Diana Marie Fidrocki 10/01/1991 Milton High School On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the levees were breached, and the city was flooded. Now, you are probably wondering why a middle class white girl from a suburb outside of Boston is writing about Hurricane Katrina. And no, this not a story about a church missionary trip to rebuild homes. The reason that Hurricane Katrina is such a crucial part of my life is because I lived it. I was staying with my family at the Iberville Suites in the French Quarter when the hurricane hit. My brother, Jim, was moving into Tulane University as an incoming freshman, and my parents and I were helping him to get settled. We had arranged to leave before the hurricane hit, but our flight home was cancelled and we could not get out in time. We were trapped in the hotel for about five days after the hurricane hit. This experience was life changing. Surviving the hurricane was the first real hardship that I have ever endured. The area around the hotel was completely flooded. From the balconies we could see the looters running through the knee high water, we could smell the smoke from burning buildings, and we could hear occasional gun shots. Because of hotel policy, anyone who left the hotel could not come back. We had nowhere to go and no way to get out, so we stayed. There was no electricity or running water, so – as one can imagine – conditions were very unsanitary. Before we could eat, we had to dip our hands in diluted bleach. Each day, we were given three small meals and three cups of water. Everyday for breakfast, we had croissants, which got staler and staler each day. As you can probably guess, I never want to eat another croissant again in my life. Diana Marie Fidrocki 10/01/1991 Milton High School I found this experience to be humbling because I saw what others had lost. Many people staying at the hotel were locals who were partaking in what they called vertical evacuation. They lost their homes and practically everything they owned. One of the hotel workers who had become a friend of my family, no longer had a house to go to because he found out that it was completely destroyed. I, on the other hand, lost very little – a few shirts and a couple pounds, but nothing that would be truly missed. One day, I had asked what day it was, and upon learning that it was Thursday, I realized that I was going to miss the freshman orientation for Milton High School. That really brought me down, but I discovered that even when everything seems to be going wrong and falling apart, there is still some good. Later that day, my mood changed because a woman let me hold a dog named Gizmo (after the creature in the movie “Gremlins”), and for some reason that sweet, adorable dog gave me something to hold on to. My mood instantly improved, and I felt calmed. For the time I was holding Gizmo, I was able to completely forget all my problems. I feel as if this experience has made me a better person because it helped me to put my life into perspective. I now know what I am capable of enduring. I understand that no matter how badly things seem to be going for me, there are others in worse situations. Probably the most helpful thing I learned is that even simple things like holding a dog can make tough times easier. With all that said, I found that after getting home from New Orleans, I was happier, more optimistic, more understanding, and all around a better person than I had been before the hurricane.