Teenage evacuee finds refuge, normalcy

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Let me start by saying it is still hard to grasp the reality of Hurricane Katrina.

Even though you see it on every TV station, you cannot believe it really happened. It was just a couple months ago that I was with my friends; I was with my parents, and I was at my school expecting the expected.

Little did I know that all the materialistic things that mattered would not anymore. This is one of the hardest things I will ever have to go through, not having my family by my side.

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It was Sunday morning, the day before the hurricane hit, that my family and I evacuated. My dad and I boarded up the windows and I gathered up my most sentimental possessions: My books. My mother was gathering up things we would need for the next few days. It still gets me today that I was thinking, in the back of my mind, that everything would be back to normal by the next day. We were trying to get as far away from the hurricane as possible, but we decided to stop at a truck stop because my dad had broken his radiator and we went to check on it. My dad said we could not go any further, so we had to stay there when the hurricane hit. So we had to live out of our car for three days.

Our third day there, a couple told us about the Red Cross shelter at The University of Alabama. We finally went there and stayed there for a week and a half. When I was at the shelter, I can honestly say that I have never seen such generosity in my whole life. Everyday, people would bring in boxes of food and clothing and different stores would bring in toys and diapers for the young children. Restaurants would donate food for meals everyday. My eighth day at the shelter would be my last day there, two volunteers came.

Their names were Lisa and David Orem. They offered to bring me to Demopolis to show me schools, and while looking at schools, they also offered for me to live with them for the time being. It was decided that I was to stay in Demopolis until my parents could get everything back together in Slidell.

They then gave my family and me a tour of Demopolis to my family and me, which did not take that long. I just remember being so mad at my parents for leaving me with strangers. Now, I wonder how I could have even thought that.

Never in my life had anyone been so nice to me, so of course I was very skeptical. They took me to visit a school called West Alabama Preparatory School. It was the most awkward feeling I have ever felt .I wanted to go home, but I wanted to stay. I was so unsure about everything even though I knew my parents would never let me go back with them. It was not livable, but still I had a sense of guilt because I did know the circumstances at home, and I did know that everyone else was stuck in Louisiana dealing with a great loss. I knew there was no electricity, water, hardly any gas for transportation, and everyone was low on food. I knew what was going on, and because I knew, the situation everybody was going through I could not help but feel guilty because I was going to get the opportunity to go to school and have the proper care I needed. That guilt still sometimes gets to me because things are still not the way they should be and it is like knowing something is so wrong and you cannot do anything to help. It is because I am not there going through what my parents are right now that really gets to me.

The night I came back from touring Demopolis would be my last night at the shelter in Livingston. That next day David and Lisa came and got me at 10 in the morning to take me to my new home. Everyone gave me hugs and told me goodbye. Finally, I told my parents good morning and started to pack my bags. As I was getting ready to leave, I remember thinking how much I hated my mom and dad, I thought they were abandoning me.

Now I understand that they did not want me to have to see my hometown in that type of condition. They did not do it to leave me behind; they did it because they loved me. I just do not understand why it took me so long to realize that.