Stories We Can't Afford to Forget

Lessons From Katrina, 5 Years Later

What was going on in your life five years ago, when most of our nation watched helplessly as New Orleans drowned in Hurricane Katrina’s wake?

I remember doing laundry and making dinner, feeling guilty for the times I had complained about such things instead of being grateful for the blessings of food, clothing, and shelter.

It’s easy to move on from that kind of wake-up call and forget, though. It’s easy to get busy with life and fall back into the habit of taking all good things for granted.

That is why I was moved by the Katrina story this couple shared this week, about having to leave their premature babies in New Orleans Children’s Hospital and evacuate the city.

It was a wrenching moment for them, Laura remembers. Tyson had perforated intestines and they were “waiting for him to die,” she says. “If our child is going to die, we want to be here,” she told the hospital.

But the evacuation of New Orleans was mandatory as the hurricane loomed, and the Grahams were warned they could be arrested if they stayed. “They said, ‘You want to leave New Orleans because the storm is coming here,’” she recalls. She and her husband had been so focused on their children they hadn’t even heard the hurricane was on its way. “We had been in the hospital. We hadn’t seen the news.”

In the days and weeks that followed, the Grahams endured a parental nightmare as they attempted to keep track of their children’s welfare and whereabouts from out of state, even as communications systems broke down.

“All the phone lines were down in New Orleans. We were like, ‘What happened to our babies?’” Laura says. “A nurse whose cell phone sometimes worked would call us and tell, ‘They’re transferring them,’ then would call back and say, ‘No, they’re keeping them here,’” the young mother says.

Children’s Hospital fared better than some others in New Orleans. It’s on relatively high ground and its generator was on the roof, enabling helicopters to refuel it. But it was still no place for premature babies in Tyson and Landon’s shape.

Though this dramatic story of separation has a happy ending—the boys did survive and were reunited with their parents—there are others who did not fare so well. There are people for whom these late summer days are a tragic reminder of loss and devastation.

However you were, or were not, affected by Hurricane Katrina five years ago, we should all take some time to think about the blessings we take for granted. Let’s refresh our gratitude to God, who is the source of all good things.