East Texan reflects on life 5 years after escape from Katrina

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Morgan Chesky - bio | email | Twitter
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the city's healing continues, but scars remain. The water carried homes away, sending many families headed to East Texas for a new start.

"We were just one of hundreds of thousands of stories that were going on in New Orleans," said Lanelle Picarella, a registered nurse for Trinity Mother Frances.

Five years since the storm and 80% of the Big Easy's residents have moved back home. Picarella makes up the other 20%.

"We were thinking we'd be gone for a week," said Picarella. "We expected water but we didn't expect the damage that happened."

The Picarellas left before dawn the day Katrina arrived. The next time Picarella saw her city was on TV.

"A lot of the images are places I'd been, people that we knew that lived in those areas," she remembered.

The Picarella home would never be lived in again, leaving a family with nothing but their faith.

"If you don't have that to hold on to and to realize there's more than just possessions and earthly places to be, then it makes it very difficult when you lose those earthly things," said Picarella.

A blessing came in the form of a job at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital.

"This opportunity gave me a chance to keep myself busy mentally and also feel like I was making a difference," said Picarella.

Today Picarella brings skills from her New Orleans hospital to East Texas - her hometown a far cry from the one she left behind.

"Is it the same New Orleans? Absolutely not," she said. "When you go through a trauma like that, no, but are there the friendships, the comradery, is there the multiculturalism, the togetherness we have in New Orleans? Yeah, it's still there."

It is a bond forging a new future, five years and counting.

Picarella says her time in New Orleans is limited to several visits a year. She says there are not plans to move back.

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