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SpiderGal
03-06-2014, 10:49 AM
Hi,

I'm working on a story on how people react to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. I'd love to hear from people who've been in such situations. I'd like to know things along the lines of these:

What was your first reaction -- fight or flight?
Were you too anxious?
How did you deal with what was happening around you?
How did you feel after the disaster was over?
Do the memories from that time still haunt you?

This is an assigned story for Brain World magazine. I'm happy to keep you anonymous in the story, but I'd need to know your real identity for my purposes. The interview can be conducted over e-mail or phone.



SpiderGal

https://dinsasachan.contently.com/

alleycat
03-06-2014, 10:59 AM
I've been in tornadoes and floods (including a 500-year flood in Nashville in 2010). I haven't suffered great damage or injury personally, but I know people who did (deaths, homes destroyed, etc.). Would that help, or are you looking more for people who were displaced or suffered actual damages because of a natural disaster?

TellMeAStory
03-06-2014, 07:41 PM
I was in a bad earthquake in the 50s. Elementary school. We children assumed the frequently-drilled duck and cover position knowing the atomic bomb had struck. Afterward, to quiet us I guess, the principal led us in singing the Star Spangled Banner and that sealed it. She could not have chosen a more terrifying song.

I wasn't fighting or flighting exactly, but was definitely, definitely anxious. Some kids' parents came and took their children home, but mine did not, and I felt abandoned.

Yes, I sometimes do relive, not the terror of the rumbling and shaking, but the helplessness of singing that song and knowing we'd be America no longer.

Wilde_at_heart
03-06-2014, 09:27 PM
It depends on the scale you're looking for - something that makes headline news where your own sum of possessions have been destroyed, or anything?

I've been through my share of bad storms, including a flooded basement thanks to backed-up storm drains, and trees down but at the end of the day the results were more annoying than anything else. Moving fallen branches, cleaning up, debating on whether to file a claim or not, etc.

At the time I was partly amazed watching the amount of rain and lightning, made sure some working flashlights were handy in case the power went out and stayed indoors. Not much you can do really, except stay out of harm's way.

Drachen Jager
03-06-2014, 09:53 PM
Does my writing career count?

:P

There's a great documentary on the tsunami that hit Indonesia a few years back. Has some good footage and interviews with survivors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikq0P7U0x4Q (http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/tsunami-caught-on-camera)

SpiderGal
03-06-2014, 10:53 PM
I've been in tornadoes and floods (including a 500-year flood in Nashville in 2010). I haven't suffered great damage or injury personally, but I know people who did (deaths, homes destroyed, etc.). Would that help, or are you looking more for people who were displaced or suffered actual damages because of a natural disaster?

Hi, Alleycat --

Thanks for your interest! I'm not looking for people who have suffered great damage, just for people who've been in these situations. I'm looking for interesting stories that I could use as anecdotes in my article.

PM me if you're up for it!

Thanks!

SpiderGal
03-06-2014, 11:08 PM
I was in a bad earthquake in the 50s. Elementary school. We children assumed the frequently-drilled duck and cover position knowing the atomic bomb had struck. Afterward, to quiet us I guess, the principal led us in singing the Star Spangled Banner and that soaled it. She could not have chosen a more terrifying song.

I wasn't fighting or flighting exactly, but was definitely, definitely anxious. Some kids' parents came and took their children home, but mine did not, and I felt abandoned.

Yes, I sometimes do relive, not the terror of the rumbling and shaking, but the helplessness of singing that song and knowing we'd be America no longer.

I'd love to know more about this story, if you're willing to share it. PM me!

SpiderGal
03-06-2014, 11:10 PM
It depends on the scale you're looking for - something that makes headline news where your own sum of possessions have been destroyed, or anything?

I've been through my share of bad storms, including a flooded basement thanks to backed-up storm drains, and trees down but at the end of the day the results were more annoying than anything else. Moving fallen branches, cleaning up, debating on whether to file a claim or not, etc.

At the time I was partly amazed watching the amount of rain and lightning, made sure some working flashlights were handy in case the power went out and stayed indoors. Not much you can do really, except stay out of harm's way.

I think your perspective would be interesting, since you seem to have quite some experience with facing disasters. PM me if you'd like to discuss this in more detail!

SpiderGal
03-06-2014, 11:13 PM
Thanks -- this should be helpful!


Does my writing career count?

:P

There's a great documentary on the tsunami that hit Indonesia a few years back. Has some good footage and interviews with survivors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikq0P7U0x4Q (http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/tsunami-caught-on-camera)

Lil
03-07-2014, 03:02 AM
I've kind of enjoyed hurricanes in the past, since they generally just meant lost power and lots of post-storm cleanup.

I can remember being in a bad hurricane when I was about 12. I was sitting with my grandfather who was bedridden, as we watched the enormous oak tree outside the window, about 10 feet from the house, sway back and forth. I wasn't at all frightened, though if I'd had any sense I would have been. I was just fascinated, amazed that a tree that big could sway. It eventually fell away from the house.

When I was much younger, the house was struck by lightening, setting my parents' mattress on fire and they had to roll it up and shove it out the window. And then drive the car out of the garage, which was on fire. I slept through the whole thing and was furious that no one had awakened me to see the excitement.

robjvargas
03-07-2014, 03:11 AM
I was aboard a US Navy submarine that sailed under Hurricane Hugo when it hit Charleston, SC. We pulled in 48 hours after it passed on.

Putputt
03-07-2014, 03:27 AM
Does my writing career count?

:P

There's a great documentary on the tsunami that hit Indonesia a few years back. Has some good footage and interviews with survivors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikq0P7U0x4Q (http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/tsunami-caught-on-camera)

Heh, funny you mention that tsunami, because I was actually in Jakarta at the time. It's been a while, so I've forgotten quite a lot of it. My neighborhood was fortunate in that the water level rose only to about waist-height, but a couple of my neighbors nearly drowned because they were in their basements when the flood came in. Let's see...



What was your first reaction -- fight or flight? My first reaction was disbelief and mirth. I watched from the second floor as a puddle began to form in the middle of our living room. My parents were more efficient. They called family and friends to find out what the situation was and my dad had to go in to work because he's a director and had to do damage control. It only hit me when the water level was ankle deep that this was Something Serious (I dunno, I'm pretty slow to react to unexpected things), and by that time, everyone in the house was gathered on the stairs and inching up step by step as the water level rose. There was a lot of nervous laughter, but nothing more dramatic.
Were you too anxious? No...I remember feeling really detached, like "Huh, this is so surreal."
How did you deal with what was happening around you? ...pathetically? I don't know. I stayed on the stairs and when the water level got up to about hip-height, this rubber boat came to the front door. We gingerly climbed on top of our dining room table and paddled to the front door to get to the rubber boat. We were all pretty cheerful because we didn't know just how bad the situation in Aceh was at the time. A few of us took out our cameras and phones and took pictures.
How did you feel after the disaster was over? Tired? I don't know. There was no life-altering moment, tbh, probably because my life was never in any real danger. But then later on I heard that my dad was almost washed away in the flood and was saved just in time, and my reaction was, again, disbelief. Then a huge, bowel-loosening wave of relief that he was okay. Then sadness when I realized that many other people weren't.
Do the memories from that time still haunt you? Not really. Sorry this is so anti-climactic! Tbh, the aftermath affected me more than the actual event itself. Many of us were displaced. We're lucky enough to own several properties, so we stayed in an undamaged one, but over the next few weeks, my family and I worked to salvage whatever we could from the house. We also donated as much as we could to Aceh, but then days later, reports surfaced of donations being seized by corrupt officials, and we were fucking FURIOUS. My mom told everyone to donate food and clothes instead of money, but then some time later, more reports surfaced about how even food and clothing were also being seized by corrupt officials. I remember watching a reporter opening a warehouse in Aceh and finding these sacks of food which had gone moldy. The officials had seized the food, which had been donated, and were SELLING them to the people of Aceh. That killed me. I hated humanity so much in that moment. Then there were the people who tried to take advantage of the situation...ahhh, I dunno. But yes, for myself, the aftermath was a whole other can of worms that I did not see coming...although I can say that because I wasn't exactly in the thick of the disaster when it happened...

Brutal Mustang
03-07-2014, 04:23 AM
I was involved in a 1000 year flood, up in Colorado. September 13, 2013. A bad day.


What was your first reaction -- fight or flight?

I knew the river was under scrutiny that day. It was high. But I didn't think it would reach my 'colony'. I packed up the pets, and set the horses loose (just in case the worst DID happen). Figured I'd be back in the morning.


Were you too anxious?

The anxiousness set in the next morning, when I got reports about how high the water was. Didn't know if I had a home. Or horses.


How did you deal with what was happening around you?

Well, I tried getting home, but it was futile. There was about two miles of water between me and house. All the bridges were down. The South Platte River was splitting a good deal of rural Colorado in half, with no way to get to the other side without hours of driving. At that point, I thought there was no way the house could be standing. And I knew it was a possibility the horses had drowned.


How did you feel after the disaster was over?

Intense relief. In my case, I had a home, and the horses had gone for the hills. However, the hardships weren't over. I was cut off from civilization for months. The only way in or out was through a huge private ranch, driving over the kind of terrain that could get a diesel F-350 stuck.


Do the memories from that time still haunt you?

Every time I go to the store. To realize the ol' cow pasture across the river was under ten feet of water. Or that the water washed right through my 'colony', leaving dead fish on my property.

MDSchafer
03-07-2014, 05:50 AM
This may be an question that could be better answered by reading some memoirs. Code Blue is a book written by a doctor who was at Memorial Medical Center. There are good memoirs from almost every major natural disaster in recent time. Another book I'd recommend is Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, which is a work of journalism but probably the best look at how highly trained fire fighters responded to a dangerous situation.

Nivarion
03-07-2014, 12:42 PM
I was in a tornado when I was about four. I remember it with a fair bit of clarity. It was I think an f2 class. I remember that my parents were afraid, and I remember hiding in the bathtub with a mattress pulled over us. I also remember some awful sounds outside, but the description of them has escaped me.

One thing I do remember clearly is that a good bit of the roof of our apartment was ripped off, and I remember seeing the chimney from our building laying on the yard next to the pool. I also remember a car in the pool and a lot of debris and rubble everywhere. We were finding stuff for months after.

How close the tornado came sparked my dad's decision to move the family to Utah.

blackrose602
03-08-2014, 08:04 AM
I was in a bizarre position during Hurricane Katrina, so I'm not sure if I'm what you're looking for or not. I'm originally from Central Florida, but I had been living in New Orleans for several years. My mom had recently passed away, and my dad and I had put everything we owned in storage and headed back to FL for a few months to be with family. The plan was to go home in the fall.

I was working at Disney for the summer, and the night before the storm I was watching the Weather Channel in my break room. Some coworker said, "You better call your friends. They're all gonna die!" I took the next day off and spent it watching my city drown. Spent most the of the next two weeks trying my best to locate people (no easy feat trying to find people who lived completely outside the system in the middle of the biggest diaspora since the Dust Bowl). I finally managed to go home three weeks after the storm to see for myself what was going on and try to salvage my stuff.

Storage unit took three feet of water and was caked in black mold. City was scary quiet. I actually have an article I published on the third anniversary describing my experiences on that trip if you want more details.

As for your questions:


What was your first reaction -- fight or flight?

Given that I wasn't actually there, neither. More like transfixed obsession. Complete shock, disbelief, and the inability to focus on anything else.


Were you too anxious?

Extreme anxiety was only the tip of the iceberg. Helpless. That was the worst feeling. Knowing something horrible was happening to the people I loved, and knowing I was entirely powerless to do anything about it.


How did you deal with what was happening around you?

The numbness and brain fog lasted about a day. Then I became heavily involved in trying to get information and put people in touch with each other. It's almost impossible to explain how it feels to have an incredibly close-knit community wrenched apart and completely scattered to the four winds. To this day I don't know what happened to my next door neighbor or several friends. I also dealt by figuring out how to get out there and see for myself. The need to be there was overpowering and all-encompassing.


How did you feel after the disaster was over?

Guilty. Horribly, gut-wrenchingly guilty for having been out of harm's way. I felt like I wasn't a true New Orleanian anymore, because I wasn't there for it. Also incredibly sad, because so many lives were lost and because I knew the city itself would never be the same again. Periodic bursts of happiness when I heard from someone I loved, coupled with sadness and guilt when I heard their survival stories.


Do the memories from that time still haunt you?

Yes they do. It's not constantly on my mind anymore, but I cry on every anniversary, I feel a rush of memories every time I visit, and in the quiet moments I still wonder about some of the people who vanished out of my life. And of course, given the timing, it's all mixed up with the lingering emotions over the death of my mother.

I hope there's something you can use in there! Happy to answer any questions.

StephanieZie
03-08-2014, 09:10 AM
I was around sixteen years old when I went through Katrina.


Hi,

I'm working on a story on how people react to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. I'd love to hear from people who've been in such situations. I'd like to know things along the lines of these:

What was your first reaction -- fight or flight?

My first reaction was flight. If it was going to be dangerous, I wanted to get the hell out of there. In the weeks and especially days before a major hurricane (and mind, you don't always know which ones will turn out to be major), there's alot of News watching, figuring out what to do, etc. You're on the fence about whether to go or stay. Everybody is because nobody can predict the future. Days before Hurricane Katrina, I remember me and my family were still talking about trying to ride it out, holing up in my aunt's house. There's alot of bickering. Some people want to leave at the first sign of trouble. Some people are die-hards that have never evacuated and have no intention of doing so. Ever. The news keeps you updated and decisions are made by-the-hour. You keep your bags packed, ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Interesting insider perspective: On the news, they'll show the storm tracker. The storm is represented by a small cone that moves towards to coast. They'll move the cone so far until it stops, then it repeats over and over. As a kid I used to get so frustrated with this, thinking "Why the hell don't they just show the rest of it? Where is it going to go?" Not understanding that they were just showing the storm as far as it had progressed at that point.


Were you too anxious?

A bit, but there's also an air of excitement. Whether you stay or go, you know your week isn't going to be ordinary. Of course, that was my kid/teen perspective.



How did you deal with what was happening around you?

I wrote a journal. Oh god, it was embarrassing. I wonder if I can dig it up...Families also just lean on each other. If you evacuate, which we did, you become all each other has, because you don't know if your house is still standing or where any of your friends are.



How did you feel after the disaster was over?

After we returned home, we had no power for weeks. It's pretty miserable. Other than that, you just want to get back to normal.



Do the memories from that time still haunt you?

My experience was nowhere near as bad as some. We weren't in town for the worst of the storm. I didn't lose any family or loved ones, and the damages to our property were superficial. I never had to fear for my life. Still, it's something I will always remember.



This is an assigned story for Brain World magazine. I'm happy to keep you anonymous in the story, but I'd need to know your real identity for my purposes. The interview can be conducted over e-mail or phone.



SpiderGal

https://dinsasachan.contently.com/

Diver
03-08-2014, 12:01 PM
Iíve experienced two big earthquakes - the first one in 1985 and the second one in 2010. The latter was rated at 8.8 Richter scale. We live in Santiago (Chile), which is hundredths of kilometers from its epicenter, so the magnitude we felt was lower. Some say it was around 8.0, Iím not sure.

Chileans are used to shakes, but large earthquakes are few and far between. Unfortunately, they are also cyclical, so when the ground shakes you have to wonder, is this the next big one?


What was your first reaction -- fight or flight?

The earthquake began past three in the morning. My wife woke me up.

First reaction: remain in bed and hope it was just another uneventful tremor. It wasnít. The ground jolted violently, rocking the bed back and forth. We knew we where in for the big one.

Second reaction: get the girls. My wife went to the next room to pick up our still sleeping three year old. I remained in the master bedroom and took our baby from the crib. We gathered in the hallway (our designed safe place).


Were you too anxious?

Tremors always make me uneasy because you never know when theyíll turn out to be a big one. Usually the ground shakes for a little while and thatís it.

When a big earthquake hits, everything happens fast. My wife and I went into emergency mode. We knew what to do. Once we got to the hallway I hugged the baby and leaned against the wall. My wife did the same with our eldest. From then on, there was nothing left to do but wait.

It was a long wait. I had time to think.

The noise was tremendous. The ground roared and the windows rattled. We could hear the kitchenware falling from their cabinets, breaking into pieces. Outside, car alarms went berserk. The lights went out during the first seconds. The night sky lit up from exploding power transformers.

And all this time, the wall kept slapping my back. I could feel the building swaying. The quake lasted forever. I later learned that the ground shook for over three minutes.

I remember thinking, what if the quake increases yet another notch in intensity?


How did you deal with what was happening around you?

We remained calm and put because thatís the only thing we could really do.


How did you feel after the disaster was over?

Relief. The shaking diminished and then stopped. Once we were sure it was over, we took the kids to the bedroom and I went to investigate. Nothing much was broken. Of course, the building was anti-seismic.

I took a flashlight and went downstairs to make sure everyone/thing was all right. Everyone was a bit shaken (no pun intended), but otherwise ok.

We were anxious for news. We knew it was a big earthquake but we didnít know just how big, or where its epicenter was. Communications where down. We tried to reach loved ones and learn how the country had fared.

My wife (an MD) left as soon as possible for ER duty. I took the girls to my momís because she lived in a house and had electricity.


Do the memories from that time still haunt you?

Even though the earthquake was a nation wide tragedy, everyone we knew was fine. Iíd say that more than being haunted by the event, we learned. We now keep a tighter emergency procedure (emergency bag, dangerous zones, safe zones, contact tree, etc.)

We also bought a battery powered radio (we didnít have one, I kicked myself over that) and extra flashlights, because we know another big one is coming anytime in the future.

SpiderGal
03-08-2014, 01:36 PM
Thanks, everyone, for your helpful responses!

NateSean
03-08-2014, 03:13 PM
During Hurricane Sandy I had to work outside gathering shopping carts. You never appreciate how fast a cart can whip outside in 40 mile hour winds. My coworkers never appreciated it either.

Then I got to walk home during the worst of the rain. Nothing like walking out and about during a record breaking storm.

My hometown got hit by Hurricane Isaac the year before. I got to see all of the videos on Youtube of my high school and other childhood memories in several feet of water. It's a sobering experience when the landlocked place that you were born in is effected by a disaster that barely scratches the coastal town you're currently living in.

My family was fine, but for about a month I think they had to go to one of the elementary schools where the Red Cross was handing out clean drinking water.

Mark G
03-19-2014, 02:18 AM
I was less than 5 miles from the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake in 1994 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_Northridge_earthquake) but I'm not sure my story is interesting enough.

The most exciting part was that the pool lost a foot of water from sloshing around... and a bunch of it went into the house, mixing with the water spilled from the overturned fish tank...

I remember jumping over my fallen TV into my bedroom doorway and yelling to my brother to get in his doorway down the hall, and he yelled back that he wasn't going to move.

Then it was all over, and we just started cleaning up.