Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Remembered Part 2

So, we made it to Birmingham. We knew that we would need to immediatly change our phone numbers so that we would have use of them again. Not a chance that a 504 area code would go through at this point. We also had to have our charges for excessive texting wiped off since it was due to lack of service availability and a national emergency. We did however have some fee due to the change of number. Interesting since it was a necessary evil due to lack of service. Then we established our monies in a larger, more widespread bank so that we would have access to it. It was more than several months later and a trip back to New Orleans (end of February 2006) that we were finally able to get all of our money out and our accounts closed. Next we had to establish some type of address in order to recieve our bills and such. Both of my family's shared a P.O. Box. and filled out a change of address form. Still recieved some mail 2-3 months late. Next we spent a long time on the phone calling all of our billers and such and squaring away our accounts. Credit companies often politely extended grace through December which was a tremendous and unexpected help. Of course Jason and I were still dealing with many of our bills from the birth (the largest of which finally arrived yesterday)!

We checked at an American Red Cross Center set up at our old church. That was a great help as well, not to mention seeing familiar faces. We attained clothes and diapers and soap and such. My parents stayed with some dear friends of the family--in their basement--and Jason and I knew we'd need to spend some time at one of the family's houses. We chose to stay at his brother's new house which was more of a private option for our new family to settle a bit without getting overwhelmed. That option was unfortunately short lived. People seemed confused as if we were just on some sort of vacation. It was an extremely frustrating and disheartening time for us all. Some just couldn't understand--and likely never will.

That may likely have been the more stressful part. Instead of helping, as was obviously the true desire, it sometimes came across as hurtful. We were pressured and prodded. There seemed to be many unspoken expectations for what it was we were supposed to be doing. And we had no idea what we were going to do, often finding ourselves in that stuck place of shock. We found staying with others to be too overwhelming. Sometimes all you can give just isn't what is needed and that's just that.

We were eternally grateful for all the support that we did receive, but we knew that if we were going to make it here (in Birmingham), we were going to have to reestablish our own little family. Set some boundaries and regain our own team strength...Team Young.

We got an apartment with my parents with the understanding that when we got tired of eachother we would not be offended, but simply get away for awhile at someone else's place. There was a 2 week period that we spent in a friends basement. That was nice to have our own space, but sort of annoying as we could not doing any type of cooking. We literally ate out at almost every meal for 2 months straight!

The apartment was procured at the same time as Jason was having to commute to Atlanta for his computer job still affiliated with the Seminary. We knew that could only last so long. With a newborn and so much paperwork, phone calls, standing in line, and such I just couldn't do it on my own all the time. Luckily, I did have my parents to coordinate with much of the time.

We got in touch with FEMA, though I don't really remember how and/or when, we did get assistance. We managed to get the immediate emergency monies, then our first rent disbursement and possibly one other disbursement later. After never hearing anything from the Red Cross, not even a gift card as promised, I finally got in touch with one of my friends from New Orleans. It had been at least a month since the storm and a month before that since she and her family had gone on a month long vacation to Europe and returned the day of Katrina only to be diverted to Oklahoma. I found out we were supposed to get a significant amount from Red Cross, so we circled the wagons while Jason was doing interviews and stood in a very long line for a very long time (4 or more hours) and finally got some relief! In the next several weeks we continued making phone calls to unemployment and trips to the food stamps office and the FEMA headquarters here to make sure we had all our ducks in a row.
We missed the foodstamps cut off by a week or so. The unemployment journey was a nightmare that neverended until say April or May of this year when I finally got a human on the phone--and one that actually was capable of helping me. It's been a long and tiring journey. The taxes thing was also a big nightmare! That didn't get resolved till nearly a year later! ugh.

Saga three will hopefully be the last, but Mercy's asking for lunch right now. Another posting to come