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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.