It's been two years since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, devastating the region, killing close to 2,000, and displacing many more. In 2005, ESSENCE met three New Orleans families whose lives changed dramatically the day the levees broke.
After the storm my family got flown to Fort Smith by rescue workers. At first I was just complaining about everything, but I like it now. It's real quiet. The hurricane gave me an opportunity to see there's more to the world than just New Orleans. I haven't been back there, but I'd like to go to see my two kids who are there with their mother.
My parents live upstairs from me with my 5-year-old brother and 9-year-old sister. They're all straight, just kicking it like judo. We still get rental assistance from FEMA, and the kids are doing real well, going to school and watching cartoons.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had a job at a furniture warehouse, but they fired me because I was late twice. I was relying on people to give me a ride and they were on a different schedule. My boss didn't tolerate that at all. But that's okay because I'm working on getting my GED. Eventually I want to get into real estate because there is a whole lot of money in that. I want to invest in something like a vacation resort. It's not impossible. Everything starts as a dream.
For months after Katrina, my family, our neighbors and their two children shared a rented three-bedroom house in Lafayette, while my husband and I rebuilt our home and dental practice. My husband was born and raised in New Orleans and wasn't going to abandon the city. This is just one of those places that, as bad as it is, you would rather be here than somewhere else.
We moved back into our home last June, but New Orleans East, where we live, has been one of the slowest areas to recover. If I want to do major grocery shopping, I have to drive all the way to the other side of town. Luckily, the private school my three daughters attend wasn't damaged by the storm, so they're back in class.
More than anger, I think people are very frustrated by how long it's taking to rebuild the city. The Road Home Program was supposed to help people repair their houses, but it's a really long process of applications and paperwork, and it's not going the way people would like. We had plenty of insurance, which helped us with our home and office. The only thing left to fix are the kitchen cabinets. We've been very fortunate.
My mother, my two kids and I were bused to Houston after we were rescued from an upstairs apartment we had fled to after ours started to flood. We haven't been back to New Orleans since. My father is still there, but my aunts and uncles are scattered all over the country. One of the big problems with Houston is that it rains so much here, and whenever it rains it floods. Every time that happens, my 12 - year - old son, Romeo, starts to hyperventilate, and my 14-year old daughter, Margan, just goes to sleep. She'll say, "Wake me up when it's over." Both of my children and I are on antidepressants.
The other problem is, we really don't know whom to trust. Sometimes I overhear people here in Houston talking about evacuees, saying things like "I'm sick of them" or "I wish they would go back to where they came from," and it's really hurtful. So my kids and my mother and I, we just stick to ourselves.
The people who manage our apartment complex are good to us, but other folks come to our house saying they are from this organization or that organization offering assistance. The last time some people came by we asked for help finding a good therapist and some new mattresses for the beds. But we've not heard back from those people and it's been two months. We give them our FEMA number and then they disappear. My mother is in a wheelchair, and I have a heart condition, so neither of us work; we live on disability and FEMA pays the rent. I don't know what we will do when that ends.
Photo Credit: Tamara Reynolds
Wilfred with his children D'alyliah and Darius who occasionally visit with him in Arkansas.
Photo Credit: Theresa Cassagne
Wanda in her home along with her husband and their three daughters.
Photo Credit: F. Carter Smith
Navarre still lives in Houston.