Katrina visits local hotel

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 5, 2005

To the editor,

Last night I sat on the edge of the swimming pool at my hotel and petted a pretty chocolate, teacup poodle that bouncingly dragged his owner over to meet and greet me.

Tears glistened in her hazel eyes as she explained to me, in her slow, southern drawl, that she was one of the refuges from Mississippi that had taken refuse here from the catastrophe they left behind, after Katrina slammed her hometown. Her shoulders shaking as she told me that she and her husband had lost “everything”.

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Their home, their trucking business, all gone in a blink of an eye, by a storm that was never really predicted to hammer Mississippi in the horrific way that it did. I gently patted her arm and make those low soothing sounds that mother’s just always seem to make, when confronted with those in emotional pain. I sat quietly, as she continued to talk, it was as if, maybe she needed to purge her soul and I just continued to swing my feet in the water and listen.

It’s funny how total strangers sometimes make the best listeners to vent to, as they really have no stake in the things spilling from your heart and it allows you to be perfectly free with your thoughts and totally honest about what you are feeling inside.

There is no need to put on a happy face for your family, no need to be big and in control, it is perfectly OK to rant, to cry, to bemoan the lost of material things to a stranger because even if they judge you, tomorrow it really will not matter as they or you will be gone. For those we might meet while merely gliding though life really are just ships in the night. And thought they heard the darkest secrets of your heart, their knowledge is useless because whom would they tell and who would care?

She kept cutting her eyes toward a very slim blonde, bouncing a cubby cheeked little boy on her hip. The lines around the blonde’s mouth were tight and grim, her blue eyes deeply sad and looked like she might open a full floodgate of tears at any moment.

She said, “that is my sister-in-law and her momma is still missing. Her momma and her step-daddy did not get out and no one knows where they are at now.”

At a lost for words, all I could murmur was that I was sure that she would be OK.

And silently I prayed that was the truth. But it could be days before this young lady would know anything and I felt tears welling up in my own eyes at the truths not being spoken. Sometimes close examinations of possible realities are more cruel than helpful, so I remained mute. I watched the blonde closer now and I could feel the distress almost emanating from her pores, it was so thick, so painful, almost tangible, so much so, that I could almost taste it in the air.

She walked closer to us and she must have realized that her sister-in-law has told me, from the sad, pained half-smile I gave her. Her eyes locked onto mine and she looked deeply, as through searching for the answers.

I do not know what solace she was seeking and I hated to mouth all the usual platitudes that she had most likely heard, already today.

So I watched her face and waited for her to set the tone.

She waved the cell phone and said I called so-and-so and she is going to help locate them.

Her sister-in-law said, “but is she there now?”

And she said, “No, she is in Arkansas but she is with FEMA and she can get some answers for us!”

Now, I am sure that FEMA has a lot to deal with in a disaster of this magnitude and to them one lost mother, more or less might not matter that much, but it was clear that this young lady felt helpless and needed to do something. She needed to take an action, right or wrong, to help her feel in control of a heartrending situation. She almost smiled at the fact that someone took her call and had mouthed the right words on the other end of the line. Though I have no idea of the relationship between her and whomever she called, I do know that they had gave her some sort of comfort in their words and today that seemed to be enough for her. Tomorrow when there is still no mother forth-coming and the unclaimed body numbers continue to mount, well then she might want different answers, but for today, it was enough.

She seemed to relax a tiny bit as her cubby, cheeked, dimpled little boy reached out to me to take him, his little fingers wriggling my way, in that universally understood code for “get me”. I looked up at her, questioningly and she nodded slowly and handed him over to me. As I bounced him on my hip I commented on the fact that she had a very handsome, young man there and she smiled and I thought to myself that in the event that her mother is now forever lost, this baby and his future will be the reason she will do whatever it takes to carry on.

And I sighed thinking to myself that God’s plans though often hard to understand always work out right, in the end.

For he knows the hearts and the souls of each and every one of his children, he knows the burdens that they carry, the internal strength that have and the future strength that they will need to carry on and the reasons that will make them want to. This frail, little blonde had all her reasons to survive the horror of the last few days, wrapped up in one adorable little boy smiling adoringly up at her. And I knew that this one, at least would be all right.

Kendra Benefield Lester

2012 Hwy 14

Selma, AL