SLIDELL, La. — This past weekend marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While the storm hit the Gulf Coast, the entire country witnessed the devastation and the sheer horror of the plight of the residents who could not afford to leave, or were just too stubborn to heed the warnings of authorities.
Entire families had to relocate across the country, and some of them not together. People arrived in strange destinations with only the clothes on their backs.
While I can understand the celebration of rebirth and growth, there still remains the pain and grief of it all.
Yet my family also remembers the love and support we received from residents of Georgetown and Lexington during that difficult time.
My elderly parents, sister and two nieces left Slidell, for a 12-hour drive to wait Katrina out in Georgetown, where I lived at the time. They thought they would be gone a day or two. They were with us three months.
Our neighbors, Brian and Allison Witajewski and Ron and Lou Conley, welcomed them with open arms.
These amazing individuals managed to keep mom and dad occupied on so many levels. They would bring their baby over for us to cuddle, Ron had mother teach him to make gumbo, Brian and Ron began a deck building project and had my dad gave them "tips." They would have impromptu dinners or lunches; they were just so kind.
The generosity did not stop there. The Georgetown/Lexington community showered them with acts of kindness we never could have imagined. Our family has always been on the giving side of disasters so you can imagine how difficult it was to be on the receiving side. But everyone just wanted to assist in any way possible.
On the morning of the storm, we had contacted the local NBC affiliate in Lexington to inquire as to whether or not they were getting any news out of New Orleans. Every line of communication was out. These professionals were so interested and caring. They asked permission to interview us. We were all exhausted from being up for so many long and arduous hours. We all just wanted to be together; no one would go upstairs for bed, pillows and blankets strewn everywhere.
After sitting for hours on end watching the horror unfold on TV we had no idea where some of our family members were. For an entire week we believed some had perished; it was agony.
The outpouring of love and compassion was unimaginable. Strangers on the street would overhear us chatting with others who had fled from Katrina and would offer prayers. They just wanted to listen and hear our story.
Coordinating my parents' medications and insurance, for instance, was handled at a local drugstore with no questions asked; two local department stores donated clothing, because all they had with them was what they left.
On occasion, we would dine out and we never knew who — perhaps someone overheard our conversations — paid for our meal without our knowledge.
A local Allstate representative opened her office on a Sunday in order for my parents to begin filing a claim. They lost the only home they had lived in, beautiful property my dad grew up on.
So, while everyone else was celebrating surviving Katrina, my family celebrated Georgetown and Lexington. What remarkable people; we will forever be grateful and humbled by their generosity.