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Only A Suitcase

When I was four weeks old in September 1965, Hurricane Betsy hit the New Orleans area. The single-story house that my parents owned in Chalmette was flooded. My mom and I were rescued from our attic with only a suitcase. My dad got stuck in the 9th Ward where he went to check on his store. He paddled for several miles in a pirogue to get back to us only to find once he arrived at the house that we were gone. Once we were all reunited, the three of us stayed with some dear friends of the family. We lived with Uncle Pete and Aunt Molly for six months while our house was being renovated.

My brothers and I spent more time with this Aunt & Uncle than we did with most of our biological relatives. They lived on the parade route in St. Bernard Parish so we saw lots of Mardi Gras parades with them. They owned land near our family farm in Folsom, LA so we saw them every weekend. And when my parents went on trips to be "alone" we stayed with Aunt Molly and Uncle Pete. They were our favorite babysitters.

I do regret that I saw less and less of them as I got older. My parents still visited with them on occasion and we saw them at weddings and family parties. The last time I saw them was when they attended my wedding reception in December 1997.

They were still living in Chalmette when Katrina hit. They were rescued from their flooded house with only a suitcase. They wound up in Texas at an assisted living facility while they figured out how to put their life back together.

During those crazy days after the storm while Juannie and I were in Jackson, we were constantly wondering what happened to all our friends and family who lived in the New Orleans area. I worried endlessly about Uncle Pete and Aunt Molly as more and more news about the devastation in St. Bernard Parish became known. One of my brothers found them listed on one of the registries during that first anxious week. I made calls to the phone numbers that were provided but no one called me back. But at least we knew they had gotten out and were okay.

They got in touch with my parents early this year. They were still in transition and hadn't settled anywhere. Aunt Molly gave my mom her cell number but parents' paperwork got shuffled around a lot during their renovation and it was misplaced. I thought about them often and asked regularly if my parents heard from them. I finally got tired of waiting and worrying last month and searched for them on the internet once again. I found the article I linked to above about their struggles after the storm and how hard it was to prove their identity after losing their suitcase. And I found a phone number and spoke with a greatniece who wasn't sure of their current number but she suggested calling the old home number from Chalmette because she'd heard that those were now set up to give new numbers. Why hadn't I thought of that! Sure enough I was given their new number.

I got to talk with both of them. And they are living in Kenner just minutes from my parents and me. They are both in their 80s now. It was wonderful to hear their voices again.

They stopped by my parents' house over the weekend to drop off gifts for the shower. It was good to see them after all these years. I am happy that they are close by and that we will get to see them often.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
daysinger
Nov. 22nd, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
That's so cool.
I'm so glad they are both still okay. How scary to only have a suitcase left. I'll bet they were thrilled to talk to you. :-)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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silverdee
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