Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sweet Baton Rouge, My Baton Rouge


The now-ironic closing words from Garth Brooks's "Callin' Baton Rouge" will continue to be endearing but may elicit more than a few eye rolls as they are sung this fall at LSU football games:
Operator won't you put me on through
I gotta' send my love down to Baton Rouge
Hurry up won't you put her on the line
I gotta' talk to the girl just one more time

Callin' Baton Rouge
Sweet Baton Rouge, my Baton Rouge
Why ironic, with eye-rolling? The backstory will help:

In case you haven't heard about the recent 1000-year flood that afflicted southeastern Louisiana, read about it here and here. Over 60,000 homes flooded in a three-day time period. This map will show you just the East Baton Rouge area, though neighboring Livingston Parish suffered even more comprehensively. Neighborhoods that have never seen water were inundated, some homes taking in 5 inches and some 5 feet. And though I no longer live in my hometown, most of my family does. 

My 96-year-old great aunt lost her home and must stay with her daughter. Several cousins were flooded, a family furniture business lost a showroom, and my mother's two-year-old house took on two feet of water. She, like thousands of others, is now homeless until contractors can gut, clean, and rebuild—a process that will happen without the benefit of flood insurance to mitigate the cost, since she and so many thousands of others did not have such insurance—not living in a flood zone. 

See Photos of the #BRFlood

Amid the destruction and heartache of this ongoing disaster, grace and hope shine through—silver linings revealing God's goodness:
  • As the torrential rains fell on Friday, a friend from Dallas called Mom to ask about the level of the lake behind her home. She hadn't really thought about it until he called, so the next morning she went outside during a lull in the rain to take pictures of it. A neighbor in a nearby yard saw her and called out, encouraging her to evacuate soon. "But the lake is fine. Why the urgency?" Mom wondered. Apparently the road leading to their neighborhood was beginning to flood over, so even if the lake remained low, the streets might not, and they would be trapped in their homes.

    So Mom packed up a few essentials and her dog, then drove to my brother's house just a couple of miles away. She says she got out just in time, as the water indeed was over the road and—she later learned—authorities had closed off traffic to that area.

    If our friend in Dallas had not thought to call and inquire about her lake, she likely would not have been outside taking pictures of it. And who can predict when neighbors are outside at the same time? Coincidence? Hardly.
  • Mom, my brother and his family, and several others were forced to evacuate again as waters threatened his neighborhood the following morning. They eventually found refuge with a friend of a friend in a town west of the Mississippi River, about 40 minutes away. Five adults and three babies invaded—staying for three days, waiting on the flooding to stop and to hear about the impact on their homes. Mom says that neighbors came to that house with more food and supplies than they could ever consume.

  • Both of my brothers' homes escaped flooding, though the waters rose to within inches of their doorstep. Mom has a place to stay while her house is repaired—a luxury so many lack.

  • Stories began to spread, telling of the hundreds of locals going out to rescue stranded people by launching their private fishing boats, kayaks, pirogues, and such. The "Cajun Navy" made headlines (when the media finally got around to talking about the BR flood). Regular Joes (or Boudreaux, as Cajuns joke) just helping each other out in what became a dramatic scenario.
  • As a plan emerged to clean out and repair Mom's house, I called on friends here in Dallas to help me bring a Suburban full of packing supplies: boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc. Within six hours of asking, my truck was loaded—some of it coming from people who didn't even know me but who responded to my friend's plea on Facebook. Such generosity! Each item I brought was used or shared with others in need. Nothing went to waste.

  • I was able to drive down with my oldest son (great for manual labor) overnight Wednesday in order to get there in time for the moving truck Thursday afternoon. A team of friends and family had already been hard at work clearing out ruined furniture and carpet. Mom's sisters, grandkids, children, in-laws, friends, friends of her children... what a picture of love! By Thursday afternoon her house was empty, ready for the demolition team. This week it's being sprayed to kill the mold. Step-by-step, she's moving forward.

During the worst of the storm and rising water, the AT&T substation flooded, causing service outages across the region. This complicated and disrupted communications between residents and their families or would-be rescuers. I couldn't reach Mom at all on the Saturday she evacuated. And though the company has extended discounts and rebates to customers in that area, they are currently everyone's favorite punching bag. So when LSU plays in a few weeks, and Garth's song tells the home crowd he's "callin' Baton Rouge," chances are that Tiger fans will suggest he use Verizon or Sprint. Badump-bing.

But, seriously, friends, I cannot thank enough people for their instinctive reaction to give, pray, and serve when news of the flooding hit. To Pop—for calling about the lake; to Erin, Mark, Heather, Andrew and Esteliz, Sandi, and Erin's friends for the supplies; to my hubby for holding down the fort during my trip; to Nate for serving without complaint; to Sharon, Amy and Aiden, Eileen and Mitch, Maureen, Fran, Becky, Ana, and the others I can't remember for helping pack up and clean salvageable items; to Derek, Cory, and Kevin, for jumping in to do the heavy lifting and helping take care of Mom in the interim.

Our story is just one of thousands. The need is still great—this recovery will take months for some, years for others. The scale of destruction is massive. Consider giving to worthy relief organizations or directly to someone you know who has been affected. Be sure to vet the organizations to avoid being scammed. Consider volunteering to help with clean-up and demo work—a huge need! This article contains several helpful links regarding all sorts of aid.

And don't forget the goodness of God. We are grateful to Him for his protection and provision during this time. Be a part of his work!

Lamentations 3:22–23 
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

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