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As you all know, we have been presented with real tragedy. And I'm not hear to preach any politics, just share a story:

In 1998, I was in a chat room on AOL. And there was this girl, who instead of talking..... was singing. Well, writing song verses in italic font and adding the la la's in. It was the craziest thing and it made me really smile. So I jumped in and started singing along, well, writing with her, and before you know it, we became steadfast friends. I was so tickled by her that I asked her for her picture, and she went on to tell me "no", that she's NOT LIKE THAT!!! She thought I was a lesbian, and told me she was married! Ha Ha After chatting for just a few minutes she sent me a beautiful picture of her, her husband and her two daughters (age 4 and 6 at the time). After that, we were talking on line all the time. Then we were talking on the phone every Sunday and we began calling each other "sissy" and telling each other "I love you".

After a year of non-stop talking and sharing parent things, woman things, marriage things, single-life things, I decided it was time to meet, and I was not going without my daughter.

I cannot begin to tell you the skepticism we heard from everyone, like,"you don't even know her, how can you go there, AND TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER", or "You met her on line????? And in a chat room???????????????". And in my eyes, after all I shared with her, it was a risk that I was willing to take and I wanted my daughter there with me. So we were off to New Orleans.

The tickets to go to New Orleans for 4th of July were very expensive. They were having their annual Essence Festival show, which is put on by Essence Magazine and a concert featuring most of the top named Soul, R&B and "black" music. So without knowing EXACTLY how far it was, we ended up getting tickets to Jackson Mississippi for hundreds of dollars less. My very good friend Melanie, who I had never even met before, drove 3 hours to pick us up in Mississippi. When we landed, Hayley was pooped from running (with 4-year old legs) between terminals in the ever hellish Dallas airport, she was knocked-out asleep for all 3 hours back to New Orleans, and Melanie and I talked the whole time. I think we barely took time to breathe between words, we had so much to say to each other. I had never felt so connected to a woman before. I never had a sister before, but I surely knew that this is what it must feel like on a very best day of sisters.

Needless to say, we had a most fantastic trip. We were gone a week and experience fireworks on the Mississippi River, strolling down Bourbon Street and barbecuing in the back yard, which was surrounded by the biggest trees with the loudest locusts (which I had never heard before - it was LOUD) and no walls, which was like living out in the open... It was so wonderful. I had also never seen so many ugly, different sized, shaped and colored bugs before in my life. In fact, I was sitting outside their home, in the backyard one night, smokin' a smoke, and I looked to my left, and on the wall next to the light, well, all around the light, was this vast amount of completely gross bugs. Ewwwwww. When I went back inside the house, I told Melanie's husband Tommy, that those were some of the ghastliest bugs I had ever seen. His response was, "that's why we don't go out there at night". I wasn't even sure to laugh or cry.

At the end of the trip, it was really hard. We flew back home out of New Orleans and when we said our goodbyes, it hurt. Hayley went and jumped into Tommy's arms and cried. It was a wonderful and sad moment all wrapped up. And when we came home and talked, and then talked a little less, and then less than that, and sent pictures of our kids which we barely recognized anymore and kind of let time slip by.

I had really been thinking of her a lot lately, so I called her last Friday and talked to her on my way home from work. I had seen the reports of the hurricane coming on the news and asked her if it was windy (it was still a few days away).

Today, I registered them for FEMA. See they live in Slidell, where only 90% of the houses were wiped out. They lost a portion of their roof, the flying shingles caused some damage and the house flooded. But they were lucky. When I asked Melanie today how she managed to be one of the 10% that didn't lose anything, and then said that a higher power must've been looking down on her, she told me she never stopped praying. Since then, they have slept in a Pep Boys parking lot in Baton Rouge and are extremely exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed. I cry when I start thinking about it, and I just tell her that I am sorry. I would do anything for them, because I love them. And even though we don't talk ALL the time anymore, Melanie knows that her and her family have always been in m heart.

You cannot imagine how thankful I am to have not only met a wonderful friend, but to have spent time in their home in New Orleans. I am so happy to have been there. What an experience.

On that note, I don't know whether you have all decided to help in some way, but there are several legitimate charitable programs that would be happy to take donations. Please do not forget to make a donation and do not forget to say a prayer tonight for everyone who is/was suffering from Katrina and a prayer for yourself and your family and how grateful you are for what you have.

Goodnight.
Rachel
 

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You sharing that story is appreciated... seeing N.O. reidents here in Houston first hand is a real eye opener for me personally... There are SO many families here looking for eachother, many of them lost, don't know what to do, what's going to happen next and so on.. it's a real tragedy...

There are some on the other hand that are really keeping their spirits up and have learn to use some sense of humor to get them by.. I'm volunteering here and it's humbling to see and hear what some people had to go through just to get here.. you wouldn't believe the stories.. many of them thought that the country left them to die b/c the coast guard didn't get there until days after and many had no communication with the 'outside world'... yet they are still grateful to be alive today... as we should all be

Count your blessings everyone!
 
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