No one from New Orleans will forget August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina hit the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi with devastating force causing a nightmare for those who didn't or couldn't evacuate. In the aftermath, many left the city to continue their lives in other places.
Kelly Faris intended to ride out the storm in her New Orleans home. But, as Katrina approached, she carefully watched weather reports and decided at the last minute to evacuate. Her escape had her driving away with thousands of others.
“I had waited so long to leave that I was actually in the counter-flow lane. So, I was driving up the interstate at night , pitch black on the wrong side. It just feels strange." said Faris.
Eighteen hours after her journey began, she arrived at her parents' house in Fayetteville, GA. Faris soon returned to New Orleans to find her neighborhood and her house in ruins. For a year, she traveled back and forth, each time carrying supplies in a cooler since there was no power or water. Most of her belongings were destroyed by the flood waters, which can been seen marking the walls in pictures she has of her old house.
Faris decided to stay in Fayetteville and resume her life. It took her a while to get on her feet and she worked odd jobs until she could resume her career in real estate. She collected every article and every book she could find on Hurricane Katrina. She even kept e-mails from friends who endured the nightmare of the storm's immediate aftermath. She reads a note from a neighbor whose husband stayed behind to help board up houses of elderly neighbors. The e-mail says he and two friends hunkered down in a house and defended themselves from roving gangs with weapons.
"They finally made a run for it and had to shoot their way out to keep from being carjacked!" the e-mail read.
She never lost hope, though. Faris believed in the heart of the city and saw help come in from all over the country. She said religious organizations set up and were most helpful. Law enforcement and rescue from states as far away as New York arrived to help. The destruction from Hurricane Katrina was legendary, but so was the recovery. She still returns from time to time. She said she loves the food, the music and the soul of New Orleans.
Even though she lost most of her possessions, she considers herself lucky.
“I have a warm and loving family I was able to go to. A lot of people didn't have anyone to help them start over. You have to dig deep. put that smile on your face and keep trying. "