"It's worse than anyone can imagine."
That's what the email that I received today says. It is from our friends, the ones with whom we went on vacation just weeks ago. I haven't said anything about them this week. Not here. As I said yesterday, this is my diversion, my distraction, not where I talk much about how frightened I am. But I have watched TV, and cried, and prayed and called their cell phones over and over. And heard nothing. Until just hours ago. They are safe, evacuated to Arkansas. They don't know what shape their home is in, but they know they cannot get back there for months. They've been instructed to "go somewhere" and enroll their child in school. They -- Shelley, Parran and the little girl, we'll call her Star -- are in a strange state, in a hotel with strangers, eating food delivered by local churches. We are so thankful they're OK. Their home, if they do still have one, is north of New Orleans. Shelley's parents, in their 80s, and two sisters, one brother, and their families, lived in the city. Their homes, their belongings, everything is gone.
On vacation, we were the Fairchilds, and when that wasn't enough to get us a good table in a restaurant, they were the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilts are in big trouble, as are so many, many people. But we happen to know and love these particular N'Orleaneans. Here's how Shelley closed her email today:
"Thanks for the prayers, and PLEASE, keep them coming."
So, please do. And help however you can.
UPDATE: Good news. In an email this morning (Friday), they say that they have received word their house is still standing and in relatively good shape. (WOOHOO!) Jobs and school are still unknowns, and when they will be able to get back home is unknown, due to power, water issues. We had invited them to stay with us, which they will keep as an option. I am sure they'd rather be stationed closer to home. I don't know where Shelley's family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews) is, just that their homes are gone, but they're alive. I also want to pass on this quote, for which I am so thankful:
"The people in Little Rock have been absolutely fantastic. There is a local Baptist church, and they are supplying the LA/MS evacuees with lunch and dinner each day! The hotel supplies us with breakfast and snacks each day. The local businesses are offering discounts, even free stuff like at the movies. The hotel has reduced their rate for us by about 30%. We feel very fortunate."
I have never had aspirations to visit Little Rock, but I surely do now. Some day, those good people will get some of my tourist dollars, for sure.