Evacuee Says Friends Have Died From Stress After Storm - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

08/29/07-Tyler

Evacuee Says Friends Have Died From Stress After Storm

It's now been two years since Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans and south Mississippi.

Only now are some of those who fled from their homes finally getting settled here in East Texas.  Many didn't go back. 

"I put three pairs of shoes in a suitcase, three pair of pants, underclothes and an iron.  I don't know why I took an iron, but I did," said Esperenza Lee. 

In fifteen minutes before the storm, she grabbed three changes of clothes for three days.  Those were the only three she thought she'd be gone.

"[People in New Orleans] said 'the storm is over. We had a rough time of it. There were a lot of trees blown down. And we did pretty good.' Then the levees broke, and all hell broke loose."

She remembers looking up the status of her neighborhood online in the days after the storm.

"I put in 2200 North Broad Sreet, and the water was above the rafters, and then I couldn't breathe. My house is gone. What will I do?" she asked herself.

Tt was weeks before she was able to go back.

"Wverything had floated to the front doors from the back bedrooms.  The water was actually half way up the window.  My sister had my dad's ashes [in her home] on a shelf, and she thought that maybe a window would break.  So she put them in the bathtub, and she had 20 feet of water in her house. So my dad's ashes are gone. My son and my mom's ashes are still in my home," Lee said.

Esperenza Lee's home has been gutted, but little more.  There's just not enough money.  Also, some neighbors came back and some didn't.  For all of them, though, the storm still rages in their lives.

"They've died of strokes and heart attacks. Those that are home, you wonder how they do it on a daily basis, because I couldn't do that.  I go down there [to New Braunfels] and I come back a changed person," she says.

Will Esperenza go back? Now she has a man in her life. He's named Clarence and he's from Tyler.

"Fourth of July this year he asked me to marry him and I said 'yes.' 

Esperenza is looking forward, but with a changed outlook.  

"Nothing is promised. You can have it today and it can be gone today. The few friends that I do have left are very important to me now."

Reported by Morgan Palmer morganpalmer@kltv.com

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