Every now and then I come across an exceptional piece of writing; one that somehow touches my heart, helps me see the world differently, or gives me a new perspective. The following blog post, written by David Knight, does all three. David is an Episcopal priest who was serving at St. Patrick's in Long Beach, Mississippi when Katrina hit. He is also a friend and a role model who helps me remember what a priest really should be.
I’ve been debating even writing this for a couple of days. But in some ways it is cathartic (hopefully). First, all you folks on the Coast of Land Mass (also known as Mississippi) please know that almost every ounce of prayer time I have is offered on your behalf.
Why. Because I know….
Of course I have been watching – ever since Isaac was a depression with potential. It’s the Weather Channel 24/7, even if they don’t know the name of my state. By the way, how comical is it to watch them now try to say “Mississippi” every other sentence! Stephanie Abrams “I am showing you some love Mississippi”, and good ole Jim Cantore “we know NOLA suffered from a man-made flood and Katrina wiped out the coast of Mississippi”. I guess 7 years of being virtually ignored can pile up some hard feelings.
But, back to the watch. I just can’t look away. Cones and predictions and models and prophecy, I take it all in. And that’s when the feeling begins.
You know it, if you lived it. That feeling in your gut, your soul, your heart. The wound is there, the scabs peel back, and you have to deal with it all over again. My head hurts JUST LIKE IT DID when the pressure dropped. The nausea has existed for days, the anxiousness, the snappy remarks, the fear. And I am not even on the Coast now, although I still have a house in the Pass. So I lift up my brothers and sisters to the Holy One who never forsook us and never will. And then I watch some more.
And for those who don’t get it but want to make light of how we are, where we are, who we are in this moment – maybe you should just leave us alone. You cannot possibly comprehend the feeling, the feeling I cannot even define. There are probably moments in your life that are the same for you and we won’t be able to know what that was like, but heaven help us if we mock you on Facebook or roll our eyes behind your back. You see, it’s just different, if you were there. I saw the bodies in the bags, and blessed them. I prayed with search and rescue units whose job really was only to pull out dead people and spray paint the houses, when what they really wanted to do was save someone. And I had the miracle blessing of a house largely undamaged, so my story is far better than most. Maybe for a day or two, you just let us be.
No, this is not Katrina. But neither was any other storm and we just had no clue, no concept, no benchmark for something so horrendous and wide spread and all encompassing. Now we do, and we really, really wish we didn’t.
So I watch, and the memories come. The parishioners’ houses-that-were-gone, their desperate faces, their uncertainty, the overwhelming feeling of what will we do now. Yes, there was much, much to be thankful for in the months and years that followed, especially the people who came by the thousands to help. But those memories are for later – for today, and for the anniversary-of-hell that is tomorrow, we just get that feeling all over again, amplified by Cantore and Abrams and Isaac and projections and surge and preparations and despair and hollow laughter and that feeling.
Tonight and tomorrow and probably Thursday way up here in Jackson we will get wind and lots of rain and maybe tornados (hopefully not). We won’t get the sea whose incomprehensible power we learned the hard way. And as the skies darken and trees fall, I pray for those here who are alone or afraid or desperate as well. And the feeling, THAT FEELING will grow a bit more, I am sure, and if I hear the sound – you know the sound if you were there – then forgive my weeping for all that was and is now lost.
Anniversaries – sometimes we celebrate, sometimes we dread them. Sometimes we want them to just go away.
But they don’t. So tonight and tomorrow, we just pray. Because that feeling is here, for a bit.
May God protect you all.