August 19, 2005, Port Sulphur, Louisiana. I was a week into my 27th round trip around the sun, and 2 weeks into the biggest purchase of my life: an engagement ring for my girlfriend of 4.5 years, Anna.
Port Sulphur, a little fishing community located at the “sock protruding from the boot’s toe of Louisiana”, was my new challenge in the educational world. It was my 2nd year teaching there, my 5th overall, and seeing that culture was one of many life-changing events that had occurred in my life up to that point, but Hurricane Katrina tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hold my beer”.
Like the stem of a leaf, Belle Chasse Highway is the one way in and the one way out of Plaquemines Parish. Port Sulphur is located about 45 minutes down that road, and if you continue down that desolate highway you’ll reach some of the best fishing in the world, then will eventually come to the Gulf of Mexico. When you get there, I suggest stopping unless you’ve got a car that’s much cooler than mine.
The buzz throughout the teacher’s lounge was nonchalant. The people of Plaquemines had been threatened time out of mind from nature and their guard had been stored away like yesterday’s technology. There was one guy that was on high-alert…but he was always on high-alert. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Mr. K. He was a heck of a fellow, but was a bit of a worry-wart on all things weather-related, but he had leveled-up his worry for this storm.
Mid-day Friday was when Mr. K started losing hair, and at that point, no one was expecting the then Category 3 storm to come near New Orleans, rather terrorize the Panhandle once again (Ivan hit in 2004 and Dennis hit earlier that year). Of course, people were telling Mr. K to “get out of town” with his worry and he was advising them the same. On the way home that day, I drove the hour back with a bit of worrisome energy as my co-worker and I discussed our evacuation plans. In short…we had none.
But when we arrived home, it was a different story. The Weather Channel’s report of Hurricane Katrina’s track had changed…drastically. In 6 hours since the last projection, the storm had shifted it’s path 175 miles west and the eye of the hurricane? Projected to hit dead center of Plaquemines Parish.
Ok, Katrina. You’ve got my attention.
Anna and I were by no means locals quite yet only spending 4 years in the city and we weren’t taking any chances. Friday night, we packed a small bag and headed to my parents’ house in northern Alabama on Saturday’s first light. Most of our friends did not take heed of the new path and had a hurricane party Friday night, of which they regretted for the next 48 hours as that’s how long it took them to get to Houston.
Katrina changed my life. The recently purchased ring was in mail limbo and not recovered until November. Anna, who has just been accepted to Law School, spent her 1st semester in Houston. Nearly every one of my friends had homes partially or completely destroyed. And Plaquemines Parish? The south end was 30 feet under water and the school was just a shell and pile of rubble. Entire houses (and not of the trailer variety) had been lifted and planted dead center down the highway like something portrayed in a post-apocalyptic novel.
When school started back in October, the entire teaching community of Plaquemines Parish was moved to 1 school at the north end, and I taught a 4th grade crew self-coined “The Refugee Class”. That year, we laughed, cried, and most importantly, loved the heck out of each other. It was the hardest and most fulfilling year of my life.
Now fast-forward 12 years….
Another hurricane is threatening the Gulf Coast. And while the turn wasn’t immediate, over the course of 48 hours, Irma turned its projected path 125 miles west, from the east coast of Florida to hugging the west coast and predicting torment to the entire state. It was too much for me and eerily reminiscent of Katrina’s turn. Anna and I once again packed up, but with 2 year old Murphy Jo and our trusty 4-legged companion “The Dude” in-tow, and headed north to Georgia.
As I was not in a good state of mind, it didn’t dawn on me that the Braves were at home until mid-evacuation. Then I recalled that the Braves were giving out free tickets to Florida residents fleeing the storm. And lastly, greeted with a beer from my brother-in-law, upon arrival, and 1 phone call later, I had made my plans to venture to Suntrust Park for Sunday’s matinee. Now to get my tickets…
Since it was my uncle and cousin that planned to go to the game with me, I couldn’t go full refugee plan as they are both Georgians, so I reached out on Twitter to see if any season ticket holders were not using tickets on Sunday that I could purchase for a discounted rate. Within minutes, Front Row Seats had reached out and said they’d hook me up. And hook me up they did! By happenstance, my uncle and cousin cancelled and it ended up being 2 refugees and 2 people housing refugees.
It was an entertaining game. A tug of war of sorts that was tied 5-5. Enter Jose Ramirez for the 8th. I knew deep down that Jose was due to give up a few runs at some point as his extremely low BABIP against just wasn’t sustainable, then….dinger. Dee Gordon of all people laced one into the right field stands. But still, it’s 6-5 and the Braves of 2017, if nothing else, are late-inning fighters. Bottom 8, nothing doing for the Braves so we’re headed to the 9th and it’s…
Matt Wisler. Matt frickin’ Wisler is coming on to pitch a contest in the top of the 9th when the Braves are down 1. It was too much for me. Too much for a guy that studies probabilities of baseball related activities. Before I could even tweet my distaste of Brian Snitker, Wisler had already given up 2 runs.
My mind: Braves are going to lose this game. I’m going to get caught in traffic and be late for our dinner reservation. We need to leave. So what did I do?
You guys know the rest of the story. Braves score 3 in the bottom of the 9th and win it with a walk-off HR from Lane Adams in the 11th, whom I’ve really come to enjoy this season.
Like Katrina, sometimes we can’t appreciate what we have when it’s right in front of our face, until we are forced to leave it.
But unlike Katrina, I was in one of my favorite places on earth, watching my favorite team, with my favorite person in the world, and I let a silly thing like probable outcome come in the way of that enjoyment. There was no excuse for this evacuation. Sometimes we think we know so much about something that we lose the value of that thing we love and things like probability get in the way of enjoying a game for the sake of the game.
I’m proud of the Ryan from 2005 for being so strong in a time where crisis was omnipresent and ashamed of the Ryan from 2 days ago who forgot what was really important in life.
But today’s Ryan is still a work in progress and, no matter the outcome, he will always say…