A New Orleans–based nurse educator shares the challenges that she and her family faced following Hurricane Katrina.
Like many, Karlin, a nurse educator, and her surgeon husband, Rich, didn’t evacuate their New Orleans home in advance of Katrina until mandated. With two kids and two dogs in tow, they drove toward Houston, hit standstill traffic, aimed next for Florida, and landed in a Mississippi motel that a friend had wisely booked. Riding out the storm there, with flooding, power outages, and scant food, they then made their way to Houston, helping to rescue a man in a horrible car accident en route and getting strange looks due to their bedraggled state, which included Rich’s black eye (inflicted by their anxious dog). Karlin secured an apartment in Houston, and her children attended an overcrowded school. Her husband returned to New Orleans to provide “C-team” medical relief. While the Karlin home wasn’t terribly damaged, the general devastation forced Karlin’s husband to take another surgery gig outside of the city to pay the bills. Karlin had to flee Houston during Hurricane Rita and New Orleans again for Hurricane Gustav and became adept at emergency preparedness. She concludes with an epilogue detailing how her family is now thriving and includes snapshots of the “misery tour” they took of New Orleans and surrounding areas shortly after Katrina. She celebrates NOLA spirit and the heartwarming charity she experienced, which prompted her own outreach following Hurricane Sandy. While the hardships that Karlin details pale in comparison to the horrors that others in New Orleans endured, she provides an important record of how even seemingly privileged lives were upended by this natural catastrophe. “It’s hard to imagine that surgeons needed to work two jobs in order to recover from Katrina,” Karlin writes. Her first-person narrative, a series of dated journal entries, is by turns heartbreaking (she found a “crying spot” at their shelter motel) and amusing (her multiple evacuations were “like the whack-a-mole game at Chuck E. Cheese’s”) and also includes helpful tips.
Absorbing, instructive testimony from a “lucky” Katrina evacuee/returnee.