Category 4 Birthday

By Ben A., Age 13

The day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, August 28th, 2005, was my thirteenth birthday. Talk about bad luck! I had already had my birthday party at Blue Bayou Water Park towards the end of the summer, but I was hoping for a day in my neighborhood playing basketball with my friends, eating a nice lobster dinner, and blowing out the candles on my chocolate doberge birthday cake. As my dad boarded up our windows, with the help of our 80-year-old neighbor Mr. Herwig, my mom and I were watching meteorologist Carl Arredondo on T.V. and listening to WWL news radio at the same time. As reporters, politicians, and weathermen declared a mandatory evacuation for New Orleans, my mom and I were becoming worried. I walked outside and said, "Dad,the city is under evacuation orders. Should we leave?" My dad said, "No, if we're going anywhere, it's downtown to the World Trade Center." His office is on the 23rd floor of the tall building, and he loved the idea of vertical evacuation. I went in my back yard to play basketballby myself. My neighborhood friends were already busy packing their cars or had already left. I could feel the fear in the winds and see the pine and oak trees throwing their arms back and forth. I really wanted to leave, but my dad still didn't want to go. He and my mom had never evacuated for a hurricane before. I asked my mom to try to convince him that we should go. As my mom wrote "Happy 13th Birthday, Ben! Love, Katrina" with a Sharpie on our window boards, my dad came inside and said, "OK, we'll leave, but we need to stop downtown first to get my computer from my office." My mom, my brother Daniel, and I didn't want to go to the World Trade Center because we wanted to get a head start against the contraflow traffic. We lost the argument. We loaded our white Toyota Sienna with our dog, Henny Penny, our cats, Dooms and Kudzu, and our cockatiel, Honeysuckle. By the time we got downtown, all of the animals were noisy. Henny was barking non-stop, the cats were meowing like crazy, and the bird was tweeting because she was included in a car trip. I took Henny for a last walk in the parking lot of the building and felt the tropical winds, already about 40 miles per hour so close to the Mississippi River, strong enough to bend the palm trees along Poydras Street. I shoved Henny back in the car, and my mom, Daniel, and I cut into my sad birthday cake with no candles. It didn't look or taste like Haydel's chocolate doberge. When my dad came out of his building with his computer, we left for a drive I will always remember to Germantown, Tennessee. Along the way we dumped the rest of my birthday cake into a trash can at a gas station in Hammond and ate a dinner of Krystal cheeseburgers from the little shop inside. Happy thirteenth birthday to me!