'My Life Was Spared When So Many Were Lost'

Hurricane Katrina disrupted my life and destroyed my home. But knowing that God has a purpose for me keeps me going.

Have you ever been in a situation you thought couldn't get any worse? I have.

My family and I were living in low-income housing in Gulfport, Mississippi and struggling to pay bills and buy groceries. I was almost finished with my schooling to become a medical assistant when Katrina struck.

Shortly before the storm was set to hit, we sent my son, who was ten months old, with his grandmother to his uncle's house in Alabama. My daughter and I went to a school converted to a shelter with my parents. I tried to talk my fiancé into coming, but he insisted that the storm would be just like the others and he would stay home and ride it out.

Our extended family arrived there too--a total of 14 adults and three children. Because our family was so large, we were housed in our own classroom. I believe the total number of people in the school was 375. The winds picked up the next morning at about 7 A.M. Soon after, the rain increased and the storm began. Eventually it became unsafe for us to be in the room because the windows started to shake. The principal, who had been put in charge of the shelter, had us go into the hallway--all 375 of us.

When my mother turned on the radio to hear the latest news of the storm, I began to realize the great danger that threatened my fiancé still at home. We heard the voice of a woman in an apartment not that far from mine, who was calling in to a radio station because 911 was busy. She was yelling that she couldn't get out . The water was rising above her waist, and she couldn't swim. I began to pray for my fiancé, "God, please don't let him die." My father is a pastor, and he prayed with me. Even after the storm was over, we were not allowed to leave because there was debris everywhere

Two days later we were told we could go--and I went was to the place I had once called home. My fiancé had survived the storm and was physically okay. But our apartment was waterlogged. The roof of the building had been ripped off, and our ceiling had many leaks. The place was uninhabitable, so we went to my parents' house which, fortunately, had only sustained minimal damage.

The days that came after were the hardest. We had no food, running water, or electricity. Finally help arrived--or so we thought. But the FEMA trucks only brought water and ice, not food. Don't get me wrong, I was glad to get even that. But we were hungry. Sometimes we adults didn't eat so that the children could. All we had left were a few canned goods.

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Rachelle Anderson
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