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Area provided refuge for some

August 27, 2006|by staff reports

A year ago when Hurricane Katrina zeroed in on New Orleans, Melissa Shows and her husband, Jesse, were uprooted from their home, her school and his job.

They arrived in Hagerstown to stay with Melissa's parents, Mack and Jeanne Davis, as they attempted to put their lives back together.

"Here I was back home, sleeping in my brother's room," Melissa Shows said Friday by telephone from her new home in Arizona.

While the family wasn't able to return to New Orleans, they have settled in Flagstaff, Ariz., which is where the couple met.

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"Melissa was getting ready to graduate from the nursing program at Delgado Community College when Katrina hit," said her father, Mack Davis.

Interning at Mercy Hospital in downtown New Orleans, his daughter was forced out by floodwaters that ravaged the hospital.

Melissa and Jesse Shows had been living in an uptown neighborhood in central New Orleans, about five miles from the Superdome.

After the brunt of the hurricane had passed, it appeared that New Orleans had weathered the storm fairly well. Then, the levees failed and the city began flooding.

"Friday one year ago, we had no clue what would happen," Melissa Shows said by telephone from Arizona.

Melissa Shows and her husband packed up their few belongings, two dogs and a cat, and headed north to Hagerstown, where she had grown up and graduated from St. Maria Goretti High School in 1989.

While the couple were in Hagerstown, Mack Davis said his son-in-law was able to get work as a carpenter.

Mack Davis said he contacted Hagerstown Community College President Guy Altieri to see if his daughter could enroll there in the nursing program in the interim.

"He got her in, basically on her word because her records were mostly destroyed," Mack Davis said. The nursing school in New Orleans later was able to piece some records together.

Enrolled at HCC, Melissa Shows graduated about six months later with honors, her father said Friday.

"At my pinning ceremony, I said that Dr. Altieri has as much concern for the individual student as he does for the student body as a whole," Melissa Shows said.

In Flagstaff, she passed her licensing test the first time, and now is working as a registered nurse there.

- Marlo Barnhart

School welcomed three young evacuees

A year ago, the faculty and students at Mount Aetna Elementary School took in three children who had been displaced when Hurricane Katrina hit their home in Louisiana.

"Their grandmother lived in the area, and she called and asked for our help," Principal Kandace Zollman said.

Without hesitation, the three sixth-graders were welcomed into classes there. Zollman said at the time, it wasn't known how long they would be enrolled, but the school was prepared to keep them as long as they needed schooling.

The children's mother accompanied them to Washington County.

"As it turned out, they were here only about a week," Zollman said. Their father, a member of the U.S. military, was about to be deployed, so the children returned home to spend time with him.

But during that week, the faculty and students welcomed them with open arms, Zollman said.

They got to attend Mount Aetna's outdoor school for part of their time at the school.

"Of course, they didn't have sleeping bags, but the kids made sure they had what they needed," Zollman said.

A number of their classmates also shopped for them, helping them replenish the clothes they lost in the hurricane.

"After they returned home, they wrote us a great letter," Zollman said, noting that the experience was positive for all concerned.

- Marlo Barnhart

Rescue service workers lent a hand

Last year at this time, Louisiana looked like "a whole different world," said Paul Virden, 23, of Hagerstown.

Everything had a grayish-brown tint because the floodwaters left a thick layer of mud and dirt, he said.

Virden spent two weeks near the Gulf Coast shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit last year. It was, he said, "the closest I've experienced to a war zone."

He went to the area with three others from Community Rescue Service.

In the next five years, Virden said, he would like to return to the New Orleans area.

"I want to see what New Orleans and Louisiana would have looked like pre-Katrina," he said.

While there, Virden worked at a clinic in Kenner, La., for nine days, giving tetanus and hepatitis-A shots to people exposed to the contaminated floodwaters, and taking those in need of critical care to hospitals.

"Everybody was happy to see us," he said. "We were more happy to help them out."

Virden stayed in an abandoned hospital that was turned into a makeshift hotel for emergency services people.

Since his stay, the hospital has reopened, Virden said.

The area near the clinic where he worked received a lot of structural damage, but was not destroyed like some areas ravaged by the hurricane.

- Erin Julius

Some animals still awaiting new homes

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