Safe but Worried for Family after Katrina

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Like so many victims of Hurricane Katrina, commentator Chris Rose managed to escape New Orleans before the storm devastated the region. But now he finds himself out of touch with his family and friends.


Commentator Chris Rose made it out of New Orleans before the storm. He and his family are in Baton Rouge, out of danger. But like so many people we've been hearing from, still out of touch with the familiar, extended family and home.


Sunday we left my wife's father and brother and their families back in Picayune, Mississippi, about 20 minutes up from the coast. They wouldn't come with us. Self-sufficient country folk, sometimes you can't tell 'em a damn thing, and now we don't know what happened to them other than that they saw the eye of the hurricane. It went right through Picayune. Of the few facts we have at hand, that's one.

If you take the images you see on TV and pick up off the radio and Internet and then you apply logical assumptions to the people in situations you don't know about, well, the mind starts racing. How do you make this unhappen?

My kids, two, four and six, they're asking questions. I don't have answers. I have my own questions. What about school? What about everyone's jobs? How many people I know are dead? Do I have a roof? Are there snakes in my house? Have the looters found me yet? Are there still oak trees in Ottovan Park(ph), the one with the rope swing that we like to go to on Friday? Mostly, when can we go home?

It consumes you as you sit helplessly miles from home, unable to help anyone, unable to do anything. If I could, the first thing I'd do is hurt the looters. I'd hurt them bad. But you have to forget all that. You have to focus on what is at hand and what you can reach. My kids, they're what's at hand and what I can reach.

I brought them to a playground in Baton Rouge. They've been bottled up for days. Finally unleashed, they ran, they climbed, they fell down, they fought, they cried, they made me laugh, they drove me crazy. They did the things that makes them kids, and it grounds you. You take a breath and you count to 10. Maybe under the circumstances, you go to 20 or 30 this time.

Later, I went out in the yard of the house we're staying and raked a pile of hurricane debris: leaves and limbs. And then I swept the driveway clean and then I grilled some fish for our hosts. Yard work, playground, a barbecue; something to do, trying to pretend life goes on, trying to stay busy, trying more than anything else not to fail.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Chris Rose is a columnist for the New Orleans' Times-Picayune which is publishing from a temporary office in Baton Rouge.

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