The flooding in Colorado in the news has resonated with many of us in New Orleans. It is hurricane season for us, and we are really tuned in to weather. Many of us have been where you are now, though there are specific differences due to the kind of disaster you are experiencing.
Let me offer a few words from this side of the recovery path:
-Set your expectations for longer timelines — rebuilding will not happen fast.
-Try not to react to the momentary ups and downs. Tune out rumors — that's really important for your mental health.
-Your neighbors, family and friends are the ones who will pull you through this. Take care of each other first.
-Don't forget the little things to help one another - small gestures are important. Black humor is liberating, so crack-up every once in a while to the unspeakable.
-Don't let your insurers off the hook. They make profits from you not getting your full measure of a payout for damages. You deserve all that they owe you because you paid premiums. Go for it.
-Don't give up. Document, file suit, argue and keep the pressure up. Keep photos, receipts, diary logs, field notes.
-Caution with contractors: The good ones are gold; the bad ones are very persuasive. If you get a little warning in your gut, trust the feeling. You may need some repairs, but you don't need to be the victim of poor workmanship. It costs so much to tear out work and repair it twice (or three times).
I learned a lot in post-Hurricane Katrina: A new world understanding, a nuanced sense of humor. I encountered amazing volunteers and disaster professionals. I have new building skills. There are a lot of us in New Orleans (and Sandy survivors on the East Coast) who "get" what you will be facing. Look at what we did right and toss where we screwed up. You can survive and be a fine person even in a disaster — and no amount of water can wash that away.
New Orleans, La.