How has your life changed in the last 6 months and 13 days? Oh, a better question: what comforts have you enjoyed nearly every day since Sept. 24, 2005?
That was exactly 195 days ago. Or 4,680 hours. Or 280,800 minutes. Or 16.8 million seconds.
Why do I ask? Well, Sept. 24, 2005, is when Hurricane Rita hit Beaumont, Texas. That night, the Category 3 storm rendered our top-floor newsroom uninhabitable as wind-powered rain sliced through every weakness in our roof, collapsed our ceilings and airducts, and flooded the workplace of more than 50 journalists.
Since then, the reporters and editors at my paper have been scattered to cubby holes and dark niches elsewhere in our building, where we remain today. We have set up computers on folding tables anywhere we could find extra space; our phones are re-directed in labyrinthine ways; the ventilation in our orphan spaces is inconsistent, to be nice; we are scattered hither and yon through the buildings, making communication unwieldy and clunky; we sit -- and and reporter alike -- elbow-to-elbow, consigned to every personal tic and peccadillo of the co-workers on either side of us; and our separate mini-"newsrooms" are, in fact, hallways, passages and gathering places for customers, janitors, and colleagues from every other department.
In this time, we've had little or no access to our "morgue" -- our library of microfilm, photos and clippings. Many personal belongings and professional resources were either destroyed, lost, appropriated or safely stowed in unimaginable places when we fled the rising water. The things we carried were simply not meant to suffice for more than six months.
Contractors working to restore and renovate the newsroom have made great progress, but they can't seem to wrap it up. Our move-in dates have been set and moved so many times that it no longer fazes anyone when a new postponement is announced.
Today, we're still not back.
BUT ... we're told that we should be back in our newsroom by the end of next week, nearly seven months after the storm. Most of us -- seasoned veterans of A Series of Regrettable Delays -- can't get too excited. It'll happen when it happens. We continue to put out a newspaper every day, and it's often pretty damned good, despite the deprivations. If anything, it made us appreciate the security and comfort of normalcy. How pleasant it is to have some room of one's own. We certainly haven't suffered as much as people who lost their homes and entire businesses in the horror show that was the 2005 hurricane season.
So I ask again: How has your life changed in the last 6 months and 13 days? What comforts have you enjoyed nearly every day since Sept. 24, 2005?
ABOVE: My office, the morning after the storm.