Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
October 31st, 2012

Gulf Coast to Northeast: We Get It


Emergency personnel rescue residents from Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters in New Jersey. (CNS photo/Adam Hunger, Reuters)

Hello, Northeast. How are you?

It’s okay, you don’t have to answer that question. Can we buy you a drink? Let us buy you a drink.

We know. This sucks. And we wish we could tell you the nightmare will be over soon, but the fact is this is going to suck for a long time yet. Even after the waters recede, there’s still the matter of piecing your lives back together. There’s paperwork, lots and lots of paperwork. You’ll have to dig through all of your waterlogged belongings and make wrenching decisions about what’s salvageable, and you’ll have to make those decisions faster than you’d like. Some of you will lose what’s irreplaceable: your children’s baby pictures, your grandmother’s wedding dress. A few of you will lose everything — all that you own. We are so sorry for that.

True: the possessions you’ve lost are “just stuff.” Here insert Ignatian sentiment about detachment mingled with Buddhist meditation on ephermality topped off with quote from Shakespeare’s cloud-capp’d towers speech. If those ideas about the transitory nature of “stuff” help you get some much-needed perspective right now, good. We know all too well that nothing clarifies what’s important in life like a natural disaster ripping through your region. Nevertheless, even though what you lost was “just stuff,” we understand that that stuff was meaningful to you, and we want you to know that it’s okay to mourn your loss.

Here’s the good news — and yes, in spite of everything, there is good news. The good news is: we have your back. Because we remember. We remember how you gave us warm beds and hot dinners. We remember how you came, with your families and your church groups and your college chapters of Habitat for Humanity, and helped us gut our houses and our grief, helped us hammer and nail our lives into something like normalcy. We will never, ever forget how you came.

More good news: you won’t have to depend solely on the kindness of strangers. Your neighbors will come out of the woodwork to help you. They will lug your ruined carpet to the curb for you. They will show up on your saturated doorstep with cakes and casseroles. You will, in the midst of your relentless difficulties, feel blessed and lucky and amazed to know such people.

Not everyone will make you feel so lucky. Some people are going to say you deserved what you got. They will say that God flooded you in retribution for your sinful lifestyles. People will interpret your distress as a character flaw. They will wonder why you waited around for the government to save you, ignoring the fact that you did no such thing. Tune those people out. They are silly.

We on the Gulf Coast watch your suffering with horror and recognition, and we assure you, with all of our hearts, that you are not alone. We will look out for you, as you once looked out for us. We’ll even lend you our patron saint. As this tragedy continues to unfold, we don’t want to belittle your heartache and anxiety by telling you to buck up and look at the bright side. However, we do want you to know that better days are ahead. The skies will clear, your lives will inch their ways back to coherency, and you will discover that dark days have a way of breeding a million acts of kindness.

With thoughts, prayers, and good wishes,

Your sister in sorrow, and in recovery,

The Gulf Coast

The Author : Elizabeth Desimone
Elizabeth Desimone has an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oklahoma State University. In 2009 she graduated from Spring Hill College with bachelor's degrees in English and writing. She is a native of the New Orleans area. Check out Elizabeth's food blog for some delicious recipes.
See more articles by (17).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • KluKluxKlanKiller444

    I would like to come to the city to help. Lord knows I know how it is, and what is needed to do, and I really would like to go and help do what ever I can. I’m from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, but I don;t see any jobs aiding listed on the web that shows where we can help. That is messed up.

  • Linda Ensor

    Having grown up in the coastal plains of South Carolina, I have had more experience with hurricanes than have most of my neighbors in New Jersey. However, the damage I have witnessed this time eclipses anything I experienced in South Carolina, for the density of the population here greatly amplified the degree of destruction the storm wrought. This article is just what we all need to read and to remember as we prepare to resume “normal” lives. Thank you for such a beautiful piece.

  • Sue DePinho

    As a Long Branch, NJ Resident and a teacher to the children in many of the devastated nearby beach communities, I will be sharing your message with as many people as I can. People need to hear this. Thank you!

  • Mary Lou Gibson

    Thank you for sharing this article. Many of us in Austin have been wondering how the Paulist fathers have fared during the storm. I hope you are all dry and have power and are there for people who need you.

  • Liz

    As someone from New York but living away in MA, this has really touched my heart. I’ve been grieving for my home city and for many of my friends who have lost power or sustained damage to their homes, and this wonderful letter is a reminder that we are not alone, and that others are supporting us during this time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Veronica

    Living on the Gulf Coast, we can be pretty jaded about hurricanes and recovery…it’s a fact of life for us. But we need to remember what it’s like and extend our compassion and comfort to others who are not accustomed to such damage. This is a wonderful article and I plan to share it with others…encourage them to donate to the American Red Cross and to keep our East Coast brethren in our prayers.

  • 2pacolypse

    All I can say is wow. This letter touches on any and everthing. Fitting tribute from a Hurrican Katrina survivor and residence who speaks from first hand accounts and emotions. Prayers continue for the Gulf Coast and are being equally sent out to the East Coast.

  • James Leo Oliver

    I am crying my eyes out after reading this. My daughter is is Brooklyn, safe and sound with power and I am so grateful to God but I feel so bad for so many others. God bless us all.

  • Emily

    This was beautiful! My heart goes out to both the gulf coast and the east coast, and any other coast that has to deal with this special sort of tragedy. Thank you for expressing your sentiment so well!

powered by the Paulists