Katrina One Year Later: A Look Back at East Texas's Role in National Disaster - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/29/06-East Texas

Katrina One Year Later: A Look Back at East Texas's Role in National Disaster

It was the most costly natural disaster in American history.  On this one year mark since Katrina, Americans and East Texans look back.  For many hours, in some cases many days after landfall, those who fled the storm had no idea if their homes were left.  They also didn't know if friends and family were still alive.

"It's hard not knowing and not having any reports," said one evacuee.  Landfall was just after 6 AM on August 29, 2005. It was a Monday morning, and for millions, it was going to be the worst week of their lives.

"I keep hearing stories just a few blocks down the street. Water's four feet high, then I hear there's no problem," says one evacuee of the sporadic information.

For many hours after landfall, it wasn't clear what was happening.  Levees were breaking here and there in New Orleans.  And in Mississippi, hardest hit by Katrina's winds, there was no news.  At a Longview hotel, folks waited for word still not having a place to stay.

"We've got people waiting in our lobby area for rooms to become available. I've got a waiting list that's two pages long," said Hampton Inn employee Crystal Jackson.

Actually, those in the hotels in East Texas were the lucky ones.  At least they weren't in the disaster zone. Over the next several days, the situation at the Superdome became more dire.  Tens of thousands wanted out of the disaster zone and there were only a handful of buses.

Back here at home, churches, The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross all mobilized for a crush of people into East Texas like never seen before.

One evacuee who just stepped off a bus from the Superdome didn't even know where she was when speaking to our reporter.

"No, ma'am, I don't even know where I am.. . They told us we were going to Dallas," she said.

Despite the confusion, volunteer said they were going to provide all they could.

"We're going to take care of them. We want them to be comfortable," one worker said at Tyler's Green Acres Baptist Church.

At the shelters, East Texans gave from the heart -- money and they volunteered their time.  The stories of those who barely made it out before the storm become clear.

"I'm from Slidell, where the eye of the hurricane passed over, and there's nothing left," one said.

Another replied, "You couldn't imagine. I can't even begin to tell you how it was."

One or two days later, after the wind and rain had subsided, there was only fear and apprehenson about what was left.  There was little news.

"If I knew how my house is, I'd feel better."

Little did anyone know.  It took days and weeks for the realization that so many here would never return home.

Many chose to stay in East Texas, not wanting to go back to rebuild.  Through hard work, the generosity of strangers, and some continued assistance from FEMA, many have started new lives here.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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