Words don't even begin to describe what I'm feeling right now. From the first mention of the BP oil rig exploding on the news, my anxiety level started rising. I've personally known people who worked on oil rigs, and even worked in a job at an environmental lab in Southern Louisiana, testing effluent from these places. I've been on chartered fishing trips that anchored near them to fish, drove along stretches of coastline where they stretched from horizon to horizon. I've been to Port Sulfur, and Venice, LA. My husband and I were even married in the swamp at the Louisiana Nature and Science Center, a place that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. I worked at the Audubon Zoo's Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. Some of the beaches and barrier islands that I've spent youthful summer afternoons on no longer exist as they once did. For me, it's so personal! The oil coming ashore right now will have an enormous impact. It'll impact the wildlife and fisheries, plants and ecosystems and the people who depend on them for their livelihood. Most importantly, there are 11 families who lost loved ones during the explosion. My heart is aching.
I grew up learning about the environmental impacts of canals being dug through the marshland and swamps of Southern Louisiana, the impact of putting levies around the Mississippi river, introduced Nutria eating away the marsh, the oil rigs, refineries, pollution from agricultural chemical run-off from half the country traveling through the Mississippi River and being spilled out into the Gulf of Mexico. I knew when Hurricane Katrina hit that it wasn't only the storm to be concerned about. I'd seen first hand how easy it was to overwhelm the pump system in New Orleans, which siphons off excess rain water from its below-sea-level neighborhoods.
As a Louisiana native I feel a pull to the place I spent most of my childhood. After 3 years in Kentucky, I responded, to attend college and stay another 5 years. I still feel it's pull, and at times like these I want to be there helping. All of the horrible emotions I felt during Hurricane Katrina are starting to surface again. As before, I'm thousands of miles away. I'll do what I can. Write a blog, send money, try to connect with others here who understand my pain. But it just doesn't ever seem to be enough...
In my grief and anxiety, I must remember the positive lessons I learned from Hurricane Katrina. Namely, that there is hope. The people and the land that is Louisiana have an incredible mystifying way of recovering... a zeal for life and a strength that defies all odds.