When Hurricane Katrina roared onshore in August of 2005, I was one year into my legal career having just graduated from law school in May of 2004. My then fiancé (now husband) and I had closed on our very first house in New Orleans just a few weeks before. In the midst of this pandemic, my mind keeps drifting back to that time.
The Saturday before the storm my fiancé and I evacuated to Shreveport. I will never forget the morning that the levees broke and were breached. My mother woke me up before the sun was up to usher me to the television to see the devastation beginning. Glued to the television over the course of the day I would learn that Katrina’s storm surge caused 53 breaches to various flood protection structures in and around New Orleans, submerging 80% of the city. I felt scared and completely helpless watching the city I loved suffer so much devastation.
I was one of the lucky ones. While my schoolteacher fiancé immediately lost his job, he quickly found another at a Shreveport high school. I was able to work remotely for my law firm first from Shreveport and then from Baton Rouge. Our house, while in need of a new roof and some repairs had been spared from the flood waters. Despite our luck, I will always look back on that time period as one of the most difficult and uncertain in my young adult life.
The uncertainty that has surrounded us as a city, state and nation since COVID-19 found its way here is eerily similar to the feeling I had during that storm fifteen years ago. The lessons I learned from Katrina will stay with me forever and I think are helpful now. If you are struggling know that your neighbor is struggling also. We are all in this together. Reach out to one another – virtually or by phone – and offer to lend a hand. Don’t forget to laugh, it will help you get through. Be vigilant in guarding both your mental and physical health. Finally, perhaps the most important lesson is that unfortunately tragedy will bring us together and we will, in fact, get through this together. We will come out on the other side though we may never be the same.
In times of tragedy, knowledge is often more powerful than money. That being the case, I pass on the following and ask that you pass it on to someone else:
- If you are an employee and have been laid off or had your hours reduced you can file an unemployment claim here: http://www.laworks.net/
- If you are unable to pay your mortgage, car note, rent or any other kind of loan (either business or personal) due to COVID-19, please reach out to your lender to ask for a change in your payment terms. Many lenders are willing to work with borrowers at this time.
- If you are a business owner, Louisiana was one of the first states to be approved statewide for SBA loans. If you think you might need a loan fill out the paperwork now. Applications and additional information can be found here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela
- If you are a nonprofit and are experiencing and increase in costs as a direct result of COVID-19, Community Foundation of North Louisiana established the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to rapidly deploy flexible resources to nonprofit organizations (specifically those with 501(c)3 designations) working directly with community members affected by the coronavirus. Information will be posted about the application process on Monday, March 23rd.
- If you are a community member and want to help, please consider making a donation to CFNLA’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund which will award grants to nonprofits whose operations in support of elders and other vulnerable populations have been stressed by the pandemic. For more information and to donate go to cfnla.org/covid19. Also please continue to support our local businesses! They need us.
- Finally, look out for one another and be kind. We can get through this together.
This article was written by CFNLA CEO Kristi Gustavson and originally published in the Shreveport Times on March 23, 2020.