LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Nearly five years after New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, hurricane evacuees in East Texas say the Super Bowl has given them hope of putting New Orleans back on the map in a positive light.
"I've only went back twice," said Walter Souby, Hurricane Katrina evacuee. "It was a long time ago, right after the storm and I haven't been back since. I don't know exactly what the reasons are, but it's been hard for me to go back."
Hurricane Katrina slammed into Souby's hometown, and swept away his livelihood. "I lost a lot of friends, lost a lot of people I know, lost a way of life," he said.
Growing up in New Orleans, Souby says he's always rooted for the Saints no matter what. "They used to be so bad," Souby said laughing. "No one ever thought they would go to the Super Bowl."
From hurricane to Super bowl, the Saints have become a bright spot for a city plagued by devastation. Hurricane Katrina evacuee Eric Jones now lives in Nacogdoches. In a phone interview from the Super Bowl, you could feel the excitement in Jones' voice all the way from Miami.
"Words cannot describe what you see in the eyes of the people because all of us have experienced that devastation four or five years ago," said Jones.
"I think it's given the people something to root for," said Souby. Even though Souby may not ever go back to his roots, he says the Saints are lifting the spirits of a city that's been down for too long.
"Because a lot of people, I guess they've wondered if New Orleans was ever going to come back like it was," he said.
"Here the New Orleans Saints which has overcome devastation of a storm like that and still have a fan base like it has, still have the unity and hope that is has shows that no matter we go through at the end of the day if you continue to hold on and connect to one another you can overcome that," said Jones.
Souby promised he would go back to New Orleans this year for Mardi Gras if the Saints win, looks like he better start packing his bag.