What: Arabi Tornado
Film By: Aidan Edler
Editors Note: ViaNolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. Aidan Edler, a film student at University of New Orleans, provides us with a documentary about the Arabi tornado and all that it touched.
Chaos, destruction, depression, and even death. These four words with negative connotations were all seen in full effect in the town of Arabi after an F3 tornado ripped through the neighborhood on the fateful day of March 22nd, 2022.
A tornado, which is the strongest on record for the Metropolitan New Orleans area, had Peak Winds of 160 miles per hour and traveled over 11 miles, according to the National Weather Service. Homes were leveled, cars were destroyed, and multiple power lines were down.
The residents of Arabi were not prepared for such a natural disaster, as the area is more prone to and ready for hurricanes. This event went to show that no matter how prepared and ready one is there is never a moment that can leave one too cautious. Residents were horrified, heartbroken, and traumatized to see such widespread destruction and terror happen in such a short amount of time was unheard of in Arabi prior. Families lost their homes and possessions in the blink of an eye. To have your hard-earned home and possessions disappear in the blink of an eye is something no one ever wants to have to go through.
As a resident of Arabi myself, I was right in the center of this horrific event. One moment I was in my room watching television. The next I was rushing to the bathroom to get away from any window or door. Terror is excruciating. The transition from what sounds like normal rain to the sound of a freight train barreling down your street can send shivers down the spines of even the toughest of spirits.
Heading to the bathroom, my family and I’s first instinct was to all head to the bathtub. We held each other and covered our faces. While the actual duration of the tornado traveling down my street was approximately 10 seconds, the moment felt as if it had lasted hours. The fear that one experiences in these ordeals distort time to an incredible degree.
Arguably the worst part of my family and I’s experience with the tornado was witnessing the aftermath. We immediately traveled throughout Arabi on foot to see if our fellow neighbors needed any help. The faces of those who had lost everything is something that I will never forget. The terror. The screams. The whales. The embrace of human to humans to comfort each other with tears streaming down their faces was something that I had not experienced before. I froze in shock trying to process the otherworldly sites I was witnessing.
Fortunately, my house was not too damaged. We had two broken windows, some roof damage, and debris was thrown about our backyard. But compared to others we saw we were nothing if not fortunate we still had a house. The same could not be said for others. Others had no house to re-enter as a tornado took houses back down to their foundations.
Strangely, the thing that has stuck out to me most about this entire situation was one thing: Resilience. To see people go from tears to immediately setting out to rebuild and fix their lives was astounding. They did not take days to grieve and pout, the residents of
Arabi sought out to write this widespread wrong and move on as a tornado was my first true experience with witnessing the power and determination of humans. No matter how hard people are hit by misfortune and tragedy, we will not sit idle and wait for change to just magically happen. No. We will make it our duty to rebuild and help one another. We will rise from the rubble the ashes the debris. As terrible as this tornado was for Arabi, I am glad that I was able to be a part of that moment.
To see firsthand how strong and impressive humanity truly is has led me to become a better and more actualized person. I feel as if this tornado is defining moment of my life.