August 29, 2005 changed everything on the gulf coast. From landscape to language, and everything in between; you see and hear the effects in the everyday way people interact and live down to the smallest details. I guess its what they call “the new normal.” Obvious changes include new buildings, vacant lots, and remaining rubble. But even the way people think and talk has changed. “Before the storm” and “since the storm” has become the commonly accepted way to reference time.
Katrina stands as a watershed in the world-view of the gulf coast. This past Sunday I distributed a pamphlet which included William Bradford’s 1723 Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Before the service, I mentioned to one of our church members that I had a tract about the “First Thanksgiving.” They automatically assumed I meant Thanksgiving 2005 and began to discuss that day.
For nine weeks we had been sorting through water logged remains and mountains of destruction. Living in tents and vehicles, and campers; military style MREs (meals ready to eat) provided the main source of food along with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and American Red Cross. Third world country living conditions slowed the progress and we probably had not yet realized how long of a road we had ahead of us. We were still trying to locate family members and friends to discover whether they had survived the storm.
Then, like a Hollywood Thanksgiving miracle, new friends from across the country flooded into the area with turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and vegetables, dinner rolls, pumpkin pies, and every thanksgiving fixing imaginable. A large event tent erected in a freshly cleared field of devastation provided a place of worship amid the ruins. Even an inflatable playground graced the property for the children, who for the last nine weeks, had not had a safe place to play. For a few hours we knew what it must have been like for the pilgrims in a new world as they celebrated their “First Thanksgiving.”