Survivor

I loathe this prompt more than I’ve loathed any prompt before it.  (And just ask Evey, I’ve loathed a my share!)  Mainly, I was blocked because all I can think of is that stupid show.  How is it possible that one concept TV show can overrun such a powerful word?  I doubt that anyone didn’t think first of a bunch of folks stranded on an island for the sake of prime time television when they got that word.  Ah well…

I’ve always copped to being a lucky girl.  Never have I had to really struggle to overcome any kind of circumstance, nor have I faced tragedy.  While I’ve seen suffering on the part of a few friends, my family has been blessed in that we’ve never had to go through any kind of catastrophe.  Maybe that’s why, when I met a couple of guys in San Antonio in October of 2005, I was riveted by their ability to look forward in the face of having lost everything.

As I sat writing postcards in a taqueria on the River Walk, drinking Negro Modelo in a glass with a salted rim, the ex and I were approached by a very friendly pair of guys who quickly introduced themselves as Armand and Ollie.  The day before, we’d been at the New Orleans Saints’ "home" game when they’d hosted my Falcons at the Alamodome.  Little did we know, we’d all been in the same vicinity at that game, those guys on the field while we were in our seats right above them.

Ollie_armand_clay_carly_2

It was quite obvious from the minute we sat down during the warm up, that the group of men, women and children in the black FAITH shirts sitting in the folding chairs right outside the players’ tunnel were people who, like their football team, had been transplanted to Texas after the horrors that resulted from Hurricane Katrina.  We didn’t have to wait for their introduction to figure it out.  Surely, we didn’t recognize Armand and Ollie from that afternoon, but as soon as they’d told us there were there, we knew exactly who they were.

Over many shared beers, their stories unfolded.  They’d met just as we had, away from home and coincidentally.  They’d lived different lives and their paths had never crossed until they’d both lost nearly everything and found themselves apart from their family and friends in a strange city, depending on the goodwill of others to get by.  They were fortunate men as well, both had retained their employment in Louisiana, Ollie as a lab technician in a hospital and Armand as an IT guy at LSU.  Aside from their jobs, they had no idea if they’d have anything when they got back home.

As people were evacuated from the Superdome to makeshift shelters in cities that could afford to house them, they were moved further west as location after location filled up.  From what I was told, San Antonio was as far as people had gone, indicating that our new friends had been the last to leave their suffering city.

Ollie had been at work when it all went down.  After his family left town, he refused to leave and instead insisted on sticking around to do what he could to help.  When his work was done, he was taken to the Superdome and flown out after a short time there.

Armand, on the other hand, had been in his second floor apartment for much of the time after the flood had demolished it.  When the disaster had first been announced, he, like I think a lot of people would, scoffed at the alarmist reaction and decided to stay put.  (I think I remember the times correctly, but I could be wrong.)  He said that he’d seen an announcement on the TV at noon that the levee had broken and that the city would flood.  At four, he’d stood up to a damp floor and realized that maybe they were serious.  By eight, he said all his dishes, which he’d set out in places were floating.  He spent two nights in the stairwell and two more on an iron balcony that belonged to someone above him.  He told me about how everyone around him yelled at anyone going by on a boat and how everyone pleaded their case.  He said people kept telling him that they’d come back, but that they never did.  I remember him telling me that the guy who did finally come back said to him "If I come back for you, you’ll have to swim out here to this boat."  And Armand told him "If you come back, I’ll swim anywhere for you."

The guy came back and Armand swam to him.  He said that they had to duck under lamp posts at times during their ride, that they’d looked at bodies in the water and just had to turn away because they didn’t want to know what they were really looking at.  He was dropped at the Superdome and spent two days there before he as flown out to Texas.

The amazing thing to me, when hearing all about Armand’s experience, was the fact that he thought that there was nothing remarkable about it.  He even said "You just do what you have to do."  They were the mosy upbeat and fun guys who worried about nothing and just had a good time.  I guess that’s what survivors do.  And that’s amazing.  Kudos to them.

Here’s the first of my four Blog-Off posts for the month of July.  Look here for more information.

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13 Responses to “Survivor”

  1. Evette Says:

    Yes…the first thing I thought of was the show so you are not the only one! Unfortunatly there was something else on my mind which helped me write something else.

  2. Courtney Says:

    Yes, they are amazing. I can’t even imagine going through the horror that was New Orleans then- that likely still is now. What a nightmare.

  3. Evey Says:

    Yes I can vouch for you and how you have loathed. But you always come through so you should just skip the loathing part from now on;)

    Stories like this are always so inspiring, to all of us I would think. It is always amazing when people like that think they have done nothing special. Just lived life and had to overcome a bump in the road. I love the humbleness of it. I think it would have been an amazing experience to sit with those guys and hear their stories first hand. It would have been humbling, for me anyways.

  4. Nathan Pralle Says:

    Interesting that your post revolves around the Katrina victims. I’ve always had so many mixed feelings about that whole disaster. While I feel for the trials they have had to endure, at the same time, I very much dislike hearing any complaints about it. I live in Iowa, a place that is rift with tornadoes on regular occasion. I do not and will not ever bitch about there being tornadoes in Iowa. I live here and accept that risk. Likewise, if I lived in California, I’d accept earthquakes. Or hurricanes in Louisiana. I think it’s unrealistic for anyone to say that they didn’t expect this to happen to them or that it was unfair.

    That being said, I can appreciate the fact that some people didn’t have a very good choice about where to live and they were doing what they could in life and got caught up in the disaster.

    There are definitely a lot of impressive stories of what people did during that time to survive. Now it remains to see what NO makes of itself from here on out.

  5. QueenieCarly Says:

    I hadn’t meant for the tone of this post to imply that they were victims or to delve into whose fault it was or what kind of responsibility should be taken and by whom. Take away Katrina and all the causes and effects and these guys lost their homes and everything they had, were separated from their families and no matter what, that’s something. In my eyes, anyway.

    I was not attempting to make heroes out of them, I simply wanted to tell a story that had a big effect on me. As Evey said, hearing the stories first hand was humbling and it really brought a who new meaning to what had happened there. Maybe that’s a selfish way for me to say that this post was more about my experience than theirs.

  6. C~ Says:

    I have lived in the midwest, under the threat of tornadoes, and now I’m in California, where the ground shifts occasionally. We are headed to Texas in the next six months…wonder if they will be back to drought status then, or still with the flooding?

    No matter where you are, there’s some disaster you might see or be affected by. Whether you are a survivor or a victim is all in how you deal, I think.

    See, I think having the ability to recognize the survivor trait and actions in others is admirable. Lots of folks can only see their own struggles and to heck with the rest of the world. So. Great post. Well done.

  7. Vegas Princess Says:

    That show…it seems to have infultrated a lot of our posts.

    Having never met someone personally who was directly affected by Katrina (I heard a lot of stories but never met someone in person) I can imagine what it must have been like for you sit in this bar in complete wonder as these men talked about what wa sprobably the most horrible thing to happen to them in their lives and say “you do what you have to do.” That kind of survival is incredible, because I can never imagine myself being so cool and collected as they were.

    A great post! And I understand your rant…this was a tough tough word. But all your loathing was well worth it!

  8. Dawn Says:

    I don’t know of anyone directly affected by Hurricane Katrina, but I can only imagine being sat in that bar as these guys told their story.

    I’ve read and heard many stories from survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and most of them are all the same. People saying how they just did what they had to, and how they don’t think that they’re remarkable in any way.

    Thank you so much for sharing this story with us Carly. It reminds all of us to be grateful for everything that we have, because we never know when we might lose it all.

  9. Megs Says:

    This was a great post Carly. Hearing those stories, man, I can only imagine. Job well done, as usual. 🙂

    Oh and uh, don’t tell anyone I can write okay? 🙂

  10. Diane Says:

    Great post as usual – and I think no-one really knows how they will react until something happens to them. I used to be a drama queen and get upset at any sort of breakdown but now hopefully, I would also ‘just do what I had to do’

  11. Dex Says:

    I didn’t think these guys were heroes, awesome, or exceptional beings. However, they did survive and that alone makes them noteworthy. People watch images on TV and feel bad, but in no way can they relate to the tragedy that unfolds in the box in front of us. We can’t relate unless we have been a part of something similar ourselves. It bring is full circle when you speak to someone directly and hear the stories that have changed their lives.

    What we should be outraged at is the way this country’s government, governmental agencies, and similar agencies deal with natural disasters, man-made disasters, and any other regional catastrophe. It’s unexcusable how this particular event was handled, plain and simple.

  12. Eternity Says:

    You do what ya gotta do… yup.
    People have an ability to amaze themselves–great job on sharing how a few of them managed it. Welcome to the blog off!

  13. H. (aka NC_State_gal) Says:

    I know several survivors from Hurricane Katrina and they touched me in a similar manner. The perseverance of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. Great post.

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