Hearts across the Water: Three Cities

Curt Leaning Against Fireplace at Old House
Curt Iles at The Old House. Dry Creek, Louisiana

A word from Curt 


Over the next month, we’re sharing stories from our 2005 book, Hearts across the Water.

This is my fourth short story collection and is set during the two twin hurricanes that struck Louisiana that year.

Although the majority of the book deals with the hurricanes, the first part recounts my life-changing trip to post-tsunami Indonesia after the deadly earthquake/tsunami.

It’s a trip that impacted the lives of each member of our Louisiana medical team.

Many things that have occurred in my life in the last decade can be traced back to this watershed year of 2005.

Come join us on this journey.

It’s a sobering trip.
The Tsunami. We arrive eighty days after the disaster.

Impact area of Earthquake/Tsumani  Dec. 24, 2004
Impact area of Earthquake/Tsumani Dec. 24, 2004


It sent New Orleans out into the world and about  300 of them ended up in my hometown of Dry Creek.

Three weeks later, Hurricane Rita struck us a direct blow.

Path of Hurricane Rita September 2005
Path of Hurricane Rita September 2005


Those of us affected by any of these three events will always measure time and our lives by “before the storm” and “after Rita.

And even though the setting is a terrible time, you’ll meet heroes who will make you laugh and even cry.

Sometimes in the space of two paragraphs.

Come join us.

Katrina  August 2005

Introduction: Hearts across the Water

Listen to podcast of this chapter:  http://bit.ly/HeartsIntroPodcast

“A story is intended to stab and wound you to the heart,

So it then can stir, heal, and change you forever.”
-Franz Kafka


There is nothing good to say about the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita or the Asian Tsunami.
All three natural disasters brought death, destruction, and untold human misery.

The areas along the Southern Gulf coast as well as Indian Ocean areas of Southern Asia will never be the same.

No, there is nothing good about these hurricanes and this tsunami.

Yet, there is much good to tell about the people that came through these storms. Their stories of “passing through the waters” should be, and must be, told.

I’m just the storyteller.
These are their stories.
It is simply my duty to share their stories
So their lives and deeds may be remembered and celebrated.

There is no way my writing and re-telling can ever adequately express their loss, grief, and heroism.

My prayer and hope is that you will glimpse into their hearts and know them through the words of this book.

"Triple Antibiotic" is 'Hearts' story that still moves me deeply.
“Triple Antibiotic” is a ‘Hearts’ story that still moves me deeply.

An Overview: Three Cities

This book is essentially about three cities.
Well, more than that, it is about the people of three cities.

First, it’s about two large cities… both about the same size.
Well, about the same size until two fateful days that will mark both of them forever.

Banda Aceh sits at the northern tip of cigar-shaped Sumatra.
Banda Aceh sits at the northern tip of cigar-shaped Sumatra.

For Banda Aceh, a large city of 700,000, the fateful day was Dec. 26, 2004. Pronounced Bond-AH AH-chee, it is the capital of Sumatra, the northernmost island that makes up Indonesia. On that December day over 100,000 of its citizens died within a matter of minutes when a huge wall of water surged over the coastal areas of the city.
In March 2005, eighty days after the tsunami, I was part of a Louisiana Medical team sent to Indonesia. Although most of the tsunami-related injuries had been taken care of, many medical problems persisted due to the stress and strain of living outdoors under tropical conditions.
Upon arrival our team quickly learned that our main purpose in coming was to listen to these people and their stories. They wanted to tell their stories.


Over and over they said:
“Please tell our stories in America. Do not forget us when you return home. Tell the Americans about the Achenese people and our great loss.”

This book is the partial fulfillment of that promise to remember these Indonesian friends.
May they touch your heart as they have mine.

Hearts across the Water is also about New Orleans, also a city of comparable size to Banda Aceh until the twin days of August 29-30, 2005. On that Monday Hurricane Katrina rushed through and on Tuesday the levees broke and a large American city was flooded– and changed forever.
Thankfully, the loss of life wasn’t as dramatic and sudden as at Banda Aceh. But in its own way New Orleans also experienced a death of sorts on that day, never to be the same.

12,000 miles stretch between New Orleans, Louisiana and Banda Aceh, Indonesia. It takes about thirty hours of flying with six changeovers and journeying through seven airports. To go by boat, whether through the Panama Canal and Pacific Ocean, or across the Atlantic and the Cape Horn of Africa into the Indian Ocean, would take weeks.

Two cities so diverse…
Half a world apart.
Both touched by tragedy in the period of less than a year.
Connected by a circle of water,
The waters of the Tsunami and Katrina.

This book is about three cities and I only introduced you to two.

Landmark Longleaf Pine on Longville Gravel Pit Road

The third one is a small southwestern Louisiana town called Dry Creek.

It is more than a little ironic that a book about floods, walls of water, and the raging ocean would include a town named Dry Creek.

Dry Creek is my lifetime home.
It’s the place where several hundred diverse New Orleanians came to find shelter and instead found a home, after Katrina.

We laugh that their arrival instantly doubled the population of Dry Creek.

Dry Creek is the same community where weeks later, rural coastal residents escaping from Rita came to ride out the storm with these New Orleanians. A stranger cultural mixture has probably never been combined.

Just like Banda Aceh and New Orleans, Dry Creek will never be the same. When you open your hearts, as our camp, community, and schools did, you can never return to your former state.

By the way, that stretching to a new level of compassion and understanding is good. We all need to get out of our comfort zone and get stretched in love and involvement. That is exactly what happened in our community.

But Hearts Across the Water is not really about cities, big or small.
Large masses, numbers, and statistics do not touch our hearts and connect with our soul.
But individual stories do.

These are stories of our own community and the shelter at the camp.

Ivory, best dog I ever owned. Dry Creek Old House. Circa 2004.  Correction: I didn't own her, she owned me.
Ivory, best dog I ever owned. Dry Creek Old House. Circa 2004. Correction: I didn’t own her, she owned me.


Stories of the comfort of a good dog in the midst of the hurricane.

The memory of a nineteenth-century man who built a building to withstand a storm in the twenty-first century.

Reminders that you can be displaced, but never misplaced by God.

Reminders of the goodness and dignity of humans as they reach out to strangers.

All joined together in stories of tears, sadness, hope, and joy.

The story of hearts joined . . .  

Joined and connected . . .  

Hearts Across the Water.

Hearts across the Water,   The fourth book by Louisiana author Curt Iles.
Hearts across the Water, The fourth book by Louisiana author Curt Iles.

Podcast of this chapter:  http://bit.ly/HeartsIntroPodcast


You can get your copy of Hearts across the Water in print or as an ebook at www.amazon.com

  • If you’ve enjoyed this story, please share it with your friends. The social media buttons make it easy to get the word out.
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  • If you’d like your own copy of Hearts across the Water, you can order:
  • You can get your copy of Hearts across the Water in print or as an ebook at amazon.com
  • Ebook   Go to Amazon
  • Print Copy   Go to Amazon
  • Autographed copy: Order through our website creekbank.net or by regular mail:
  • Creekbank Stories
  • 5720 North Drive
  • Alexandria, LA 70301
  • Include your check for $20 (this includes shipping) and desired autograph inscription.



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