Hurricane Katrina victims find a place to call home
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Christmas came a little early this year for one family who evacuated from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina hit. The Lee family signed papers to purchase a new home in Brewton this week and will be moving out of the Church of Christ as soon as they fix up their new home.
Ann Lee, along with her husband, Roger William Lee Jr., and children Victoria, 11, and Anthony, 5, have decided not to move back to their home in Chalmette, La. and instead will be calling Brewton their new home. The rest of her family, she said, moved back home because work called them back.
Members of Project Rebound and a staff member from the Salvation Army were on hand Friday to assist at least 30 individuals in the county by providing them with gift certificates to help out with their holiday needs. Project Rebound crisis counselors Vivian Tait and Pam Hicks were on hand to offer emotional crisis counseling and referral services to each individual. Heather Taylor from the Salvation Army was assisting the individuals with paperwork needed to receive the gift certificates.
Lee said that things are finally getting back to normal. She got a job at Magnolia Bell and she excitedly spoke about her sister who moved back home to Louisiana. Lee said that she believed her sister was the only person in the area to have lights and running water in her home in Louisiana.
The Lee story is reminiscent of many stories of families from areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Rather than evacuating, Ann Lee sent her children off to a family members home while she and her husband tried to ride out the storm inside their home. Lee said that as the eye passed over, they were taking a nap.
They woke up to the feel of trickling water. Each time they opened the door the water kept rising. It was when the water reached about four feet high she and her husband decided to get moving.
Working together, the couple began to place their dogs, food, water and other non-perishable items into their boat. However, when they tried to crank the motor they found that it was water logged.
With their belongings packed in the boat, the couple began to push pull the boat out into the yards where they eventually got stuck at their neighbor's back fence. It was at that point the couple heard their neighbors crying for help. Not thinking twice, they rescued the neighbors.
Lee said that they stayed in the water for about four hours - five dogs and four people in a crowded boat - while others swam in the water pulling the boat. They were eventually rescued and taken to a local high school where they stayed for three days.
Then matters took another turn for the worse. Lee said her husband, who had surgery in January, was in critical condition and was running out of his medication. He was immediately placed in an ambulance. Lee said she asked to go with him but was told to stand in line to catch a bus. Lee said she pulled a pen out of her back pocket and wrote her sister's name and number on her husband's arm. She then watched as her husband was whisked away and was left to stand in line for the buses.
Once her husband reached the hospital, the staff called the number on his arm. In the meantime, Lee said she sat on Causeway and Interstate 10 for 20 hours.
Once she found a spot on the bus she was taken to the Houston Astrodome and was scared she would never see her husband again. It was a nice woman in Houston that offered Lee the chance to use her cell phone and text message her sister.
Her sister responded with her aunt's phone number. Lee's aunt Doris and her uncle Eddie Faulk live in Brewton. That's how they eventually ended up in Brewton.
Lee said her uncle drove from Brewton straight to Houston to pick her up. They then drove to Picayune and onto Baton Rouge to pick up her children and husband. Once they arrived in Baton Rouge they went to the hospital only to find that they had no records of where he was or when he had checked out.
Lee said that her husband later told her the hospital had discharged him and given him money to pay for a few items. He had taken a cab to the bus stop only to step out of the cab and notice the buses were no longer loading. He turned around to get back into the cab and it had driven off. As he attempted to walk back home, he was robbed of the meager money the hospital had loaned him.
It was by luck that a pastor at a church in Baton Rouge picked up Roger Lee and let him stay at his house.
They were happily reunited and are now ready to move on with their lives here in Brewton. Lee said she and her family hope to move into their new home by the end of January. They will be staying at the Church of Christ until then and celebrating Christmas in a new town.