Janice | Teen Ink


January 10, 2008
By Anonymous

Nothing in my life prepared me for Janice. She was frail, sporting only two teeth. Her shirt, covered in shades of red, yellow and green, was dirty and stained. Her light brown hair was greasy and slicked back into a ponytail toward the bottom of her head. Her armpits were full of hair. She was wearing no makeup, and her eyes were wet. Through her tears, she trembled; telling her story… and in a moment, the pain of Hurricane Katrina became real to me.

Three days earlier, I sat listening to a flight attendant review safety procedures of the plane. I was nervous. New Orleans was a whole new world for me, and I had no idea what to expect. I rested my head back hoping my mind would take a reprieve from the race of fear it had been running, but it did not stop. I was anxious and desperately wanted to land, but it was time for me to stop worrying about what lay ahead that week. I needed to put my fears aside and let God’s plans happen.

Stepping out of the airport the overwhelming heat made it hard to breathe. My team and I were wearing bright tie-dyed shirts adorned with a large blue cross on the back. The quote above the cross read, “It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35.” Walking through the airport, strangers put out their hands, thanking us for being in New Orleans to help. I didn’t understand at that point, why we were so important.

At the start of our third day of work, our van pulled up on the curb in a small, typical, New Orleans neighborhood. We were going to be pulling weeds for a woman named Janice. Like most others in New Orleans, her lawn was engulfed in “Katrina Weeds”. There was a rusty colored water line around the perimeter of the empty house, and in the driveway sat a lonely FEMA trailer. Seeing this, it hit me. These people had lost everything and this was the reason people in the airport had thanked us.

I knelt on the ground pulling weeds for a long time. Slowly, the weeds that once overtook the front lawn like a jungle seemed to disappear. Filling trash bag after trash bag, we worked to make her house look somewhat presentable; even if just from the outside. Packing up our work tools, our team discussed what it would be like to live through something as horrific as this. A leader brought up how hot it must have been in the Superdome and how bad it must have smelt with all of the people crammed inside but Janice’s voice interrupted our conversation.

Janice had heard a part of our conversation. Her words were quiet and hard to understand through the tears flowing down her cheeks. “The stench was horrific”. “There were dead bodies everywhere. They floated in the water and once the water was gone from the city, they simply lay on the road. “I have not showered since the hurricane. I wash my clothes in the bathtub and my body with a wash cloth. I can not shave... And I refuse to look in the mirror”. Images flooded my mind. I couldn’t imagine.

Saying goodbye, we gathered around her in prayer and soon after, we loaded into the vans with Janice’s story permanently imprinted on our hearts.

A week after I had first arrived in New Orleans, I found myself listening once again to a flight attendant review safety procedures. My eyes were wet. A week before, I had been on the verge of tears because I was scared for this trip. Now, I was crying because I didn’t want to leave. At least 1,836 people died in Hurricane Katrina and thousands more were displaced and affected but was the one face that made the wrath of Katrina real.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.