My Hometown After Katrina
Robin Roberts shares her inspiring story of going back to her hometown after the storm.
You know how sometimes something happens in your life, something you never could have imagined, and gives you a new sense of clarity about who you are and why you're here?
That's what happened to me last year. Not last spring when I made my biggest career move, leaving sports broadcasting for the Good Morning America anchor desk, but six months ago when a hurricane slammed my hometown, knocking houses down to their foundations, literally, and rocking people down to theirs, spiritually.
Less than 12 hours after Hurricane Katrina hit Monday, August 29, 2005, I left my New York City apartment and jumped on a plane with the GMA crew, heading for the Gulf Coast, or at least the closest airport that was open.
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That's what we're supposed to do as journalists, rush into the thick of things so we can report events as they happen. But for me, this was more than a professional assignment. This was personal.
I grew up on the Gulf Coast, in the small town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. I've lived up north for 15 years, working at ESPN and ABC, but the Pass, as we locals call it, will always be home.
My family still has a house on Oak Park Drive, the first house my parents bought together. My brother, two sisters and I all called it "our house," even after Mom and Dad moved to a second home in Biloxi, to be closer to their medical care at Keesler Air Force Base. They'd go back to the Pass house often, though, because our church, First Presbyterian, was just across the bridge.
The last time I talked to my mother she was hunkered down in the Biloxi house with my sister Dorothy and her girls. Mom's health issues would have made it difficult for her to evacuate.
Besides, our family had weathered some ferocious storms, starting with Hurricane Camille back in 1969, just three weeks after my father's military career took us to the Gulf Coast. We could ride this one out, she figured. "We're not to be fearful," Mom said. "Wherever we are, God is." You couldn't argue with faith as strong as that, faith that had sustained her after Dad's death, and for all her 81 years.
But I sure wished I had. I wished I'd talked my mother into taking shelter inland. I hadn't been able to get a call through to her since Katrina made landfall. There was no cell-phone service, no land lines, no way to get in touch. All I could do, driving through the pitch-darkness after our flight landed that night in Lafayette, Louisiana, about 200 miles away, was hope and pray that my family had survived. And that somehow I would be able to get to them.