As post-Katrina life takes shape and
the terror fades, my path to recovery and renewal is carved by five
Recognizing Fear and Uncertainty
It all happened so quickly. On Friday Hurricane Katrina was a threat. By Monday my
home, my business and my city were gone.
Life was surreal.
Staying with evacuees in a Houston hotel.
Trying to find out the condition of my home
by satellite. No work, no clients, phones didn’t work, e-mail was inconsistent. Give me
some facts! I can deal with facts. It’s the
uncertainty that’s so unsettling.
No word about my daughter’s school or
friends. How do I look in my daughter’s eyes
and tell her everything will be OK?
So easily I had taken for granted our Sunday dinners with extended family. Now, as
we were scattered all over the country, I
wondered whether I would see everyone
again. Would we have those dinners again?
What would become of my business, my
partnership of 20 years, my clients? There
was no normal or predictable in a once so
seemingly normal and predictable world.
Upon my return to the city, I drive to work
and see rubble in front of every house for
blocks. Each heap representing a story of
evacuation, loss, tragedy, interrupted lives.
So overwhelming. For weeks I wept daily
while making the commute.
Not all storms have as wide an impact as Katrina, but professional speakers are devastated by personal tragedy daily. Heart attacks, cancer, debilitating illnesses and the death
of loved ones sweeps through our membership, and we can all learn from Joe Liss’
courage in picking up the pieces and helping others. Will you have the courage of Joe
Liss to help NSA family members in times of crisis? Will you have the courage to let others help you as you face your own obstacles? —Column Coordinator Dale Collie, MA, CSP
I returned to restore the business, but my
family was still displaced. I lived by myself
in the upstairs of my shattered house. No
hugs, kisses, sharing of burdens.
Such a feeling of helplessness with the
enormity of the disaster. So alone.
I clung to NSA. Ed Peters, who had been
washed away by a hurricane less than a
year before, organized help for us. Alan
Weiss’ forum group sent e-mails and private
messages, not letting me wallow in self-pity.
Marc Leblanc worked for us from his hospital
bed. The NSA Foundation provided financial
assistance, promising that I would have a
check in 24 hours and getting it to me in 16.
NSA members all over the country sent
personal, handwritten notes of encouragement and love. My personal hero, a member of my own NSA New Orleans chapter, is
Sharyn Scheyd, who had brain surgery right
before the storm. As an evacuee and survivor, she endured while retaining her spirit
and sense of humor. Heroes in my midst.
Who was I to feel helpless?
My business partner and I talked intermittently after the storm, when the phones
worked. After reuniting in Baton Rouge, we
decided to help others by e-mailing advice
about how to deal with storm-related
financial issues. We contacted friends and
clients who couldn’t return to the city with
reports about their property. We were reconnecting and proactively taking part in
Recovery and Renewal
Roxanne Emmerich, CSP, CMC, inquired
whether she could send my e-mails to her
clients. At such a fragile time of my life, as
I was questioning my own purposes, my
own worth, to have one of my NSA champions make a request like that. Talk about
a shot in the arm!
Clients have returned, work piles up,
deadlines loom. I am balancing phone
calls, paperwork, my schedule, once
again. My workload is stressful. Thank you
Sunday dinner is back! So many people I
thought I might not see. Never again to be
taken for granted, so sweet.
Got a speeding ticket yesterday. Perhaps
a sign that both my city and I are returning
A time of many tests. But I am a survivor.
I am here for a reason. Katrina has shaken
my foundations and made me question
every phase of my life. I am refined by the
storm and will not miss the opportunities
Joe Liss has 26 years
of experience as a
with individuals, closely held businesses,
and a concentration
in service-oriented firms. Contact Joe
at www.bennettandliss.com or joe@