To the nearly one million people in Louisiana without power tonight. To the countless souls in Mississippi, whose lives are going underwater. To all on the Gulf Coast, submerged in rainfall and storm surge from Hurricane Ida.
To families trapped in homes, who will be surviving on prayers, spit baths, snack crackers, and adrenaline fumes for the next several days.
To young parents who will be spending tonight reassuring anxious children that there is nothing to fear, even though they doubt their own words.
To anyone living in a flood zone.
To all whose entire lives were contained in a mobile home.
To the young man, Eric, who emailed me from Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, who is still trying to reach his sister, Sharon, but hasn’t been able to contact her.
To the hordes of families in New Orleans shotgun homes, who never wanted to imagine that something like this might happen a second time.
To anyone living in the middle of a tornado-affected region within the Southeast, who is sheltering in a walk-in closet or a pantry right now, scrolling their phone to keep from going into shock.
And especially to the children. To all children of the Bayou State, the Magnolia State, the Camellia State, and the Sunshine State, who have been awake tonight, huddled in bathtubs alongside their sweaty siblings while 150-mph winds threatened to rip their world apart.
To the scared toddlers who are reading Golden Books, playing board games, or watching iPad movies to keep from freaking out.
To the souls in Grand Isle, Louisiana, who need rescue and don’t have phones. To people in Jefferson Parish, whose cars are flooded, overturned, crushed, demolished, or lie beneath 100-year-old pines.
To the elderly, the shut-ins, and those with mobility problems, who have been watching the Weather Channel for 24 hours with clammy hands until, boom, their world suddenly went black.
To my friend, Anderson, who emailed from south Louisiana, earlier today, who said his neighbor’s rooftop just disappeared. “It was just gone,” he explained.
And to the woman who lives in a singlewide that “felt like it was going to get up and start flying.”
To the lady who evacuated with her kids and watched as power lines snapped and dumpsters rolled across the highway like beach balls. She pulled over in a random neighborhood and took shelter with perfect strangers in a garage.
To Razel, who messaged me from a public shelter. He has spent hours listening to a few young immigrants in the shelter pray in their own tongues. One woman prayed the rosary in Spanish, another kid chanted in Russian.
To all sheriff’s departments within the coastal corridor of Louisiana’s 10 parishes. To the deputies who will work marathon shifts, surviving on cheap coffee and goodwill.
To people stuck in elevators when the power went out.
To all the critical patients lying in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Panhandle emergency rooms when Ida made landfall. To patients with COVID who were desperately trying to breathe while a Category 4 tried to remove the hospital ceiling.
And to the doctors, nurses, techs, medical staff, custodial workers, and hospital employees who did not even consider evacuating because this is simply not in a hero’s nature.
To the thousands of lineworkers who are reading this from the front seats of their idling utility vehicles, sitting in traffic on I-55, I-12, I-20, I-59, I-10, I-65, on their way to help restore power. To all electrical workers coming from the Midwest, the West, the East Coast, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Southeast to visit ground zero.
To the EMTs, ambulance drivers, police officers, first responders, fire and rescue workers, and public works employees.
To the construction men, metal workers, ironworkers, and the millions of craftsmen who will be rebuilding ruins for the next following days, weeks, months, and years.
To Jasmine, the 9-year-old daughter of an evacuee who had a panic attack in the back seat of her mother’s car when a live oak fell across the highway.
To the frightened Miss Anne, an 74-year-old woman with dementia, who shelters with neighbors right now because her daughter and full-time caregiver is sick in ICU.
And to all the helpers.
To the selfless men and women with chainsaws, heavy equipment, food wagons, bass boats, dually trucks, dual-axel flatbeds, and earth movers. To the humble volunteer cooks, volunteer nurses, and out-of-town angels who—as I write this—are lacing up their boots and preparing to leave their homes and travel into Ida’s devastation to play the roles of Samaritans.
To anyone with an injured loved one. To all who are scared witless right now. To the 2.6 million residents who have spent this nightmarish evening under a hurricane warning.
To you, whoever you are, reading these words on the dim light of your dying phone as you sit amidst hell, waiting for your power to come back on.
God bless you.