What storm clouds?

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald Commentary

Abby Hagen and her fiancé, Dr. Trevor Boudreaux, were at daily Mass July 10 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on State Street, and it was difficult to tell who was producing more water – Abby’s eyes or the New Orleans skies.

Abby and Trevor had slogged through the rain-gorged Uptown streets to get to their daily Mass haven, but in front of the gilded statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, succor seemed altogether unavailable, much less hastily supplied.

They were to be married at the shrine on Saturday, July 13, but now the Ursuline sisters were gently informing the couple, in an abundance of caution, that the tropical disturbance forecast to hit New Orleans with a second torrential downpour in four days would make that dream impossible.

Then the reception hall – the Audubon Golf Club – called to say it was pulling in its flagsticks.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Abby said.

“Wednesday was not a good day for us,” said Trevor, a third-year physical medicine and rehabilitation resident at the LSU School of Medicine. “I was standing with my roommate at our house on Calhoun Street, and water had never accumulated there. Now it was up to his thighs. Abby was crying her eyes out.”

Inside the church, Abby and Trevor, who grew up in Thibodaux, prayed that somehow the predicted storm might dissipate, but they knew they had to begin thinking of other plans for a wedding with 200 invited guests.

Their rehearsal dinner, scheduled for Friday night, July 12, was already off the table.

“It was at the Blue Crab at the Lakefront, but the restaurant was sealed off behind a gate,” Trevor said, realizing that pole-vaulting was not an option for the graybeard set.

And, so, came surrender. July 13 was not going to happen.

Which is when some amazing things started happening.

The Ursuline sisters called to say the shrine could be available for Friday night, July 19. The Audubon Golf Club said it could accommodate the couple that same evening.

“Literally everything became available – the church, the reception venue, the majority of our vendors, even the photographer,” Trevor said. “All of them were available by the grace of God. This entire process of planning a wedding, which took a year, we did that in three hours.”

“I had my one day of breaking down crying on Wednesday,” said Abby, a fourth-year medical student at LSU. “But, you know, when we got up the next day, we were like, ‘Whatever it takes, we’re going to make this work.’ People just felt for us, and they told us they would do whatever it took to make this happen. We’ll definitely have a lot of stories to tell our kids.”

Like Abby and Trevor, Lily Hannigan and Troy Hobson were scheduled to be married on July 13. But when the weather reports started flying in, they were able to move up their wedding liturgy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, even though many of their out-of-town guests could not make it.

About 30 people attended their scaled-down wedding, but Lily, the development manager at Project Lazarus who came to New Orleans as a Jesuit volunteer in 2011 “and never left,” said what could have been a trying experience led to a realization that she should not “sweat the small stuff.” 

She even got a deeper appreciation for her colleagues at Project Lazarus. Director Steve Rivera offered to pick up her wedding cake even though the shelter for those living with HIV-AIDS was under a “shelter-in-place” order.

“We were in emergency management mode, but, luckily, I’m a non-essential personnel there,” Lily said with a laugh. “I love that term – ‘non-essential.’ I love my boss.”

Lily and Troy kept their out-of-town guests informed in the face of apocalyptic weather projections from The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore – the six most dangerous words in the world are: “Let’s go live to Jim Cantore” – and NBC’s Al Roker.

“My concern was keeping everyone safe and then, second, showing everyone a good time,” Lily said.

Abby and Trevor will never forget the blessings of the last week.

“On Wednesday, Abby was doing terrible and she felt terrible,” Trevor said. “Now, over and over, she’s saying how joyful and blessed she is. July 13, July 19 doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to be getting married. We would’ve gotten married in the middle of nowhere.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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