Spending the day watching good, hardworking folks pack up treasured keepsakes, furniture and everything they love has an impact. As I and my CNN team on Monday visited Louisiana's St. Landry Parish - where many people were evacuating their homes because of rising water - I felt the anxiousness and worry that was so evident on residents' faces.
You don't have to tell folks here how bad high-water events can get. They know what's coming. Everywhere I looked, I wondered: What will become of these tucked-away, low-lying neighborhoods?
Everywhere you go in the parish - one of the areas in south-central Louisiana that the Army Corps of Engineers is intentionally flooding to spare more-populated areas like New Orleans - everyone is talking about the rising water. "Waterâ€™s coming!" almost seems like a passing greeting among friends here.
We went to Krotz Springs, where authorities were telling about 750 people to evacuate. It wasnâ€™t until we pulled up to the small subdivision of Halphen Hollow and met the Ansley family that I really considered it - what would it feel like to be a child caught up in the chaos of mandatory evacuations? It's unfathomable what children must be thinking as they watch their rooms, toys, clothes being furiously packed up in a matter of hours and whisked away.
A truck was preparing to move the Ansley family's mobile home after the National Guard informed them they had until 5 p.m. to evacuate. Our team began making introductions and asking what the family's plans might be for the next couple months - that's how long they'd been warned the high water could keep them from returning to the subdivision. That's when an adorable, friendly 5-year-old girl grabbed my hand and whisked me away.
"Come on!" she pleaded, her small hand grabbing mine.
Alaina Ansley turned 5 on Sunday, her grandmother told me. Alaina was wearing a pink shirt with multicolor heart-shaped patterns, her painted pink toes sliding in her flip-flops as she brought me to a neighborâ€™s backyard. I admit she had me curious, and now officially in tow. "Wanna see me jump on this trampoline?" she asked. How could I refuse?
Because she was too small to lift herself, I helped Alaina onto the trampoline and watched as she showed off for me, seemingly oblivious to the fact that a large truck less than 25 yards away was preparing to move her familyâ€™s home. "Oh, to be a carefree child during this saga," I thought. Alaina seemed blissfully unaware of what was occurring around here, and I certainly wasn't going to be the one to tell her that her neighborhood may never be the same again. The National Guard had been walking door to door all morning, telling residents to expect 5 to 10 feet of water, well above the trampoline where Alaina was now joyously jumping and laughing.
Then Alaina said to me, "This is the last time I'm going to get to jump here. The water is gonna take it away." She knew.
That's when it dawned on me: Alaina not only realized what was about to happen, but sheâ€™d actually chosen to spend her last bit of time in her neighborhood on the trampoline she loved, even sharing it with a stranger. I watched her smile and giggle, and I thought to myself, this 5-year-old is wise beyond her years.