She had to get to the school. As Carrie pushed through chest-deep water, she knew that the second floor of the school would provide safety. Before she reached the school, she was knocked off her feet and hit by a heavy piece of debris, pummeling her in the lower back. She regained her footing and plunged ahead.
Carrie and a small band of neighbors were rescued by the National Guard. Once evacuated to Texas, medical personnel began the ongoing attempts to alleviate Carrie’s searing back pain.
When Carrie returned to New Orleans, she found that the house she rented was gone. A neighbor allowed her and her older brother to stay in their flooded home. Carrie, a forty-year veteran of the hospitality industry, was unable to work because of her back injury. The two siblings eked out a meager existence on the brother’s disability income and their weeks in the small flooded house stretched to months, then years.
Carrie and her brother gutted the house and covered the walls with plastic campaign signs. They cooked meals on a steel drum and laundry was washed on the porch and hung on the fence to dry. However no amount of tenacity could turn on the electricity or the decrepit plumbing. Leaks in the storm-damaged roof overwhelmed the cans, pots and pans strategically placed throughout the house to catch the New Orleans rain.
When her brother moved in with his girlfriend, Carrie continued to fight the rats, insects and severe weather conditions. The only time outreach workers ever witnessed Carrie letting down her guard was on an early-morning visit to tell her that she had been approved for housing. Carrie sobbed and sobbed – she was exhausted. She could finally give up fighting off the rats that invaded each night.
Today, Carrie is in a lovely little apartment with electricity, running water and a door that locks. She lives in a neighborhood where friends are nearby. She has gathered a few pieces of clean, functional furniture and has put her own touch on her apartment with recovered knick-knacks that truly reflect her hope and belief in the future.