Escaping the Storm
We evacuated New Orleans on Saturday, August 27, 2005 two days before the storm struck the city and joined the convoy that snaked its way north. Nearly all lanes were headed in the same direction, and we were swept along I-55 until reaching Jackson, Mississippi. We had ample food and water but were unable to find accomodations until eventually we found a Holiday Express Inn with an unfilled reservation, and the manager let us stay that night.
The next morning, we headed west along I-20, stopping at small cities along the way seeking accommodations but having no luck. Everything had been booked in advance. The I-20 led us to Bossier City, and from the highway we could see several large hotels.
The first one we stopped at turned out to be a bustling casino, The Isle of Capri (now, Diamond Jacks Casino and Hotel) where the managers, having no openings and sensing our plight, called a series of hotels in town and found that a nearby Hampton Inn was able to take us in.
Although filled to capacity, managers at the Hampton Inn were very accommodating, even lowering their prices for evacuees. We spent a total of 13 days there. While there, one of the hotel's agents researched the surrounding area for apartments with vacancies and handed us a list with half-a-dozen entries.
The first one we visited was in the adjoining city of Shreveport. There, Southfield Apartments (now, Cornerstone Apartments) had a two-bedroom vacancy that would be available in three days. We grabbed it, bought two air-mattreses, folding chairs and a small table, and moved in. Eleven years later, we are still grateful for that apartment, which we have made our home. A major factor in our decision to remain in Shreveport was the kindness and friendship shown to us and other evacuees by area residents, and by the many businesses that offered discounts. We had left New Orleans with the clothes on our backs, a suitcase, our 1993 Toyota Corolla and a laptop to which we later added a small printer. In Shreveport, we eventually found everything we needed.
Our recovery from the Katrina disaster was greatly aided by the financial help we received from FEMA. That agency made available to us an immediate grant of $2,000 in emergency assistance, and later an additional $4,128 in rental assistance to cover our hotel expenses and initial apartment rental. FEMA's efficiency, generosity and effectiveness stands in marked contrast to the seemingly incompetent, wasteful and even fraudulent handling of the vast sums that the State of Louisiana received from the Federal Government for its "Road Home" program
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