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.
After two weeks of surviving like this, a loudspeaker announcement informed us that everyone had to leave the area. Moments later there was a knock at the door. It was a police officer coming to tell us that there had been a chemical spill in the area and we were in danger. My father, who used to have a church in Iowa where I grew up, suggested that we relocate there, since we had still had some family and connections in the community.
We left that day and started the long journey from Mississippi to the town of Waterloo, Iowa. We registered with the Red Cross and were sent to a hotel for almost two months until we got an apartment.
I've been able to go back to school as a medical assistant, but I had to start over. Our apartment is much better than the one we lived on in Mississippi and for that I'm grateful. We are still trying to stretch our dollars. We have received assistance from the state, but it just isn't enough to provide for the five children in our home. My fiancé is in need of medical attention, but refuses to see a doctor because he says he wants to die. I also find myself drifting into a depressed state from time to time. The only thing that keeps me sane is knowing that God has a purpose for me.
Part of that purpose is taking care of my family. Right now, I am the only one emotionally capable of doing so. The other is that I believe that I'm meant to help others. I've been drawn to the medical field all my life, and maybe that is the reason I survived.
I plan to graduate and go on to become a nurse so that I can give back a portion of what God gave me to others. I will not give in to my situation. Instead I choose to change it--because my life was spared when so many were lost.