Darren and Marianne were preparing to celebrate their twins’ second birthday with friends and family. Marianne made Rice Krispy treats and cut them out in Mickey Mouse shapes to serve at the party. They knew it would be a rainy weekend and wondered if they’d have to postpone the festivities. And then the water began to creep into the yard of their Denham Springs, La., home.
The Mickey Mouse treats went into the freezer just in case the party could take place later in the weekend. They decided it was time to move to higher ground but couldn’t find a way out of their neighborhood by car. Within half an hour, the water was lapping against the house and beginning to find its way into their home. Unsure of what would happen next or how long the waters would rise, the couple looked down the street, now a river, and saw two teenagers pulling a boat. They grabbed their twins and two suitcases, and took a boat out of their subdivision in search of safety. Days after their escape, they would discover four feet of water had filled their house.
A week later, I made the drive from New Orleans to Denham Springs with friends from St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church. What should have been an hour’s drive took almost two-and-a-half as neighbors across the state slowly made their way to the Baton Rouge area to survey damage and offer help. I met Darren and Marianne for the first time that day after we drove past business after business and home after home with personal belongings, dry wall, cabinets and appliances lining the streets.
Marianne pulled out the Rice Krispy treats, still cool in the dying freezer, and served them to the friends who came to throw the contents of their home onto the trash pile. The only art left hanging in their former living room read, “In Christ alone, my hope is found,” and remained above those working to loosen and throw out the warped floor of their home of less than three months.
One house, one story among thousands of houses and thousands of stories in south Louisiana. Thousands of homes are drying out over the next two weeks as people prepare to rebuild, and thousands of neighbors will rely on the kindness of strangers to send funds, work crews, appropriate supplies and a listening ear. Our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partners at Broadmoor Baptist Church, with the help of University Baptist Church, have turned their gymnasium into a distribution center for cleaning supplies and basic toiletries. CBFLA.org has a “DONATE” link where anyone can contribute to the flood fund that will help neighbors rebuild in the months ahead. Each phase of rebuilding will take time, and residents will need your partnership as entire communities put their towns back together again.
New Orleanians know a thing or two about rebuilding a city after the waters rise and slowly recede. Eleven years after the post-Katrina flooding, the stories are still told and just as real. The grief and trauma of those months (and years) are present beneath the surface. Even now, many houses remain boarded up with no restoration work begun.
The impact of these south Louisiana floods will be a long, lingering reality. Rebuilding Denham Springs, Livingston, Ascension, Lafayette and the areas in and around Baton Rouge requires your prayers, your support and your memory. Do not forget these neighbors who need your care. Listen for their stories, make a commitment to help rebuild, donate money and requested resources, and plan a trip down to Louisiana in September and October and November to do some hard work.