Adversity has a way of bringing out the best in people, and bringing them together in the process.
In my tree-lined neighborhood of Vista Park, many of us knew each other. We've had annual New Year's Eve block parties since 1999, and we've had an annual pumpkin-carving party every Halloween for as long as we've lived there.
But the neighborhood I experienced so fully only extended about two blocks. People around the corner or two streets over were utter strangers.
Since Hurricane Katrina cast all our fates together, we've all been reaching out in every direction. I most strongly identify with Vista Park, but we are just one small grid of streets in the much larger subdivision known as Gentilly. Some call it, "Chilly Gentilly." No explanation necessary.
In the awful days immediately following the flood, we scrambled to find our friends and neighbors. Scattered like stars in the sky, we struggled to reconnect and rejoin.
Cell phones failed us big time. The U.S. Mail, so proud of their motto, took an extended leave of absence.
Only the Internet worked for us. For the first few days, my Darling Wife and I made daily visits to local public libraries where we were evacuated to keep in touch. Soon we were getting news and information from a variety of Yahoo! Groups, like one for my Precious Daughter's school, and others for Vista Park and Gentilly.
Nearly eight months later, I know more about more neighbors than ever before. We exchange news and ideas, debate politics and cry on each others' shoulders via keyboard. I truly cannot imagine what we would be doing without the grounding of open communication via the Internet. For me, these Yahoo! Groups are 21st century Support! Groups.
But it can be fun, too. Some clever wag on the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association group recently penned this little gem about the latest on Base Flood Elevations (BFEs). Lucky for us, no matter how stressed we are, we keep our collective chins up and we remember to laugh.
Here's what he wrote:
"I have spent the last day and a half researching the new building requirements and advisories from FEMA, the City, LRA, SBA and, as yet to be named, TBA. I think I finally understand.
Please note: If the first letter of your last name is in the first half of the alphabet, these rules do not apply to you.
Here is what they are telling us:
(1) You are not allowed to rebuild/renovate in any month ending with the letter "Y" unless you raise your home precisely 34 1/2 inches above the height of the meat counter at Robert's Market. "Y" months are OK for anyone going higher than the highest wine rack at Meme's.
(2) When you do rebuild/renovate, your front door must face an equal distance between the 17th Street Canal breech and the old Pontchartrain Beach. If you do not comply with this requirement, NFIP will "Wild Mouse" your flood insurance rates.
(3) UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can you have a house painted or sided brown or gray. (I guess it must remind them of the color of the water they splashed on us)
(4) Finally, in order to get a building permit and keep your current insurance rates you MUST have proof of ownership of a FLOATIE for every member of your household.
I hope this has helped."
I laughed out loud when I first read it. So yes, it did help. A lot.