Saturday, June 17, 2006

hurricane bill has subsided

I returned home from Long Beach, MS last night. It was a good trip.

I do need to make a correction on who I was working with, however. I was under the impression that it was Purdue Campus House. That was not in fact the case. It was two or three churches from the Lafayette, IN area. Many people were at one time or another involved with the Campus House, but it was not a Campus House trip. Sorry.

My confusion over who I was going down to lead worship for is understandable, though. The person orginally booked to go with them, cancelled last minute. They got my name from someone and called me on Wednesday afternoon. From that point on, my entire contact with them before the trip consisted of a couple 2 minute phone conversations and one e-mail. Needless to say, I had very little information. But my week was going to be relatively free and it all kinda felt right. So I made some last minute arrangements, grabbed my guitar and headed out of town Sunday after church, not knowing exactly where I was headed or who I was headed towards.

All I knew is that they wanted someone to lead worship and I can do that.

So I went and had an amazing experience. Made friends, hammered a lot of nails (albeit very poorly), met the mayor of Long Beach (true story), and hopefully blessed the churches there serving that area on their mission trip.

I must say, though, what made the biggest impression on me was the state of destruction that the Gulf Coast is still in. Katrina hit 10 months ago. 10 months! I had naively assumed that life had gotten back to least for the most part. I mean, CNN's coverage stopped awhile ago, its no longer on the cover of Time or Newsweek, Sean Penn's not roaming the streets with a shotgun and personal press photographer just really don't hear anything about it now.

But oh my goodness.

It is unreal.

I wish I could explain it...but there really are no words.

And what is most amazing is that this same coast was hit by an extremely large hurricane in 1904, and then again by Hurricane Camille in 1969 (and of course, many smaller ones in between). These people have learned how to live in that enviroment. Their buildings and houses were built to withstand hurricanes. Steel frames, cement fencing, of lots trees to cushion the impact. They have very serious codes, regulations, and safety precautions for building anything that close to the coast...because they know the destructive power of hurricanes.

Or at least they thought they did.

Katrina made anything they have ever experienced before seem like a light summer breeze. These buildings were the best and strongest that man can build, and they were destroyed in an instant. She absolutely demolished everything. Most people believe it will take 30-40 years to rebuild. At this point, they are years away from even beginning to think about rebuilding. New codes and regulations are being written and rewritten and working their way through the long legislation process. And nothing can be built until they are passed. Debris is still being cleaned. The insurance companies are playing catch up.

Everything has changed.

And they are in a vicious circle, because so many people left and so many business went under. Now there isn't enough employment to get people back and with out the people back, the remaining business are struggling to stay afloat.

It really is sad.

On Thursday, I drove to New Orleans. And the devastation there is obviously every bit as horrible. I drove down Bourbon Street, Canal Street, and then over one of the levees that had broken into the part of town called the 9th Ward. The water marks on the buildings are nearly 20 feet high. Whole city blocks abandoned. It is an actual, present-day ghost town.

I didn't stay in New Orleans for too long, though. Because frankly, I was scared. I was alone and the city looks like a war zone. I don't even know where you would start rebuilding.

On the way back to Long Beach, instead of taking the interstate, I drove along the coast on Highway 90 (the Pacific Coast Highway of the Gulf Coast). I literally drove the path of the hurricane. I stopped and sat on a chunk of what used to be the boardwalk and stayed there for awhile, looking at the the trees sticking up out of the water. It was surreal and overwhelming.

That moment ended, though, when a seagull began dive-bombing my head and I screamed and ran to my car, arms flailing like little girl.

I needed to get back anway (at least that is what I told myself as I drove away trying to regain my manhood).

So what did I learn from all of this? I don't know. Nothing we all don't know already. That stuff is just that...stuff. That what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.

I also saw, in very disturbing realness, that as fast as you can build, accumulate, earn or buy is as fast as it can all be ripped away...and taken in such a manner to which there is no retaliation and no retribution. It is just gone.

And you know, that kinda makes you think about your priorities.


The Anonymous Human said...

I like where you went with that. Kinda like a hurricane, came out of no where and whalloped me. Okay, that was a bad analogy, but seriously, you made me think. I mean, what would you do if one day you woke up and everything you owned, your house, your car, your boat, your career, was just gone. Vanished and never coming back. Where would you go to start over? Would you be able to say, "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. The Name of the Lord be praised."? Really makes you think.

Betsy said...

hey, i read it all finally:) i'm glad you're back.