No defense against Mother Nature#039; By Sylvia Hughes 09/15/2005 It#039;s strange how we work hard all our life to accumulate things; a home, a car, clothes. And along the way we pick up mementos of

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's strange how we work hard all our life to accumulate things; a home, a car, clothes. And along the way we pick up mementos of our lives. They are all things we treasure and enjoy.

But when a disaster happens, like Hurricane Katrina, and we are left without anything, we may be in shock over what's lost, but we find that the only thing that matters is whether those we love are safe. Those we love include family, friends and pets.

As I watched people who had lost everything refuse to leave because they could not take their pets, I understood what they were feeling. Having lost everything else, it was all they had to hang on to and comfort them. There were many people who talked as though they thought they were crazy. But I don't agree with them. That warm body that loves and trusts you above everything on earth can at least give meaning and a reason to keep on struggling.

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I was very happy to see that when the Army got there and were loading people in the trucks to take them out, they were loading the pets with their owners.

Many years ago when I was a young woman, only married a couple of weeks, my husband and I woke in the middle of the night to a fire that destroyed everything we had. My husband's mother had a hotel over a drug store. She remarried shortly before we were married and she asked us to stay in her apartment, run the hotel and take care of her young daughter.

Whether it was smoke or God who woke us, I don't know, but we woke up with a feeling something was wrong. When my husband checked the hall, he saw nothing but smoke. Telling me to wake his sister and get out, he hurried to knock on all the doors and get the people out of the rooms.

When he got downstairs, his sister and I were upset because in the rush and terror, we had forgotten our pet dog. Although the firemen tried to stop him, he ran back into the building, up the steps to the apartment to get the dog. His sister and I watched and hardly dared breathe until we saw him come back out the door with the dog in his arms.

The three of us stood on the sidewalk and watched everything we had burn to the ground. It was a time that left us in shock. Without family to take us in and help us through until we could get back on our own, I'm not sure what we would have done.

I can't imagine how much worse it is for those who have lost family, homes, jobs and their whole town to Hurricane Katrina. Many have absolutely nothing left and lived through horror until they were rescued.

At least we had somewhere to go and my husband still had a job so we could get back on our feet.

After Katrina passed and seeing all those people lined up on the highway, it was hard to believe that it was happening in our country. With all the wealth and power this country has, we are still helpless against nature. We may be able to fight our enemies, but we have no defense against the natural forces of this world.

I hope we watch and learn what we should really value and who holds our future. Everything can be lost in an instant and there's no going back, only forward. Don't live your life to the point where you have regrets for misplaced priorities. We may love our home and possessions, but they are nothing compared to those we love. They should be aware of that every day because tomorrow you or they may not be here.