Monday, Aug. 29, 2005 – a day that will live in infamy.

  • I got up early that morning and was glued to the TV – flipping between CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews.
  • I was also monitoring the internet. I found a few New Orleans post-storm photos there.
  • The storm hit at the mouth of the Pearl River near Pearlington, Miss. It sounded really bad for the Mississippi Coast – huge storm surge. But it sounded like New Orleans would be okay.
  • Power failed in Hickory sometime that morning. We tried to keep up with the news on a battery-powered black-and-white TV and on the radio.
  • I don’t remember exactly when the rain and wind started at Hickory, but we were in for a long, long day. We just didn’t know it yet.
  • The day before, at Hickory Baptist, someone wondered aloud whether or not Hickory residents should evacuate. I laughed under my breath (Hickory is at least three hours inland). I wasn’t laughing when Hurricane Katrina blew over Hickory.
  • The hurricane still packed Category 1 strength when it blew into Hickory. The gusts were very high.
  • It started out breezy then moved to blustery. Before we knew it we were experiencing gale-force winds.
  • Most of the shingles blew off the east side of the Oglesbee home early on – the whipping rain began leaking through the roof, through the ceiling and onto the floor of every room on the east side of the house.
  • We gathered as many bowls, pans, empty coffee cans, trash cans, empty margarine tubs and buckets we could find in the house and in the storage shed. We tried to catch as much water as possible. Drops leaked from hundreds of holes. We were fighting a losing battle against leaks. We mopped and mopped with towels and emptied container after container of water. Meanwhile, Jonathan, just four at the time, bounced off the walls. He couldn’t handle all the noise and excitement and indoor rain. He was in a frenzy – totally out of control. He couldn’t process what was going on.
  • Outside the wind whipped and sheets of rain came down. Large pecan and oak trees in the yard swayed back and forth. It looked like they would break or fall. Debris filled the air.
  • The leaks continued for 3-5 hours.
  • A large tree crashed across the driveway, blocking us in. I watched through a window as the tree fell. I was in the living room watching a tree close to the house tip and almost uproot. While the other tree fell, this one continued to sway. Each time the wind would gust the tree would rock. Its roots would raise revealing sloppy, soupy, water-saturated mud. That sloppy mud was all that held the tree up. Thankfully that tree didn’t fall – it was very close to the house.
  • Across the highway, a huge, old oak tree toppled.
  • Finally, the wind died down and the rain slowed. We ventured outside to see the damage.
  • Limb and trees were down everywhere. Shingles from the back side of the house littered the front yard. Plant debris, leaves, and grass, covered the house under the carport. The tree that fell over the highway was huge.
  • Just before dark Kimberly’s uncle, Troy Brand, and her cousin, Bill Brand, came with a chainsaw. They cut and we moved branches. The driveway was cleared.
  • We knew little of what was going on in New Orleans. We had been doing battle with the elements. The Meridian media outlets were focused on the problems there. Hickory and Meridian had been hit harder than expected.
  • We had seen the footage of the Superdome roof peeling away – scary. We had seen footage of looting.
  • I can’t remember when we heard that the levee failures had occurred. It hurt when we heard. It was like a hard punch in the stomach. We knew our lives would change and we knew many people in New Orleans would die.
  • We were exhausted from our day of battle so we went to bed early – we had no power so we opened the windows. It was hot, humid and still.
  • Shortly after we went to bed, the wind picked up again. First, it was a gentle breeze, then the curtains began to stretch out at a 45-degree angle. The cool air felt good.
  • Before long the wind was blowing hard again. The curtains began to whip in the wind. Fear and the noise kept us awake.
  • After a while, the rain came again. The roof started leaking again. More mopping and dumping water.
  • Apparently, the storm’s eye had spread out and opened wide after landfall. The hours of stillness must have been the remnants of the eye. Now we were getting hit with the back side of the storm.
  • The storm blew and blew.
  • That night I picked up Mississippi NPR and heard some reports from the coast. Surreal is the only way to describe these reports and the way I felt.

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