Katrina was a Woman Many Can’t Forget

Ross Becker

This weekend is the five year anniversary of a tragedy. Five years ago, Katrina came roaring ashore with its destructive heart pumping wind and rain into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. For the people caught in the way, it's a moment in time they will never forget. Some ran, some stayed, some pleaded for help and some died in the streets or their own homes. There are stories still being told of bravery and heroism and stories of hate, selfishness and ignorance.

In the next few days on TV we are going to re-live those days through the eyes and stories of those who were there.

Josh Hurst was not there. In the days just after Katrina he was here in southern California staying with his aunt in Del Mar Heights. But, Josh says he still feels guilty he didn't stay in New Orleans when the storm warnings came. He grew up there. His mother was there and so was his sister. They nearly died in the storm. But, when Katrina took aim he packed three days of clothing and his unopened college textbooks and drove out of the Big Easy heading for a long weekend away from the storm. It ended up being a two year journey.

There are many whose lives where changed by Katrina and Josh Hurst's story is not really remarkable. He figured he would get away for a few days and then go back to start college. He was majoring in Psychology. After Katrina he could not go home. So he left the San Diego area, heading to Cal State Fullerton where he spent two years getting his undergraduate degree.

I called Josh this week. He is back home in New Orleans now. He got his masters degree from Loyola University and in between classes he worked construction. There are many houses to be built and repaired and the work is good. He said, “It felt good to help because I needed to be part of the solution.”

Josh wants to be a counselor now. There are many minds and souls to be repaired now in New Orleans, too. He says, “No matter what happens in the lives of people who lived through it or survived it, they will always remember, especially the children.”

As we are bombarded this weekend with the stories and images and politics of this killer storm, I asked Josh what he would want us to remember of his home town and its rebirth. He said, “For people on the outside, it happened and it's done with. But here it's not over, it will never be over. People lost everything, they lost their livelihoods.”

Even now he has trouble celebrating the victories. When a school re-opens, he says, there is a party, same for a housing project or a shopping center. But, Josh says many of his friends won't go because it just brings back bad memories. Many, he says, just don't want to hear about it or talk about it or see the pictures. It's a nightmare they don't want to relive.

And, I asked, what happens when the weather radio crackles another hurricane watch or warning for the Gulf Coast? He says, we panic and we pray.

His short time in San Diego during Katrina was his oasis, but Josh Hurst dove back into the aftermath of the storm because his home and the people there needed him and, he says, he needs them. His story is just one of thousands. I say, find more stories of those who live with Katrina. It's part of our nation's history.

Categories: Becker’s Digital Notebook