Hurricane Story


I was nine months pregnant and due in less than a week when Hurricane Katrina blew into the Gulf. In the early hours of August 28, 2005 my husband and I loaded up our small truck with two cats, two dogs, two crates full of negatives, all our important papers and a few changes of clothes. We evacuated to a motel in southern Alabama and tried not to watch the news. Monday, August 29 brought the convergence of two major life-changing events; the destruction of New Orleans and the birth of our first son. It was two long months and 6000 miles on the road before we were able to return home.

Hurricane Story is a depiction of our family’s evacuation experience – the birth, the travels and the return. These photographs represent various elements of our ordeal. The project began as a cathartic way to process some of the lingering anger and anxiety over that bittersweet journey. It grew into a narrative series of self-portraits in toys that illustrate my experiences and emotional state during our time in exile.

* Hurricane Story was published by Chin Music Press in 2011. An ebook, enhanced with an audio interview, an animated map and an afterword by Steven Maklansky, is available for purchase here.

We left in the dark of night.
I was due in less than a week.
At the motel in Andalusia we tried not to watch the news.
My water broke at 1:30 that morning.
We sped for hours to an unfamiliar midwife.
Her eyes were beautiful but the hazmat shield was distracting.
When we arrived at the hospital it was time.
At 3:47 a boy was born.
He was so tiny at first.
The next morning we turned on the t.v.
The news got worse and worse.
It was impossible not to watch.
There were rumors of alligators in the streets.
10,000 body bags seemed plausible.
We dodged the flooding but new fears arose.
The chaos was hard to fathom.
Send in the guard.
Kind people showered us with gifts.
It was nice to have a distraction.
We drove further north to the farm.
Convoys of rescue trucks passed in the other direction.
Jobs were offered and declined.
We took our hurricane sideshow on the road.
Family and friends were delighted to see us.
I'll confess that fall was beautiful.
The dogs enjoyed their vacation.
The gypsy life was harder on the cats.
My husband turned into a freak.
Violent fantasies ensued.
Sometimes it felt like I had two babies.
Bad habits resumed.
We scoured the internet for updates.
It was the longest two months of my life.
We drove home at the end of October.
We passed a parade of drowned cars.
The city was strangely peaceful.
Mice had moved into the kitchen.
Nature claimed the fridge.
We attempted to drown our sorrows.
Tanks in the streets soon seemed normal.
FEMA hauled off our downed trees.
It was months till the phone was restored.
Slowly our friends trickled back.
We got a new roof before Christmas.
Mardi Gras was amazing.
In spite of it all there's no place like home.