Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005, seemed like the longest day of my life. Longer than my wedding day (a good, long day). Longer than the day (and night) Kimberly was in labor with Jonathan. It was as if each hour took three hours to pass. And this wasn’t a good, long day.
We had no power, no telephone (landline), limited cell signal, little news from New Orleans and a mess to clean up. Lots of waiting, frustration and time to worry. It was HOT! And STILL! We did have coffee — thanks to a single burner Coleman camp stove. Bad coffee never tasted so good.
I found a weak cell signal near the vacant house next to Kimberly’s parents’ home. If I stood against the garage door I could get enough signal to make a call. I was able to talk to Mom that day to tell her we were okay.
I also talked to my co-worker and good friend Michael. We talked several times that day because my 504 (New Orleans) area code phone could not make calls to other 504 cell phones. Michael had a 205 area code cell phone (Alabama) and he could call and receive calls from 504 cell phones. I would call Michael who would, in turn, relay the information to other seminary employees. Another co-worker, Jeff, called as well. He had yet another area code. He helped relay information as well. After hours of painful relaying of information, we finally figured out that 504 to 504 text messages were working.
With this discovery, I was able to connect with my boss by text message. He forwarded me the seminary president’s hotel room phone number in Birmingham, Ala., and told me to give Dr. Kelley a call. It was early evening before we connected. Dr. Kelley told me to drive to Atlanta by Wednesday evening. The administrators and a small team of seminary faculty and staff would meet Thursday morning to discuss the future of the seminary. It was a good thing that I got through when I did, the cell phone battery was running low.
That day we cleared some of the branches and debris in the yard. I caught a bit of news about New Orleans on the black and white battery-operated TV set. But all the news was bad. By all accounts, most of the city was underwater – lots of water. The city streets were lawless. News accounts told of broken levees, violence, suffering and death.
Our future suddenly seemed so uncertain. What would become of my job? What would become of our city? What about our stuff? How are we going to make it? What do we do next? And the list goes on.
Thankfully, we did have a number of certainties. We had our lives. We had each other and the love of our families. Most of all, we still had Jesus Christ.
That night we prepared for our trip to Atlanta. Packing was easy … we only had a few clothes because we were expecting a short evacuation. While I wasn’t excited about the drive, I was ready for electricity and air conditioning.
The next seven days would have many emotional ups and downs. It was the longest week.
My list of known possessions on Aug. 30, 2005*
– 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan
– Two pairs of pants
– Two pairs of shorts
– A dress shirt
– Three neckties (don’t ask why)
– Two or three t-shirts
– Socks, etc.
– Shaving kit
– Cell phone
– Two pairs of shoes
*Obviously, we still owned all the stuff in our apartment … we just didn’t know it at the time. We didn’t get to check on the stuff until October of that year. Most of it stayed in storage for eight months.