Woman displaced by Hurricane Katrina finds home, community in Chicago

Diane Pathieu Image
Friday, August 28, 2015
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Ten years after fleeing New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, Sharon Mathieu has made a new home with a new community in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast destroying so many lives.

It's difficult to forget the images of the flooding, people on rooftops and crammed into the Superdome, and while many weathered the storm in the region, thousands escaped and started new lives in new cities.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Katrina's 10th anniversary

For Sharon Mathieu, one of the thousands who left the city in the wake of the storm, this week is bittersweet. She was born and raised in New Orleans, and lived there with her elderly mother before she was forced to leave her home and successful business.

"It was abrupt, it was tragedy," she says. "My mother was here in September with the caregiver, I came up with the truck in October, and in November she passed away."

It was a lot to deal with, so the people of Chicago did what they do best: they wrapped their arms around her.

"The outpouring of the people here and compassion is just amazing," she says.

Sharon moved into a place close to her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in Edgewater. Neighbors and friends donated appliances, electronics, kitchenware and more to help build her new life.

She was overwhelmed with love so she decided to show them love from the south.

"Heart-wise, you leave your heart you were born and raised in an area and you see it destroyed and that's devastating," she says. "But I brought New Orleans to Chicago."

Sharon hosts a Mardi Gras party every year for the neighborhood, fully equipped with costumes and authentic Louisiana food. She also travels back to New Orleans a few times a year.

She commemorates this anniversary week by looking through photos, reading books and sitting in silence. She says after everything she's been through, she feels incredibly blessed.

"I miss it with all my heart, but I'm living a good life here, and Chicago's brought me a lot, it has brought a lot into my life," she says.