This I Believe

Meryl - Jefferson, Louisiana
Entered on May 31, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: setbacks

Hurricanes can bring out the best in people. This I believe. On June 1, I will turn 33 and Hurricane season 2006 will begin. I live in New Orleans, Louisiana and have suffered greatly as a result of the hurricanes of 2005, specifically Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For all of the heartache and hardship we have endured, I truly believe that hurricanes bring out the best in people. My husband, two daughters (ages 7 & 3) were evacuated to Houston, TX when Hurricane Rota came barrelling at Houston and the western Gulf Coast. It was scary, as we had just evacuated to a new city, put the girls in new schools, bought new clothes, and started work in a new city, all without warning, or notice, or anything. Now, it was Hurricane Rita that would drive us to the edge, literally, and back again. When my company called for employees to evacuate, we decided that leaving at 2 am would put us way ahead of everyone else in Houston. We would drive the 8 or so hours to Jackson, MS to my aunt’s and wait and see, just like we did for Katrina. At 2″15 am, we entered a near-gridlocked northbound interstate. I had packed only a few bottles of water, a few packs of goldfish, nothing much. Seven hours later, we were hot, tired, and only forty five miles from our starting point. Still in Texas. Still in Harm’s Way. Still in Fear. I was losing my mind. We were barely moving, I was going crazy. Seven hours and only 45 miles! I thought I would actually die with my children on the interstate. We decided to get off of the interstate and, using my husband’s trusty GPS, navigate our way east. I figured we would eventually hit Louisiana, then Mississippi. Moving was better than being still. We found our way to back roads and travelled at normal speeds for two hours or so. Then again, gridlock on a two lane highway. Not much closer to Louisiana and Mississippi and getting low on fuel. Then it happened. It was the kindest act of human decency I have ever experienced in my life. While we were stopped, my husband would periodically get out of the car & chat with fellow fleeers. A gentleman behind us, Butch, was in a Diesel truck trailering his horse to his Girlfriend’s house, near the LA. State line. He had a blue eyed dog with him, greying hair, a soft voice, and a cowboy hat. Butch was an angel. At one point, he said that he could lead us through some dirt roads to his girlfriend’s house where we would be very near the LA. state line and closer to our destination. He said we could follow him, but the roads would be rough, but we agreed. Then, he brought my girls water. When the time came, we followed, and our adventure began. It was over an hour on red dusty roads. We could hardly see Butch’s truck in front of us. Cell phones were not working that far out, so no one knew where we were. The theme song from “Deliverance” kept running through my head, but I kept praying the Hail Mary, hoping that this kind man was who he said he was. Finally, we were back on black top. We followed Butch for a few more miles, and ended up stopped in front of a cute farm house. Butch got out and said we should come in an freshen up & that he had some gas if we needed it. We said ok and thanks and followed him up the long drive. When the girls and me got out of the car, we were greeted by several farm animals and Trudy, Butch’s girlfriend. “My goodness, I have been waiting for y’all! I fixed up a whole mess of food, now come on in and eat,” she exclaimed. I almost cried. She did not know us, we could have been thieves, or robbers, or whatever, but that did not matter. My girls were so hungry. At this point, it was close to 8 pm and we had only eaten a few bags of goldfish and a banana or two. We feasted on the biggest spread of Southern Hospitality I have ever seen. Pork roast, brisket, black eyed peas, cabbage, greens, corn bread, and cobbler with ice cream, oh, and sweet tea, of course. Unbeknownst to us, while we were feasting, Butch was filling up our gas tank to the brim. He came in to join us and asked that we at least stay the night until the storm passed. We were literally trying to outrun it at this point. We thanked them profusely, but had to move on. We offered them money for the gas and food and they would not accept. They let us use their bathrooms, eat their food, drink their drinks, and even let the girls go for a pony ride, all for strangers, total strangers. We were in need, and they helped us. To us, that hurricane brought out the best in people. For this, I believe!