Dear all, Hope your hot summer is coming to a close and if you are like me, you are looking forward to cooler weather.  As you may or may not know, I am from Louisiana!  This Sunday, August 29, 2010, is the 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  I wanted to share with you a letter that I had written almost a month after the storm.  It talks about what life was like for many in my world.  I hope it challenges you to continue to help others, no matter what they need to lift them up and help them to have a better life. September 21, 2005 Written by Mari Ann almost a month after Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2005 Well, I am finally ready and able to give up an update you on the world as I know it in Louisiana.  I finally got power back on last Tuesday September 6.  We still don’t have cable, TV, internet and my land line box is duck taped to a palm tree that is barely hanging in there, and yet trust me, I do feel blessed.  My family is working hard to get their home in Hammond back to some sense of normalcy, and we still cannot get to our homes and business in Buras in that it is still 8 feet underwater on day 16 after our friend Katrina. I have thought a great deal about Katrina. After being told what the word Katrina means I looked up for myself to see that it means to purge or cleanse - interesting huh?!  I have learned so much from this and have had conversation upon conversation about all of the theories that so many of us have. I went out of town this weekend for a trip that had been planned long before Katrina hit.  When I got to the Atlanta airport, it was the first time that I had actually seen all of the plethora of magazines and this time, the covers were all pictures of areas and people that were familiar to me.  I could not believe it - it was very overwhelming. I bought copies of most of them, but on the next leg of my flight, realized that I was not yet ready to read all that those magazines had to offer.  To date, I still have really only seen a few hours of TV which has been quite enough for me. On my trip, I met up with 3 friends who live in other parts of the country now - all of us however, from the New Orleans area originally.   It was quite surreal to see them and for all of us to share how this experience has impacted us. Saturday we actually watched TV but it was to see the beauty of the Louisiana people - to watch our LSU Tigers win their first season game!  What a great gift for our State.  Life is beginning to move forward for some of us, for others, the confusion and uncertainty of what happens next is really overwhelming.   I wanted you to know that your prayers and thoughts have been wonderful but they are still needed and will be needed for a long time coming. When I sit and think about this next year, I wonder about the people in my life- where they will be living, what they will be doing.  We are spread all over the country at this point and that has been very challenging. Cell phones are still hit and miss and I have to go to a coffee shop in Hammond to check email (which most of you know is my way of working for all aspects of my work and volunteer life). I have never text messaged so much - ever.  Communicating with one another is still very much a challenge.  I am fortunate in that I work for two amazing companies who have been so supportive of my situation and me.  Although the physical structure of my home was not harmed the way that many of my friends and family’s homes were, the daily challenges of getting life back on track are there for all of us. The insurance adjuster is coming tomorrow to look at my rental property to tell me how much they will give me to rebuild the parts of the apartment that were damaged.  I finally have gotten the tree out of my yard that hit the apartment so it has all just been complicated. I wanted to update you again on some wonderful people and how much you all are making a difference:  The Humane Society all over the country has been amazing!!!!  I know how much I love my puppy Brady and could not imagine what it would be like to lose him - so thank you to any of you who that is your passion  - they are reuniting owners with their animals.  The out-pouring of love and support has been unbelievable even among our community - my parents had to pay $4,000 for a team of people to cut the trees out of their yard and to get the tree out of the roof of their new home - their neighbor came over and offered to help pay for the cost - he said he had seen them working hard and wanted to help.  My sorority - Theta Phi Alpha has set up a fund (as have most of the National fraternities and sororities) to help our sisters.  The donations have been coming in and will truly make a difference.  My friend Michael Decker and I started a campaign called 'Helping Hands for Louisians' - a gift card campaign to help those in need - we just feels like we need to do our part too.  An hour after I had sent out the email, I got an email within an hour from one of the NPC National Presidents for a $100 gift card for Target - I just started tearing up and realizing that every little bit helps. I talked with my friend Stephanie today who is having twins - they lost everything but her spirits are just so high - so positive - she is an inspiration to me!  My cousin Rhett has been working in the New Orleans areas with the Army National Guard trying to help keep things in order.  And the list goes on. I have had a lot of time to think with no TV, limited email and phones.    I got a call from a Theta Phi Alpha collegian on Tuesday and it was right after my landline began working.  She said, I read your note on our website, I could have emailed but I thought that maybe you needed to hear a voice. I can't express how much that meant to me.  Thank you to all of you for being patient with me.  I have truly learned the value of communication throughout this process. In the book Bowling Alone, it talks about how when air conditioning came along, people stopped sitting on their porches and walking their neighborhoods, and just visiting.  I can tell you that this experience has taught me to sit on my porch, to walk my neighborhood, and to appreciate all that you have. As part of programs this past year, I started playing a song by Tim McGraw called live Like You Were Dying.  The words of this song have never been so clear to me; so as I close let me share this.  The people of the Gulf Coast will rebuild.  New Orleans will have Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest, great food and great music, and the world will one day visit and see why we love Louisiana so much.   Some will leave because this has just been too much.  I am a Cajun from South Louisiana and I love the people and the sense of family that I have known my whole life.  I hope that through my writings, that I have been able to share a little bit of that with you.  Please keep praying and doing whatever you can to help us.  Although we are very proud people, we know that we cannot do this alone. Thank you to the individuals and agencies that stepped in even before our government did - you made the difference!  I will keep you updated. Love and prayers, Mari Ann

Written by Mari Ann Callais

I am an educator, speaker, facilitator and consultant. I have been working with organizations and college campuses for more than 25 years. I believe in the power of the individual to change the world around them and I work to empower those to live values based lives.

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