Love and laughter, sometimes that's all we have. I'm still amazed at the humor and kindness of people during times of peril. And here in New Orleans, we are seemingly forced to laugh too often. On February 7, a tornado damaged and destroyed homes in several communities in New Orleans East. The east is a place just outside of New Orleans proper that, in some areas, is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"I just raised the house for a flood," Donald Wheeler, an older man who has lived on Evangeline St., in New Orleans East since the 1990s, said. He chuckled. "Now that the water is gone, I guess we got to deal with the wind."
Last night, he sat in a foldable outdoor chair, puffing a cigar, sipping something, while his chihuahua, Nola, moved about, as far as the pink leash tied to the chair allowed. Half of his home was caved in. Wheeler said looters had already started scouting the street and he protecting whatever valuable remained. Wheeler's wife, sat in the car and chatted on the phone.
"I'm holding her, she holding me, she screaming all the words she can about 'Jesus help us.' The louder the noise got, the louder my wife got," Wheeler said about the moment the tornado landed on their street. "My ears still ringing."
He added that is in those moments, all you have is love. "The small things we used to fuss about, it will never happen again," he said. "I know now, our love is stronger than anything."
Earlier that night, a few streets over, Brandon Gilmore also talked about love. A large tree leaned on his crumbled home in the 4700 block of Gabriel Street. He purchased the home 11 years ago, just before Katrina. Gilmore was a younger man, still in his Cox Cable uniform and work van, where pizza boxes rested on the dashboard. Gilmore said he tried to remain positive, until saw just how badly his home was destroyed.
"It's hard, but one thing about me, I love New Orleans," Gilmore said. "Can't nobody run me out of New Orleans. Katrina couldn't and I swear this tornado ain't."