Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating disasters in American History. Ten years ago this month, Katrina’s storm surge breached the levees around New Orleans, allowing an angry ocean to rush in and wreak absolute havoc. The storm killed more than 1,800 Americans and displaced tens of thousands more — many barely escaping the rapidly rising flood waters.
After the storm, New Orleans lay seriously wounded. Aerial photos revealed that Katrina’s angry claws had destroyed huge swaths of The Big Easy. As for those who remained behind, thousands found refuge in the overcrowded and undersupplied Superdome, the city’s iconic sports stadium.
While an influx of volunteers worked tirelessly to aid those in need, the questions and the finger-pointing started among politicians. There was no shortage of speculation about why the levees and the city’s evacuation plan had failed and who was to blame. In the meantime, tens of thousands of residents were focused on only one thing — how to put their broken lives back together.
In the days Katrina was gathering strength in the Gulf, I was on an adventure deep in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. When I finally had access to a phone, I learned about the devastation in New Orleans. Doyle, our Executive Pastor, encouraged me to get home as quickly as possible to lead our volunteers to care for evacuees from New Orleans.
Little did I realize as I made my way home that I would spend the next six weeks living with evacuees at the church. With the help of my new friends Cathy Thompson, Denise Fieglein, Susan Patrick and an army of volunteers, we were able to compassionately care for more than a hundred folks displaced from their homes by Katrina.
One of the biggest challenges was helping folks to get identification documents — not an easy thing to do when you have lost your birth certificate, drivers license, and every other form of personal documentation in flood waters. But, we managed to do this. We also helped folks find apartments and jobs. We gave several families cars with six months of insurance, connected them to medical care, and helped some to relocate to other cities.
Over the years I have heard from some of the evacuees who spent more than a month of their lives here at Kingsland. Each of these have been quick to express their gratitude for the kindness of our volunteers and the generosity of our church.
Today, the City of New Orleans has come back stronger than before the storm hit. And, because we were willing to love people in their time of greatest need, many of the evacuees who called Kingsland home for a season have rebuilt their lives and are doing well. Thank you, Kingsland, for always going beyond by loving and serving others.