The World Outside

by Hillarie Larks

A dark grey, that was the color of the sky; I’ve always hated that color, always associated it with depressing moments. It seemed like all the clouds combined into one and engulfed the sun, not a bird in sight. I remember reading once that some animals have a tendency to know when danger is approaching and run to safety to avoid it. Maybe that should’ve been a clue to people that something wasn’t right. Even though I didn’t know much about what was going on, I knew enough to think that this situation was screaming “disaster.” On August 26th, 2005, disaster is exactly what drifted upon New Orleans.

Three hours—we’ve been in the car for three hours, stuck in traffic, maybe over three hours and haven’t moved an inch. No wait, we’ve moved an inch and no more. It’s very hot in the car, my little brother tries to roll down the window but we don’t have it down for long…The burning smell of gas and oil from the cars surrounding us is overpowering. Since we don’t know how long it will be until we get to the nearest gas station we leave the a/c alone. I don’t like being here, being inside a small area for hours is horrific for a 12-year-old. I go from counting the trees in a nearby forest to counting the dots on my baby sister’s blankets. I want to go home, but my mom says we can’t: “It’s a mandatory evacuation baby girl, so we’re going to Baton Rouge. Think of it as a mini vacation, we’ll be back home in a few days.” As soon as those words are spoken, a massive dark grey cloud appears. Yeah, I’ve always hated that ugly color.

Ngan Vu, Untitled

Ngan Vu, Untitled

Seven hours later we make it to a motel in Baton Rouge. It looks like it once was a beautiful place. Faded gold paint coats the building with dull red trimmings all around the outside, a pool with a cover on it, and dead grass surrounding the area. It looks like what could have been a picture perfect miniature version of a palace in 17th century Britain. The situation gets worse when we realize there is only one room left in the entire motel and that room has only one bed. This is something I am not used to; no matter what house we moved to in New Orleans, no matter the circumstances, I’ve always had my own room. Even when we had five people; my grandmother, mother, brother, little sister and myself, living in our three bedroom home, I always had my own room. In the end it is decided that my grandmother and my baby sister will get the bed, my mother the chair, while my brother and I make an improvised bed pallet upon the floor. I am really starting to hate this “mini vacation.” I ask my grandmother when we will be able to go home, “Well Boo-bie, when the storm is over with, we can head home. It shouldn’t take no more than a day or two.” With nothing else better to do, I sit by the window looking into the crystal blue sky that is quickly darkening into that dreadful, dull grey. A few raindrops fall onto the window; I really want to go home.

The sound of thunder is what I wake up to and what I see is nothing; it is pitch dark. I look out of the window; it is raining pretty hard again. If I didn’t have the clock next to me I wouldn’t be able to tell that it is morning time. We’ve been stuck in this motel for 2 days now. My mother decides that after the rain stops we will be able to go back home. Despite the depressing weather outside, I am feeling ecstatic after hearing my mom’s decision. I am going back home, back to my place of comfort. My excitement is short lived as we turn on the TV to watch the news report. August 28th 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hits land, the city of New Orleans is in ruins. Major flooding in almost every part of the city, video footage of the few people who stay and have climbed on roof tops, others riding make-shift boats to get to some form of safety. Watching all of this horror unfold I grow numb. I know that my city, my home, is no more.

Immediately after watching the news, my mother knows our lives are about to change drastically, “We need to come up with a plan and we need to come up with a plan now. Louisiana is not going to be the same after this.” The only problems are we have no way of contacting any of our other relatives, all the money we have left is running low and we have no idea where to go. A solution is found when we overhear an older couple talk about a relief effort in Houston. The city is willing to help as many people who suffered from the destruction of the hurricane as it can. Once again we are packing up what little we have; we are on the move to Houston. My mother is so excited about the possibilities of moving to Houston. It seems like she already has a plan worked out, “If we stay in Houston for a year or two we’ll be able to save up enough money, the city should be back to normal, and we can go home.” Home. To my knowledge we no longer have a home, of any kind, to go to anymore. Our house is underwater, and our city, the only place that I have ever known, is in ruins. No—we no longer have a home to go back to.

We are approaching the Louisiana/Texas state line quicker than I anticipated, despite the horrendous traffic we passed to get here. I am not ready to leave Louisiana, it’s the only place I have ever known and I don’t know what lies beyond this state. As we cross the state line, I close my eyes; it is my silent goodbye to the life I know I’m leaving behind. Opening my eyes I am shocked by what I see; it is like a completely different world. A huge sign that says “Welcome to Texas- the Lone Star State” stands on the side of the road and not too far from it a flag as big as the car waves in the wind. Traveling towards Houston is something very close to being magical. I see buildings so tall; they seem to go on for forever, there are construction sites on almost every road: like there is always something to fix; and people, there are so many different types of people. I wonder briefly if we have stepped into an alternate universe like the Twilight Zone. Everything is new to me here and I can’t take in the sights fast enough. I have to look at every street, building and sign that’s passing us by. “Maybe it won’t be so bad to live here for a year, huh Boo-bie?” my grandmother says. “You’ll never know we might end up liking it!” I laugh at her, shaking my head at her silly comment while looking at the crystal blue sky above. Maybe it won’t be so bad, but after our year is upgoing home will be first on the list of my things to do.



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