Temporary evacuees make permanent homes in East Texas

It was one storm that rocked the lives so many.

"In New Orleans, when we [had] hurricanes, we never took them seriously," said Jerry Perkins.  "But for Katrina to come through and devastate the city the way it did--it just threw us all off."

Jerry Perkins and his coworker Ralph Thomas both called New Orleans home.  They were on different sides of the city that Sunday, nearly three years ago, when the storm hit.

"I lost everything I owned--everything I worked hard to provide for my family--my job, my life," said Perkins.

Thomas spent three days on the roof of his home.  He was one of dozens plucked from the flood waters by helicopter.  "I lost my cell phone, my contact with everybody."  Thomas said he just prayed that God would let his family know that he was alive.

The two men now live in East Texas.  They've made new lives for themselves, as well as their families, working for the East Texas Food Bank.

"Because of what I went through, it makes my job a little easier because Katrina was a humbling experience," said Thomas.

And as Tropical Storm Gustav approaches, their minds turn back to life after Katrina.

"In a situation like this, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help people," said Perkins.  "I'm working with people who were preparing three years ago to help me, and here I am, getting prepared to help someone else."

The two men plan to stay in Tyler.  They both still have family in New Orleans.  They are already making plans to evacuate the area.

Layron Livingston, Reporting llivingston@kltv.com.