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Going Home Again

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The writer talks to a New Orleanian who considers her family’s uneasy future after finding that their home is still standing.

"The closer I got to my house, the faster my heart started to beat," said Arnissa Johnson. The New Orleans native was one of a few displaced residents who had ventured back to her hometown to assess the damage from Hurricane Katrina. "I saw brick homes that had rooftops blown away and restaurants and stores that were hardly recognizable. I expected destruction and that's exactly what I found."

As Johnson caught site of her house in her Algiers neighborhood, a wave of relief washed over her when she realized the structure was intact. "Thank God the house is still standing," she said. Johnson's roof had caved in near the front of the house and there was some water damage. Still, she considered herself among the lucky ones.

Johnson and her family - her daughter, mother, father and sister -- were the only sign of civilization for miles, a fact that left her feeling more than a little uneasy. Her fears were calmed when shortly after arriving, military personnel stopped. First they asked for identification to make sure they were not looters, then they offered assistance, food, water and medical attention.

After collecting a few of their belongings, mostly clothing and sentimental items, Johnson and her family headed back to Houston -- the place they now call home -- at least for now. Although they found a place to live and have applied to FEMA for help, they have not found jobs.

"I'm not sure yet if we're going to go back home again. Right now I'm just focusing on my daughter being in school. It's hard because I still feel displaced and Houston doesn't feel like home just yet."

Misty Starks is a writer and editor at Texas Southern University.

Tomorrow: Children of Katrina

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