Area Louisiana Natives Mark the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
By Nadia Felder
Patrice Henderson, victim and evacuee of Hurricane Katrina, hosted the storm’s 10 year anniversary on Aug. 29 at Tallahassee’s Tom Brown Park.
With more than 50 people in attendance and a table full of New Orleans’ traditional Jambalaya and red beans and rice, residents say there was much to be thankful for.
“One thing about New Orleans folk,” said Henderson. “We’re always ready to celebrate!”
After evacuating New Orleans, Henderson, her husband and her children had nothing but each other. They were forced to move in with Henderson’s baby sister in the Big Bend Area.
Moving into a four bedroom two bath home with nine people, may seem a bit overwhelming to the average person but not to Henderson’s lifesaving baby sister Phyllis Wright, who believed it was the storm that brought their family together.
“There was nothing but laughter in my house,” chuckled Wright. “Plus without Katrina, I wouldn’t have had my sister to help take care of me as I fought breast cancer.”
Wright mentioned later that it was because of her sister and husband that Tallahassee Memorial Hospital covered almost all of her medical bills, leaving the family with only a $250 co-pay expense.
Although mending the family and beating cancer were two great victories for Wright, that was only one of many accomplishments worth recognizing that day.
Her 23-year old niece, Dominque Henderson, who was only 13 at the time she thought Katrina was “just going to be another storm,” was awarded a gold medallion entitled “Mayor Notorious Achievement Award” by Tallahassee mayor himself, Andrew Gillum, for her successful non-profit organization.
Founder of Believe, Receive, Achieve, Talent (Mz BRAT) Association, Dominique raised money on her own to provide food during the holidays to give to those less fortunate at local community centers like Walker-Ford, Jake Mclean and homeless shelters.
“I wanted to give back because back home (in Louisiana) a lot of people helped us,” said Dominique Henderson. “Why not give back to the city who gave back (to) us?”
While Tallahassee has become a physical home for the evacuees, it has yet to replace the home in their hearts.
Linda Fortenberry, an evacuee from West Bank, La. said “Tally has been good to me, but it’s nothing like home.”
Thanks to Katrina, the New Orleans native became the Board Liaison for Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee and shared during the celebration that the church is her “home away from home.”
On the other hand, replacing New Orleans was harder for some than it was for others.
For instance, Tallahassee native, yet Katrina survivor, Kimberly Pierce said that the celebration was a chance for her to share her testimony with others.
“I’m enjoying more of the fellowship, than I am the event,” said Pierce, after sharing her story of how she barely made it out of the storm while pregnant with her first-born child, Krystal, now 9 years old.
Pierce and her family left one hurricane, only to return to a financial storm in Tallahassee. However, she continues to appreciate the one thing that couldn’t be destroyed: her family.
“Katrina changed everything,” said Pierce. “You can’t take these material things with you when the water comes. So as long as I got my husband and my children, I know that God is able.”