Saturday, November 19, 2011
Miss Dora of New Orleans
Hey all. So I am currently on an evening flight from New Orleans to BWI and I wanted to share a story I heard on the way here. I will make a travel post as soon as I'm home and have loaded my photos to the internet. But for now, I want to tell you about a beautiful lady who made my day.
Miss Dora was my driver today. I had called ahead for a limo service to pick me up from my hotel to take me over to the airport. So when I got my luggage outside I look up to see a sleek, black stretch limousine out front of the Best Western St. Christopher. A lovely black lady in her sixties poked her head out the window and smiled up at me "Are you Megan?" I grinned and nodded as she stepped out of the car. "Wow, an actual limo all to myself?!" I was fairly shocked. When I reserved a car with the company I assumed a dark sedan would pick me up. "Yes, ma'am, this limo has your name on it! You are welcome to any of the drinks inside and you can adjust the fan and music as you see fit" she said while pulling away from the hotel. She glanced in the rear view at me and I smiled. "So how are you today?" I asked. I then learned the following about Miss Dora:
Dora hails from a small town in Louisiana about 110 miles north of New Orleans. Though she was not born in the Big Easy she has lived and worked there for over 40 years. She and her husband bought a home in the city limits and found jobs downtown.
As we drove, Dora told me about some of the city's history and changes throughout the years. She asked about my trip and we chatted about the steamboats and parades. Once on Interstate 10, Dora asked if I knew about the cemeteries and why the graves were above ground. I told her I understood because much like N'awlins, the place I grew up in is well below sea level. I told her a story about a massive flood that affected Chincoteague Island (near where I grew up) and how it eroded the graves and left coffins floating down Main Street. She understood and related it to Katrina.
She hesitated and glanced over the dividing wall of the interstate and into an extensive graveyard. "There are a lot more souls out there now after the storm. Lord blessed my family that no one was taken from me that day." I asked Dora if she was still in the city when Katrina hit. Thankfully her and her husband had the good notion to evacuate in advance and trek up to the northern part of the state where her family still resided. "We got out, thank God, but it wasn't without cost. We packed up an SUV and headed out of the city. But a few days later we went back to see the damage. They wouldn't let us into the city."
"Finally, we were able to walk to our home... or what was left of it" she said. "Did you lose everything?" I asked quietly. "Yep, we sure did. The levies broke and soaked the city. Everything in our home was ripped or broken or waterlogged. The walls in the house buckled and every door was sealed shut from the wood expanding" she said. "It was a hard thing to see. A hard pill to swallow. Everything from 40 years of a live here and it was just washed away in an instant." Her voice softened. "But I'll tell you hunny that it's not so hard anymore. We all got out alive. I still have my health and my family." "Everything else can be replaced" I chimed in. "Amen. That's the truth. You can't worry about all that material stuff when you can fix it" she said.
She smiled in the rear view and turned off an exit. "I'll tell ya something funny. When we got back to the house I went up to our bedroom to try and salvage what I could. I opened the closet that had my wedding gown and my husband's tuxedo in it. They were still there, hanging right where I left them. Not a rip or tear. The only thing was that the middle of my dress was covered in beautiful little pearls. They had turned grey from the water so I took them to a friend. She removed all of the grey pearls and hand stitched new ones on for me. My husband's tux was a light green color and it didn't even get wet! I told him it was a sign for our marriage and that we'd never fall apart" she laughed. "So far so good!"
Thankfully when her and her husband fled the city to outpace the hurricane, she grabbed a few essentials. "I had a clear enough mind to grab photo albums of my wedding and all of my children growing up. I got some of my jewelry, a whole heaping pile of clothes and the important papers we needed... like the deed to our house. I just filled the SUV with anything I could grab that would fit." "Wow, I'm so glad you thought of that. I'm sure so many people just left or thought it wouldn't be so bad. I couldn't imagine losing every photo or important piece of jewelry I have" I said. "Exactly. That's why I grabbed it. Just in case."
I complimented the city on how great it looks and how optimistic those who are in the city limits seem. "Oh yes, hunny. It seems like nothin' can really hold the New Orleans folk down. Of course it takes lots of time and lots of money but things are heading back to the way they were. It's just one of those things where you know the danger is there but you never think it will actually happen to you. Not like that anyway."
As we pulled into the airport the topics changed to jobs and taking vacations. She wanted me to enjoy life and take a cruise! Her and her husband take one for their anniversary almost every year. As we pulled to the terminal she thanked me for chatting with her. "Lots of folks don't make conversation when they're leaving or they have such a big group that they just talk to their friends" she said. As I climbed out of the car and handed her a tip I asked "What is your name?" "Dora" she said. "Like the explorer!" I laughed and told her I had a pet of the same name which she was tickled pink by. "Oh yes, I like my name! Your friend made a good choice for her kitty" she laughed. I turned to wish her a happy day and said "thank you for talking to me today Dora. It was really great to meet you." She walked up to me and opened her arms for a hug which I happily accepted. I gave her a squeeze and she said "Please come back to my city someday, sugar."
I promised I would.