Katrina Evacuee Makes Longview Home - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Katrina Evacuee Makes Longview Home

As we all remember, many evacuees sought refuge right here in East Texas through adopted families.   One woman in Longview has left her life in New Orleans' Saint Bernard Parish, to start a new one in East Texas. 

"It's just unbelievable, you made a whole life there and then one day just a few hours, it's not there anymore, it's hard to describe that." Maria Laylle lived in New Orleans 31 years before Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home. It stands now gutted from being completely submerged underwater. 

"We were settled and then now we have nothing, not even a spoon, nothing, not anything and it was really, really hard to accept that," says Maria. But she has come to accept it, thanks to the generosity of East Texas. A year later, Maria thinks of Longview as her home. 

"I'll become a Texan. I will be here hopefully for a long, long time and you know I'm going to settle and I'm going to be a good Texan."

But the road to Texas was a bumpy one.  After Katrina, Maria and her family moved all over from Houston to College Station until she met the Fannin's, who adopted her to live with them. 

Mary and Jimmy Fannin of Gilmer transformed their barn into an apartment for Maria. "They said well we have this barn, I think you'll be comfortable here, they were kinda like saying are you going to approve of this? They actually felt like it wasn't enough what they were giving me, but they were giving me a little piece of Heaven."

A piece of Heaven that she now owns--Maria has moved into her own home.  She's been a true Texan for little over a month. 

"I'm here in this house trying to build new memories." Maria has lost many of her memories. That's because all of her photographs were ruined except one--the only picture that survived of her son as a child.

"I've come to understand that I have to move on. I understand that." Maria has gone back to St. Bernard Parish, but she says she will never look back, only forward from now on. 

"I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I don't know if I'm going to get a job, but I know that today I made it."

Maria is currently looking for a job-- something she says will allow her to finally settle in Longview. She says she has excellent clerical skills, and would make a great bilingual secretary.

Tracy Watler/Reporting: tracy@kltv.com.

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