It was August 12th of last year and little did I know that day would change my life in such a drastic way. It was the first Friday of the first full week of school and I woke up to rain pounding on my window. After i got up and got dressed i went into the dining room and learned that school was cancelled and there was a massive rain storm on the way to my hometown. My dad was the most prepared because he had been through the flood of 89. We started getting everything off the floor and preparing our upstairs for us to sleep for the next few days. We ended up spending four days in our upstairs and the next six months with our relatives.Now a year later some families are still not in their homes, including mine. The flood has opened my eyes and made me realize that sometimes life throws you challenges that take everything from you but you can still overcome it. Overall the flood was a devastating experience for our community but it also made the people of Livingston stronger.
Recently, on Monday, September 11th, I showed up to school with my head shaved. As I am a female, this is probably taboo. People asked me why, and well, this is why.
When I was seven, I was diagnosed with trichotillomania, a compulsive desire to pull out one’s hair. I started three years prior, though. I know it sounds really weird and disgusting, but it was normal for me. For as long as I can remember, I had reached for my hair when my hands weren’t busy, and I don’t know why, but I didn’t really bother trying to stop myself. When I was young all I did was pop the ends of my short, red hair. But I figured out a different way to yank the strands from my head just as sixth grade year came around the corner. I began ripping follicles out, and even though I read that if the root at the end of the strand was a blood red, it wouldn’t grow back, I kept pulling and pulling, until there were patches in my hair.
I didn’t want to admit it to myself but I had never really tried to stop pulling. Of course I wanted beautiful, long, luscious curls. Really, who doesn’t? However I didn’t want to put in any effort to stop myself. I wanted results immediately, and since that was impossible, I felt as if growing out my own hair was just a dream too far out of my grasp to achieve.
When I started sixth grade, I had kept a headband on my head at all times to hide the damage I’d done. People asked me how I got my hair so thin. Then came Christmas break, when my mom took me to a boutique to look for wigs, generally for women with cancer. I was horrified by the suggestion, and then I tried one on. It was synthetic, of course. I felt pure glee that I had a full head of thick hair, again. We immediately purchased it, and I showed back up at school with hair. Every year since then, I’ve got a wig before the year started and during Christmas break.
Three times in those four years I’ve shaved my head because of how ugly my real hair looked from me pulling. The first two times we left a little mohawk strip so I wouldn’t be completely bald. My hair grew back and I kept pulling. The wig became not only a shield to hide behind, but an excuse for me to continue pulling. But it was also a hindrance. It prevented me from doing social things like going swimming, which I love, without showing off the disaster that was my hair. Not to mention, without hair, I felt like a potato. I couldn’t style it like I would normal hair because the cap under the hair would show. I had to be careful with my every move because one little thing could cause the wig to slip and show my real hairline. One time in P.E. I had tried to catch a ball flying at my face and instead caught a lock of hair and nearly pulled the wig off my head in front of all the other girls. Another time someone called me out at lunch and shouted “Nice wig!” from the next table over. I look back at it all now and find the whole situation hilarious.
Then about four weeks ago I asked my mom to shave all my hair off, so I could start completely new. As I watched my hair grow back I never felt the urge to pull it out. My head became covered in red, and I was very pleased with myself. I had even thought I looked better without it a few times. I had broken my previous record of six days without pulling (which was when I tried therapy in sixth grade) and made 19 days. It appeared bald was just what I needed. The morning of my 20th day, Monday 9/11 before school, I looked in the mirror and considered going without my wig. My family encouraging me, I walked out the house, heading for the bus stop with nothing covering my head. I was so excited that I was revealing myself, nervous about how people would react, and scared if people would think differently – worse – of me, that I even cried at the bus stop.
But all I got was praise, especially from my amazing friends, and judgmental glances, which were to be expected. While I’m writing this I’ve started my 24th day without pulling, and I continue to amaze myself. For so many years I thought I would never be able to quit, and even though I’m not quite clear yet, I believe I can keep going, now that I’ve actually gotten this far. I can see a girl with long, red, curly hair in my future, and I won’t ruin that vision.
Above is a picture of a flooded Denham Springs Junior High School. Nobody knew that school would be out for so long or that the flood would cause such major damage.
It has been just over a year since the flood that left many without a bed to sleep in, without a place to call their own. Friday, August 12, 2016 is a day many people will never forget. Nearly one third of all homes were lost. Memories stored in old photographs were gone forever. Nostalgia will haunt the dark corners of the minds of young and old alike. Over one hundred and fifty thousand homes were flooded and luckily mine was not one. My grandmother’s house, however, got nearly two feet of water. Not thinking water would get inside until the very last minute, nothing was put up and almost everything was lost.
What I remember most vividly is standing on a chair on the front porch with one of my best friends watching the water slowly rise and eventually enter the house. The next thing I remember is a phone call from the nursing home saying that my grandpa was not well and an ambulance was not able to get there due to rising waters. Exactly one week after the flood, we got news that he had passed. My family was overwhelmed with funeral arrangements and salvaging what we could from the house before everything grew mold. Seeing the house completely empty made me feel equally empty. Five people, two dogs, and one cat moved into my house and a dark rain cloud seemed to hang over everyone. Depression loomed over us for months.
Now, everybody is in a much better state of mind and there are two less people in my house. I still think about last August often and get sad, but I know that it was just another obstacle to overcome. High school started about a month ago and it is amazing to see how far our town has come since that tragic event.
Running. But from what, for what? Even on the cross country team, such thoughts cross your mind because you are stuck in both a race and battle against yourself, a challenge with your mind over how long you can keep pushing forward. I have been running for several years now, and am only just now seeing improvement because it is a complete and total mentality of the mind, how much you advance. I have struggled a lot with pushing myself, and still do, but after so much pressure and negativity in my thought process, I am viewing it more positively. I have completed every race I’ve run in, even when I thought I surely could not, and I have lined up with hundreds of kids all racing toward the finish. Having to do that used to bring me very near tears. I was so insecure, so petrified, just having to keep my legs moving. In my head there were constant whispers of, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. . .” But I could. Even when I felt like it was over, when I felt as though I could face my mind no more, I kept running. This has impacted my life to the very fullest extent, as I now see that every challenge can be overcome, no matter how hard or huge it may seem at the time. I have learned to have confidence in myself, to trust my body to keep me on the right track. And the goal never moves. With each step, you get closer, and you will always finish. Running cross country has shown me strength both mentally and physically, and I understand that everyone is on a different level with their own challenges and race to run. All the same, I will encourage them to continue as I do to anxious opponents before a meet, to the people at my sides taking deep breaths before the gun ahead signals that first step. I will race against myself with resilience to the negative thoughts that wish to make themselves known, and instead focus on why I do what I do and who I do it for. I run for my school, for my friends, for my team, and above all, for myself. And you can believe that I will keep running.
On the morning of August 12, 2016, I found out that school had been cancelled due to heavy rain and high water in some areas around the city. I assumed that it would be just like any other rainy day. No one knew what was to come in the following days. The rain continued to fall, streets were covered with water, and ditches were filling up fast. Houses were beginning to take on water and everyone was getting a little scared. We found out that schools were starting to flood, too. My mom, a teacher, was concerned about her classroom. My family stayed up late into the night watching the water move down the street and into the yard. As the water crept up our driveway, I started to get a little nervous. The next afternoon, the floodwaters in my neighborhood began to recede. Out of about 150 houses in my neighborhood, only around 50 did not flood.
Although my house didn’t get any water, many people I’m close to lost everything. My great-grandmother, aunt, and a few of my friends’ homes flooded. Both of the schools my mom works at flooded as well. My junior high flooded, along with my younger siblings’ elementary school. Most of Denham Springs went under water for a few days. So many people lost all of their possessions. Driving around town after the flood was heartbreaking because everywhere you looked, you saw devastation and destruction. Everyone worked together to help each other recover and rebuild. People from other states even donated their time, money, and resources to help us get through this terrible time. Over a year later, some families still aren’t back in their homes and some students are still in temporary schools while they wait for things to be rebuilt. South Louisiana is still recovering from the Great Flood of 2016. This flood truly was one for the record books.
On August 12, 2016, thousands of people’s lives in Louisiana were turned around. Water rose over six feet in some houses.. Maybe even more. My house is eight feet off the ground because the land I live on flooded in the 1980s. The water came up seven feet under the house. It was scary because my family and I had to leave our home to stay with my grandparents not knowing what was going to happen.
My neighbors, Corey and Matt, were able to save almost 200 people. To be exact, there was 246 people on one street, staying in five houses. Army trucks eventually came and took all the people who were saved and brought them to shelters.
Us Louisianans went through the same things Texans and Floridians are going through right now. Gutting houses, cleaning up trash, and helping the community are all things we had to do. We understand their struggles. What we went through, rebuilding our city etc, are the same things they went through. Its tough, but not impossible.
Denham Springs seemed like a small city where everyone knew each other and nothing too exciting really happened. Conveniently, most every big storm found its way of avoiding us with no damage, so when it started raining, we never saw what was to come. The prolonged downpour through those few days started to collect. I remember getting up in the morning, and seeing how the water had risen a few inches each night. On the day the rain had stopped, the water was up to our front porch. My entire yard, street, and as far as you could see had a foot or more. Luckily, we weren’t flooded, but when I saw that my friends were already evacuating their homes, it became clear how devastating this would be. My church, my school, everything was hit in some way or another. Stores were closed, and we bought all of our food from an empty gas station. Everything seemed to be drawn to a halt in that month of struggling recovery, and the flood is relevant in many conversation to this day. Our community had to come together in that time of need, and we are all bonded by that experience.
Natural disasters happen frequently around the world, in fact, I have actually lived through one. Now, I could sit here and tell you all the details about my flood story or I could tell you how many feet I flooded with, or how many clothes I lost, but the flood altered my life in a different way. The Great Flood of 2016 affected many people in my community, it did not matter if they flooded or not. If you did not flood you had people living with you and if you did flood you were most probably living in a place that you would not necessarily call “home”. You learn something new everyday, and what the flood taught me, was what the word “home” really means. Home is where the heart is. I may not have been living in the house that was familiar, but my family and friends stuck by me in the rough times. This showed me that even if I have nothing in life, no money, no house, and even no clothes, I still have my family. The flood was very humbling for me, and maybe that was the reason it occurred. We will never know, but I do know I can be grateful for how blessed I am to have friends and family that I call home. My house may have changed, but my family never did.
On August twelfth, by many all that was heard was the silence of rising waters. I myself was awoken by an alert saying school was cancelled and my step-dad’s dog howling. These sounds frightened me, so I opened the cage and allowed the dog on my bed, for comfort.
Rolling over, I assumed I could fall back asleep, with the knowledge that there was no school. Soon I was bombarded by an urge to get out of the bed, so I slipped out from under the comforter and plopped my feet onto the dampened floorboards.
Not seconds later, my mom stormed in, smacking the light switch on and inspecting the outer edge of my room, with an arm full of dirty towels and clothes to be donated. We both, simulataneously, saw the water seeping through my walls and began flinging cloth-like items around the floors.
Before leaving, my mom, sister, and I spent at least a solid hour throwing stuff onto our beds and off the ground. When we realized there was nothing left that we could do, each of us grabbed suitcases of clothes and something we felt we should take with us, for whatever’s the reason.
Of all the items I could have grabbed, I took a mini statue that typically just sat in a box, which I honestly didn’t even remember I had. I saw the dark gray with light gray floral coverup peeking out of the box and the tassel on the middle of the casing that held a pure, glass angel. I scurried away with that and threw anything else important to me in a sealed plastic box on the floor.
We all rushed out of the house and tried to leave as quickly as possible.
After humming anything we could into the backseat of our almost seven foot tall vehicle, there was chaos. Although there were only three people and a dog in the car, more noise could not be produced, I’m sure. I was on the phone with my dad telling him we were okay. My mom was on the phone with my step-dad telling him we were coming to his house away from all the rain. My sister was trying to calm the dog and keep him quiet. In the midst of it all though, there were tears. They all cried their eyes out, but I couldn’t. Several times I almost did, but I knew as soon as it was clear that I wasn’t alright, it could only get worse.
In every family there’s the “tough” one, who can handle pressure and doesn’t cry for anything. Speaking from experience, this role is tough in itself. More than anything, I wanted to be home. I craved the feeling of sitting in my empty bed and my furniture on the floor, where it belonged. I wanted to see my dad and my aunt and my other dogs. But I couldn’t permit myself to show it.
What’s usually an hour long trip to my step-dad’s house, turned into two hours and forty five minutes, crammed in a car driving thirty five miles an hour on the interstate.
Halfway there, I felt at the ground for my angel and clenched it in my fist. This, strangely, made me believe that no matter the amount of water that took over my house, that I would be better than okay. It made me believe my room would again be my room. And my home would again be my home.
During the first week of eighth grade, school was already closed due to substantial rain. At first I was thrilled to have the day off, but I later realized that there was a catch. That day the first sign of flooding started at my Momo’s house with her waking up to inches of water in the bedroom. After I was forced to go and help instead of going to sleep, I went to the park to go skim board on the slender amount of rain in the grass.
The next day, Saturday, I woke up to see donuts, my favorite breakfast. As I was finishing up I realized that many people were flooding and my parents were going to help with our boat. A few hours later my dad got stuck in traffic as water was rising rapidly. This alerted us to get packing up to see if we can evacuate before the roads were blanketed with water. While picking up my mom told us, “to go and pack like you’re never coming back.”
After loading up my cousins my parents maneuvered through the flooded streets and traffic like a maze. What would have normally been an hour and half trip turned out to be over four hours just to get to the hunting camp in Mississippi. Even though our house was in the process of flooding, I had a great time riding four wheelers and just being in the country. While in Mississippi we made a purchase of our new temporary home, R.V.
A week later we came home and started the cleanup. It was a very long and exhausting journey, but after six months we were in our home yet again.