Evacuee feels blessed

Hurricane Katrina hit Rana Rose hard, but it opened a new door to a new life.

Hurricane Katrina hit Rana Rose hard, but it opened a new door to a new life.

August 27, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Swelling from floodwaters jammed Rana Rose's door shut.

When she found help to break it down, she couldn't go in.

What she saw made her too sick to enter.

Black sludge was deep on the floor, on her belongings and coated the walls to nearly the ceiling.

Just about all she owned was lost.

The scene was her welcome home to New Orleans last September, about a month after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast city.

Nearly a year later, she lives just outside Hagerstown with her 6-year-old daughter, Aaliyah.

The tragic memories of Katrina remain with her, but they don't weigh her down.

With God's help, she said she has been given a chance to start over in Washington County.

The hurricane

Rose, 34, said she didn't plan to evacuate New Orleans, though weather forecasts said Katrina was coming.


She said she had just gone grocery shopping, and hurricane watches and warnings were nothing new to the area for the New Orleans native. The storms never caused major damage, she said.

But at the urging of her sister, she packed up and left with her daughter for Shreveport, La. They made it out on Sunday, a day before Katrina hit.

Rose said she brought enough clothes for herself and daughter for two days.

"Everybody was thinking they were going to be back in a couple of days," she said.

It was about a month before she was able to get back. The photos on television weren't as telling as actually being there, she said.

"It's worse to see it in person," Rose said. "When you see all the black sludge on everything ... I didn't even walk in the house, it was so awful."

A man who helped break down the door took pictures of the house with her camera, but she has yet to develop the film. She said she doesn't want to look at the photos.

"If me and my daughter would have stayed, we wouldn't have made it," Rose said.

After Shreveport, they stayed for a couple of months in a hotel in Baton Rouge, La. Her job had relocated there, but ended up going back to New Orleans. Without housing available there, Rose said she decided to move to Maryland, where she previously had lived for a while.

Her mother, who was stuck in New Orleans for the hurricane, watched the devastation going on around her from a portable, battery-run television. Eventually, she was able to walk through water and make her way to a bus, which took her to Houston. Her mother currently lives in Texas, and never has returned to New Orleans.

Her grandmother, now 93 years old, was evacuated from a nursing home in New Orleans to a nursing home in Baton Rouge, where she lives today, Rose said.

She said the fact that her family and friends made it out OK mattered more to her than losing nearly all of her possessions.

"But at least my family - everyone was safe," Rose said. "Everyone's alive."

Rebuilding, with help

Rose arrived in Maryland broke, and thankful to learn the federal government was making housing available for Katrina victims in rural areas. That brought her and her daughter to Hopewell Manor, just outside of Hagerstown, where they currently live.

Everything began to click. It was God blessing her, she said.

Rose received a warm welcome and assistance from local residents, which have helped keep her head up, she said.

She was able to find work, and The Salvation Army had given her a bedroom set, kitchen table and furniture.

The husband of a woman she knew rebuilt a computer and gave it to her.

The owner of a garage on Virginia Avenue fixed her car for free and gave her $100. And her daughter's school, Williamsport Elementary School, did what it could to help, Rose said.

Then came a surprise from Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, she said.

Rose found out from Williamsport Elementary School that Habitat had wanted to build a house for a family affected by Katrina.

At the time, Rose said she had been making more money than allowed to be eligible for the home.

"A couple of weeks went by, and I forgot about the house," Rose said.

That was until she received a phone call from Habitat employee Doris J. Nipps, also a Washington County Commissioner, who encouraged her to fill out an application.

Nipps had told Rose another family who had been approved for the house was relocating to another area, Rose said.

About that time, Rose's employer began laying people off, and she again was looking for a new job, she said.

It turned out her income from her new job was low enough that she qualified for the house.

On Thursday, she got a call from Habitat Executive Director Sherry Brown Cooper, who told her she was approved for the house.

"That's how I knew God was trying to bless me with this," Rose said.

The house is being built on Berner Avenue in Hagerstown. Rose said it should be finished in November or December.

She's thankful for the support, and is looking forward to moving in and becoming a permanent resident of Hagerstown, she said.

"It's been great," Rose said.

Although Katrina hit her hard, it has opened a new door to a new life.

"For this to be mine ... this is my house to start my life over, and that's just wonderful," Rose said. "I just want to thank all of the people who have helped me in Hagerstown. People were just really generous."

"I've been blessed," she said.

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