Many Katrina families remain in Chicago

August 27, 2010 4:41:03 AM PDT
Five years ago, about 8,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees ended up in the Chicagoland area. Many stayed to start their lives over.

The storm and flooding that followed is still fresh on the minds of evacuees. It's been five years and Taneshia Dunn still doesnt' know what became of her New Orleans coworkers.

"These are people that you work with. You develop bonds with them. You know, it's like you're a family. And for them to disappear, just drop off, never to be heard from again, it's really hard," said Dunn.

The former hotel employee evacuated one day before Katrina's landfall. She ventually settled in Chicago.

"It feels like home. Feels like I'm supposed to be here," said Dunn.

Taquita Lewis of Dolton also evacuated ahead of the storm. She and her seven children fled Jackson, Mississippi, by bus.

"I had to stay strong. If I didn't, they were going to fall apart," said Lewis.

Her hard road didn't end with Katrina. Since moving to the Chicago area, she's endured two floods and a layoff. But her kids are doing well in school and she recently started a new interior design business.

"It's going to get better. It will get better. We made it though all this. It's going to get better," said Lewis.

Five years later, the gulf region still bears Katrina's scars. A group from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has organized several rebuilding trips to Mississippi.

"You learn a lot about faith, and you learn a lot about how a community can come together," said Jess Elfring, volunteer, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

"What they need now is more volunteers because people aren't really realizing that it's not just New Orleans. Mississippi needs help, too," said Michael Begel, volunteer, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

The storm didn't just change the lives of gulf residents. It also redefined how disaster relief agencies respond.

"So one of the things that we changed is we now stockpile more supplies throughout the country. We have enough supplies ready to go for two Hurricane Katrinas," said Martha Carlos, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

Dunn and Lewis both say they have received an incredible amount of support in Chicago, which is why they stayed. Dunn now works for the Red Cross in Chicago. That same organization helped her after the storm.


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