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Katrina survivors look forward to holiday with family

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Three things Lucille and Ron Nunez are thankful for – their lives, for being here in Brewton and that their family is alive and with them.
The Nunez family moved to Brewton in the midst of a Hurricane Katrina's confusion. They had evacuated from their Louisiana home, located in St. Bernard Parish in a small town called Violet, the night before Hurricane Katrina hit land.
They packed family members and the dog into a car and began to head east, since everything on the Interstate appeared to be gridlocked toward the west. The family eventually found a hotel where they unpacked their belongings and settled in for the night. However, things quickly changed when someone knocke don their door in the wee hours of the morning.
&#8220We were told to leave because they had forgotten they had booked all the rooms (for a power crew),” Ron Nunez said. &#8220We had 15 people and an animal.”
The family once again hit the pavement and stayed overnight in cars. They left around 4 p.m. and traveled to Pensacola where they discovered they couldn't even get into the door at the civic center. Then, a call from a family member who was working for the Red Cross told them about a nice church located in Brewton that was acting as a shelter.
The good people to whom he was referring were Wayne and Jean Morris, Howard and Edna Andrews, the Etheridge family and Sandra Smith.
They're the ones, along with a handful of other families, Ron Nunez said, who helped them get through their ordeal and remain close to them all today.
The Nunez family stayed at the church from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, when they finally moved into an apartment in town. Six family members crowded into a brick apartment, where everything except the items in the cupboard were donated. The family didn't take anything from their home.
The family has been back home several times. When they bashed in the front door of their home and entered it for the first time, the mud was up to their knees.
Lucille Nunez remembers thinking, &#8220Where's our TV, where's our microwave, where's our computer?”
The only item Lucille Nunez managed to salvage and bring back to Brewton was a figurine of the Virgin Mary. Before she had evacuated, she had carefully wrapped her up and placed her on the top shelf in her closet.
When she entered her bedroom for the first time after the hurricane, her closet was the only closet in the home that stood up. She found the statue of the Blessed Virgin caked in mud but virtually unscathed.
Lucille Nunez said that she spent nearly a week cleaning her every day, and now the only sign that she has been through a hurricane is a rust stain on her veil that came from the halo on top of her head.
Both Ron and Lucille Nunez are retired and live off disability. They have been busy adjusting to their new lives and taking care of the grandchildren who live with them.
One of their grandsons, Jared, enrolled at Brewton Middle School as an eighth grader. Lucille Nunez said at first it took him a while to adjust to the new changes, but so far he's doing well and his grades are back up.
Jared was in band back home where he played trumpet. The hurricane ruined his trumpet but it may be salvageable. In the meantime, he enjoys watching T.R. Miller football and believes the T.R. Miller band is the best he's heard.
Despite their Catholic religion, the Nunez family has also been attending Community of Christ Church services regularly where they get to see the families who helped them get relocated and still stop by and keep in touch.
When they were living at the church, a school sent the family a bunch of cards. At first Lucille Nunez said was reading them but then she became overwhelmed and had to put them aside. Now, she said she catches herself reading them because they &#8220provide her with a bit of comfort.”
Comfort will be coming to the Nunez family in another form this Thursday. Family members will be joining them for their first Thanksgiving holiday in Brewton. The family was busy Tuesday afternoon getting the apartment cleaned and getting food together for the arrival of the rest of their family.
Lucille and Ron's son was arriving Tuesday night and about 10 to 12 people will be gathering at their apartment to eat a traditional, but not so traditional, Thanksgiving meal.
Along with turkey, ham and &#8220all the fixin's,” Lucille Nunez said she was going to make her fried cauliflower and oyster dressing. She said that her family begged her not to make the cornbread dressing like everyone else does.
She also said that she will get see her sister for the first time since the hurricane next week. She had been communicating with her family via telephone, but they had to cut down on the phone calls because it was getting expensive.
The hardest part of their situation is the holidays. Values quickly change though when family is torn apart.
Despite everything they have lost and been through, the Nunez family appears upbeat and optimistic about their future. They know they want to move back to Louisiana, but not to the same area. For the time being, Ron Nunez keeps one thing in his mind.