nature.

I remember Justin trying to light a cigarette, facing away from the storm, into the house, and commenting that he wasn’t too impressed with this hurricane. At that exact moment i heard a groan that sent chills down my spine. Followed closely by a crack that left me feeling like a child for the first time in years. I turned Justin around just in time for him to see a large oak tree rip itself free of its restraints and in a matter of a few seconds, rip off a corner of a house. We stared mutely at the sight. For anyone who has never see or heard this happen, imagine a horror movie, the ones where the victim is hiding in a room from the killer, and the killer opens the door. That slow groan. Hearing it for yourself is untold amounts more terrifying. It is quite possibly the most eerie sound I have heard in my life….

My parent’s garage is set back from the house, not attached to it. This morning the garage housed three of my parent’s dogs. One loud bang we heard came from that area. The wind was gusting, at moments it would calm down. During one of these “breaks” I ran out to the garage. I figured if the roof had been broken I could open the door and let the dogs fend for themselves. The garage was crunched but not destroyed . . . getting back to the porch was hellish. The wind had picked up, and I was left grabbing onto whatever I could find to pull myself along. The helmet-heads on the news didn’t have anything on me struggling against those wind gusts. Leaves were flying around me as I finally made it up the driveway and back into the front yard. A tree in my neighbor’s yard fell across our street. I prayed, for the first time since it had all started, I prayed to get back onto the porch. I felt like Alice falling down some sort of strange rabbit hole. It seemed like the world was moving in slow motion around me, and at the same time sped up so fast that I wasn’t able to focus on what was going on. Perhaps this was how Dorothy felt as her house was picked up in a tornado. The wind died long enough for me to scramble unhindered back onto the porch. …

Go read it all. (And to find it, you’ll have to scroll until you see “Sarah’s Story” because the permalinks are acting funky.)

  • Samantha

    good story

  • Grantman

    [q]There have been many times in my life I had wondered about the human spirit. Many people we know are cold, distant. They wouldn’t help another human being unless they got something out of it. Justin and I left New Orleans with little more than the clothes on our backs. Yet now, just over two weeks later, I have a dresser full of clothes. I have 10 toothbrushes and 6 types of toothpaste. I have 15 bars of soap and 5 different sets of shampoo and conditioner. I have shoes and a winter jacket. I have makeup and perfume. I have hope for the human race, that people can be kind, that they can reach out to people in need. That they are capable of thinking beyond themselves and their own wants and needs.[/q]

    There is hope…

  • doctorj

    That was beautiful writing. We too sat out on the porch and watched the pines bend and crack. It didn’t seen so terrible at the time. It wasn’t until the storm had passed and we walked around the neighborhood that we realized the extent of the damage.

  • doctorj: We did that too, I watched an oak tree fall on my car (it ended up okay, after it was extracted). Backup generator had us watching channel four on rabbit ears for the duration too. That howl of the wind though, I don’t think I can ever forget it.

    I went to Eden Isles today to help out at my uncle’s mud-drenched totaled
    house, and I’ve got to move out of my Metairie one from the roof losing a ton of its tiles, and from seeing that so far, I don’t even want to see New Orleans in person yet.