Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005
- Early Wednesday, Kimberly’s Dad (Paul Oglesbee Jr.) and her older brother (Paul III) went to Meridian to buy supplies to patch the roof.
- I called the NOBTS North Georgia Campus to reserve a hotel room. Liz Stewart (NOBTS Student Life Director at the time) answered and made the reservation.
- I worked hard all morning to help patch the roof. After we finished I changed clothes and got ready to leave for Atlanta.
- All we had were a few changes of clothes, a van and our lives.
- We still didn’t know a whole about what had happened in New Orleans. The local radio and tv stations were focused on the problems in Meridian instead of focusing on the more serious problems on the Mississippi Coast and in New Orleans. It was rather frustrating.
- When we made it to Meridian we could tell the town had taken a fairly serious hit. Power was still out in parts of Meridian and at Kimberly’s parent’s house in Hickory.
- We stopped at an A&W/Long John Silvers for food. Two days of food off a single-burner campstove had taken a toll. The fast food hit the spot.
- At the time we had no idea that we were going to be in Atlanta for the next eight months.
- My family became a part of the largest disbursement of people in the United States since the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. Countless other New Orleanians were displaced as well – our city: underwater. NOTE: Later, I would make the connection between the “Okies” of the great Dust Bowl migration and the evacuees of Katrina. Before the first anniversary of the storm I read “The Grapes of Wrath” – made some peace with my past. Some of my fellow evacuees were as wanted as the “Okies.”
- By the time we reached Birmingham, Ala., a gasoline scare was developing in Atlanta. The Louisiana refineries were down and several Gulf oil platforms had been damaged. People in Atlanta were worried about gas.
- We filled up in Birmingham (a very smart move) so we would have to deal with it in Atlanta.
- We got lost a few time in Atlanta looking for the Holiday Inn Select near the seminary’s North Georgia Campus in Decatur, Ga. We finally made it to the Holiday Inn.
- We saw a few seminary people in the lobby, but we weren’t in much of a talking mood. We quickly went to our rooms and began watching the tv news reports – flipping between CNN, FOX News and MSNBC. The reports were confusing and mostly made me angry.
- I was happy to be in a nice clean room with power and a/c, but I didn’t sleep much that night.
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005
- I went to work at the seminary North Georgia Campus on Thursday morning. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be a busy day.
- Dr. Kelley, the seminary president, opened the meeting by reading Psalm 46. The group consisted of mainly seminary vice presidents, academic division chairs, faculty members and senior staff.
- *We identified the key questions that needed to be answered for the school to continue and recover.
- Dr. Kelley split the group into two tack forces – one to address student relief and another to address the continuation of classes.
- I had to go purchase a computer cord for my laptop – I already had two – one was at my office in New Orleans; the other was at our apartment in New Orleans. I needed one now to do my work.
- The task forces reported back that afternoon with good, solid plans. I set up an office downstairs and began working on two articles.
- Our lofty goal was to have a major update on the NOBTS website by Friday and to get two articles to the Baptist Press by noon Friday.
Friday, Sept. 2, 2005
- I worked hard between phone calls – there were phone calls from everywhere. People kept calling, seek information.
- I finished the two articles and let the president give his approval to send. I sent the articles to BP, they promptly posted both.
- I worked the rest of the day, but I don’t remember just what I did.
- The afternoon, we were released for the Labor Day weekend. In fact they gave us an extra day off. The administration as wanted us to check out of the Holiday Inn the next morning.
- We really didn’t have anywhere to go. Kimberly’s parents still didn’t have power and we couldn’t go all the way to Oklahoma.
- That night, we watched too much news and looked at too much of the USA Today. We couldn’t believe the horrible images, videos and stories coming out of our city.
- It was hard to sleep that night.
Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005
- We found a place to stay in the Atlanta area. One of Kimberly’s college friends agreed to take us in for the long weekend.
- We got up, packed and headed to Cummin, Ga., to stay with Susan Peugh.
- On the way, we stopped by Kohl’s to purchase some clothes and Wal-Mart for a bunch of much-needed items. We had no clue when New Orleans would reopen for residents.
- We made it to Susan’s in time for part of the Oklahoma Sooners/TCU football game. OU was losing and in the end, they lost the game. I wanted the escape of a good OU win, but it didn’t come.
- We still had no clue about the status of our apartment. Was it dry? Was it looted? How was this all going to turn out? Only questions, no answers.
Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005
- Susan had other commitments on Sunday, so we drove to church we had visited before – Sugar Hill Baptist Church in Buford, Ga. We had visited the church a year earlier. Sugar Hill had supported the church (Crosspoint) we helped start in Gulfport, Miss., from 2001-2005. We helped the pastor at Sugar Hill would have information about how the people at Crosspoint had fared.
- We took Jonathan to the children’s area. We knew he needed to play with other kids. It had been a long 10 days.
- Then we shuffled into the sanctuary and picked a safe place near the back. We were still just overwhelmed.
- My first real moment of release came when the praise band led the congregation in a powerful cover of “Blessed Be Your Name.” The song, performed by the band Tree63, had become a favorite of my before the storm, but now it really meant something. The words “You give and take away,” taken straight from the book of Job, spoke to me. Tears flowed and at that moment, I knew everything was going to be okay. God used that song in a great way. I will always love the song.
- On the way back to Susan’s, we turned to comfort food – Steak ‘n Shake.
- Jonathan is such a great kid. He was only 4 ½ at the time, but he knew something was up. He knew something was wrong, but he acted so good. That’s the one thing I remember about the next few days.
- On Sept. 7th, Kimberly, Jonathan and I moved into a one bedroom unit at the Clairmont Crest Apartments (a senior adult independent living complex in Decatur, Ga.). The seminary set up the arrangements. That one bedroom apartment was home for eight months. Jonathan was a huge hit with the elderly residents.
- The first weekend in October, we were able to go to New Orleans and collect our belongings from our apartment. We lost a car (a 1993 Honda Civic with 186,000 miles), bikes, a grill, a washing machine and a couch. But our losses were nothing compared to the losses of our neighbors. Most lost everything they owned.
- I made seven or eight trips to New Orleans from October 2005 and March 2006. Each trip I feel deeper and deeper in love with the city.
- Work was busy for me, but I put out some of my best work. I earned three writing awards for articles about the aftermath and recovery.