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Hurricane Katrina introduced us to the faces of people in agony beyond the scope of our imagination. This is life after Katrina and the faces that go with the stories.

Stories like Nita LaGarde and 5 year old Tanisha Belvin.

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Eric Gay/Associated Press THEN: We first met Tanisha Belvin and Nita LaGarde as they were evacuated from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on Sept. 3.

Please keep reading to learn where they are now..

We all saw the pictures. The babies with distended tummies, the elderly gasping for air, the mothers desperate for their children. Their faces fly by us in the newspaper and on television. Some of them stay with us for a long time. And we wonder. What happened to that child, did she make it? And the woman on the edge of death? We know their stories go on but we rarely know how.

I would like to change that for three of the families you may have met recently. I first saw their faces in the Houston Chronicle - captured in the middle of the worst of human suffering.

When the story of Nita LaGarde first hit the national news, she was identified as being 105 years old. She's the first to tell you, "They made a mistake," she said. "Eighty-nine is bad enough without being 105." This is a short version of her story:

Nita LaGarde, 89, was pushed down the street in her wheelchair as her nurse's 5-year-old granddaughter, Tanisha Blevin, held her hand. The pair spent two days in an attic, two days on an interstate island and the last four days on the pavement in front of the convention center.

LaGarde's nurse, Ernestine Dangerfield, 60, said LaGarde had not had a clean adult diaper in more than two days. "I just want to get somewhere where I can get her nice and clean," she said.

What has happened to her since this picture was taken? Here is the latest from the Houston Chronicle:

Image removed at request of copyright holder.

Nathan Lindstrom/Special to the Chronicle NOW: From left, Earnestine Dangerfield, LaGarde and Belvin are living in a hotel room in north Houston. They are looking for a house to rent in Houston.

During an interview in their motel room, LaGarde and Dangerfield were counting their blessings and making plans.

Volunteers have been trying to make their lives a little easier, bringing them food and other items. Tanisha has been enrolled in full-day kindergarten at Kinsmen Lutheran Church School.

They are desperate now to find a house. They can pay some rent, they said. Dangerfield is on medical disability, and LaGarde gets by on Social Security.

They want to make a new start, here in Houston.

Dangerfield said the three will stay together as the family they've become.

"If we find a house, this is going to be our home," added LaGarde. "We aren't going back to New Orleans. There ain't nothing to go back to. But there's a lot of nice people in Houston, really nice people."

When we first learned of Lee Ann Bemboom and her 11 month old son she was desperate to find help for her baby who was struggling to breath in the filth and heat outside of the convention center in NOLA.

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Melissa Phillip/Chronicle THEN: We felt for Lee Ann Bemboom as she carried her 11-month-old son, Jahon, who'd stopped drinking water, through the heat and commotion outside the convention center in New Orleans on Sept. 1.

She remembers going to the Superdome, where officials told people to seek refuge, but she fled about 36 hours later. The filth, fighting and heat drove her to New Orleans convention center dozens of blocks away.

There, the chaos was worse. At least 20,000 people were packed into the building and spilled into the street. They had no food, water or flushing toilets. People died and their bodies were stacked in an alley or left on the street.

Jahon got sick a few days after they arrived.

Frantic, Bemboom carried her dehydrated, overheated son to a military and police gathering spot several blocks away. After being seen by the medical staff, Bemboom and her son returned to the convention center because officials had told her that buses would take the people to relief shelters.

Days passed without the promised buses.

Where is she now and how is her baby? According to the Houston Chronicle:

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Melissa Phillip/Chronicle NOW: Less than two weeks later, Bemboom and her son relax at a VFW shelter in Addis, La., where they have been staying since being evacuated from New Orleans.

Safely housed in a Red Cross shelter in Addis, La., Lee Ann Bemboom spends most of her days resting with her 11-month-old son, Jahon, on a double-sized mattress on the floor.

She doesn't know when she will leave or where she will go. She has $2 in her pocket. But she's the happiest she has been since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Big Easy more than two weeks ago.

"Everybody's better than they were, and that's a start," Bemboom said last week. "I have my down times, but I'm tough."

...she has found a nearby clinic where she can continue to receive her daily dose of methadone for a previous drug addiction. She doesn't want to interrupt that treatment.

Shelter workers have explained how to register for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and some people have received money and found jobs. FEMA plans to place evacuees in temporary housing as soon as locations can be found.

But as of midweek, Bemboom had not registered with FEMA. She said it's difficult to contact FEMA by phone, and she's wary about giving her personal information to strangers when they try to complete registration forms for her.

Bemboom has other help available.

Her picture, snapped by Chronicle photographer Melissa Phillip, spawned dozens of offers of help on the Internet and reconnected her with distant relatives.

A second cousin, Charlotte Hackman, of Wilmington, N.C., said she desperately began searching for Bemboom after she saw the photograph in her local newspaper.

Bemboom appreciates the offers, but she isn't sure she wants to impose on anyone. She said she'll get back on her feet soon. She may move away from the South.

"I'm a spunky person," she said. "It's got to get better. It couldn't get any worse."

Finally, there was the family that did everything right but were still quickly losing hope.

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Carlos Antonio Rios/Chronicle THEN: A tearful Nureka Jacobs grabbed our hearts when she and her children were turned away from the Astrodome on Aug. 31, after driving from Louisiana.

Nureka Jacobs had done the right thing. When the New Orleans mayor ordered residents to get out before the storm hit, she gathered her five daughters, her Pomeranian and the 95-year-old woman she was caring for and fled in her Dodge minivan.

But after a night in Baton Rouge and two nights at a Houston motel, she was running out of money. The Astrodome, which was just being opened to accept evacuees, seemed the logical place to go.

Jacobs, though, found no welcome mat.

The stadium at the time was accepting only people bused over from the Louisiana Superdome, and she was told - rather harshly - that she would have to leave.

It was the final straw. A Sept. 1 front-page photograph by Chronicle photographer Carlos Antonio Rios captured the woman's frustration as she pondered her dilemma, tearful, slumped against the steering wheel.

"My (10-year-old) daughter looked at me and out of the clear-blue sky said, 'Mom, I don't think God is in control anymore,' " Jacobs said. "And I couldn't answer her because at that point, I think my faith was being questioned."

What happened to this family?

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Sharón Steinmann/Chronicle NOW: Jacobs, her children and their dog, Sugar, have settled into an apartment complex in north Houston. Her children are in school, and she has resumed her nursing studies.

Her children are now in school, and she has resumed her nursing studies at North Harris College. She wants to stay in Houston and start a home health-care business to take care of the elderly and disabled.

Jacobs, 29, still has missing family members in Louisiana, and she knows of friends who died. Although she evacuated with Sugar, her Pomeranian, she had to leave her Samoyed, Snow, in her backyard because there wasn't room in the minivan. She hopes he was rescued.

Meanwhile, she still has to come up with a $500 pet deposit to keep Sugar.

Jacobs has no desire to go back to New Orleans. Even though she was once turned away from the Astrodome, Houstonians overall have been generous, she said. And she's ready to rebuild her life here.

"I feel like going back to New Orleans would be living in my friends' and my family's grave. It just would be too devastating," she said. "And the time it is going to take to rebuild New Orleans, I need to still be moving forward with my life."

To learn more about each of these people please read the Houston Chronicle article.

I wanted to share these because I thought they represented many of the people we have come to know through pictures. If you have an update you think we would like to hear about, please share it here. At the very least, see the hope in these stories so we can use that to energize us for all the work that is to be done.

Crossposted at My Left Wing.

Originally posted to sassy texan on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:05 PM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  some good news (4.00)
    According to the Houston Chronicle, "As of Saturday morning, 23,236 evacuees had relocated to apartments from the megashelters under the Katrina Joint Housing Task Force." There is more to be done but that is really an incredible accomplishment for those who had to start completely over.

    First they came for MY choice...

    by sassy texan on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:11:31 PM PDT

  •  speaking of photos (4.00)
    from N.O., I came across these today at DU:

    Pretty amazing, what the floodwaters did to this house.   Other photos as well.

    Nasty business.  

    •  mold (4.00)
      If nothing else gets you, mold will. Hate the stuff more than I hate anything. Well, not anything, but I really hate that stuff! Don't even get me started on insurance companies and mold damage claims.

      It's also true, as your link said, that anywhere that flooded is environmentally damaged - basically it's all brown now. The grass, plants, flowers - brown. That says a lot. Very scary.

      Thanks for the link.

      First they came for MY choice...

      by sassy texan on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:28:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  having been flooded out once (none)
        Mold is hell. Afterwards, I remember looking under the ruined bed and it was green. The mattress was green and black. Shoes and other things stored underneath looked like the inside of a crypt. You cannot believe how gross it is.
          You throw out everything. And then you throw out the walls.
           I cannot imagine how people are going to deal with mold and bacteria and toxic God-knows-what inside their houses.  
          Those pictures said it all.  I think everybody can look in and imagine their own place looking like that. All the loss is so sad.

        You can teach creationism in our school if we can teach calculus in your church.

        by offred on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:34:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I can imagine (none)
          We went through Hurricane Alicia in 83 - nasty is the only word to describe what you come home to. The longer you stay gone the worse it is. We not only lived outside on the patio for a month because it was so hot (no electricity - no AC) but because it stinks so freakin bad. It can be done though, it can be done (if there is insurance, if not, geez, just bad stuff man, bad stuff).

          First they came for MY choice...

          by sassy texan on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:39:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  More faces found safe (4.00)
    Yesterday's Austin American-Statesman (registration required) followed up on Shelia Dixon and her 18-month-old daughter Emily, who had been photographed weeping on a guardrail on a New Orleans freeway.

    She and her daughter are now living in Alvin, Texas (near Houston).  

    Want Bush's head on a platter? Yuck! Why not just demand that he resign?

    by Sandia Blanca on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:26:53 PM PDT

    •  thank you (4.00)
      these types of stories help so much in the long road ahead for everyone. This whole country is in this together and these stories remind us of why and give us the hope to keep going. Thank you.

      First they came for MY choice...

      by sassy texan on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:31:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks! (none)
    This is really good. Will you continue chronicling where certain evacuees are? I think it would make a great series --- there were so many pics and so many stories.
    •  so many (4.00)
      Ha ha, caught me. I was hoping others would post more updates here. When I started with this Houston Chronicle article I ended up finding so many others. I imagine there are thousands. I will do more diaries if I hear of further updates on these families. The Houston Chron has really been great at this, I'm just the middle-woman :)

      If you want good Katrina coverage, The Houston Chronicle is a great place to go.  

      First they came for MY choice...

      by sassy texan on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 07:34:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Did Snowball ever get reconnected w/ his boy?? (none)
    I know it's just a damn dog, but that story about the kid who had saved his dog, only to be forced to abandon before boarding the evacuation bus was just too much. (the child cried so badly he started throwing up.)

    New Orleans-- 72 hours later no communications, no drinking water, not enough police/troops. Bottomline, we're not prepared for another 9/11.

    by DeanFan84 on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 08:02:24 PM PDT

    •  Here is the original story, (none)

      "At the back end of the line, people jammed against police barricades in the rain. Refugees passed out and had to be lifted hand-over-hand overhead to medics. Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. "Snowball, Snowball," he cried."

      New Orleans-- 72 hours later no communications, no drinking water, not enough police/troops. Bottomline, we're not prepared for another 9/11.

      by DeanFan84 on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 08:03:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Here is a better editorial about the tragedy, (none)

      New Orleans-- 72 hours later no communications, no drinking water, not enough police/troops. Bottomline, we're not prepared for another 9/11.

      by DeanFan84 on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 08:08:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I heard that they found Snowball (none)
      I heard that people were working on it, and that they had located the dog, but never heard if they were able to connect him with the boy.

      The one that got me, though, was the little girl standing outside a car holding an older relative. She was standing there by the side of the road calling out to the people passing, "Please help us. Please help us." And nobody was stopping to help. I would really like to know if they made it out.

      In the darkness, with a great bundle of grief, the people march -- Carl Sandburg

      by lesliet on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 08:43:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I cannot get this comment out of my head (none)
    "It Was as if All of Us Were Already Pronounced Dead"

    This chilling quote from Tony Cash that stayed at the Superdome for 3 days.

    Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

    by sara seattle on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 09:24:58 PM PDT

  •  Sassy Texan (none)
    I cannot thank you enough for the work you did in collecting and posting this information.

    One of the things that makes me CRAZY is how the media tugs on your heartstrings, but moves on to the next story, rarely following up. . .  .

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