Hurricane Victims Learn Their House Is Probably Gone

Despair, frustration, and anxiety are all moods felt by displaced families from Hurricane Katrina. Many of them are staying here in East Texas.

Pictures on the news tell the evacuees their homes may not be standing anymore. As evacuees sit in hotel rooms and the Red Cross Shelter in Nacogdoches, they question their future. They're worried about paying bills and concerned about the safety of their family members back home.

News footage of New Orleans provides the McDonalds a glimpse of what to expect. Reality sets in with an early morning phone call. Lorenzo McDonald, shaking, said, "We got reports from a friend of mine that got through on the phone like 4:00 Tuesday morning. He said the levee broke. Everything we live at is just gone."

Katrina is making this man, who is a provider for extended family and friends, feel helpless. Tears flow. His wife Adrian understands why. "Now it's hitting home, so we've never been through this type of catastrophe before. We don't know what to expect regarding the financial aspect of it once we do get back home, rebuild, and starting over again. We just don't know."

"This is a good picture of where we live at. This is the front of our house," said Lorenzo as he showed a digital picture of his home. He's so proud of a remodeled home that may be preserved only in a picture.

Yet, worry remains with those who couldn't afford to leave. "We got friends that called that said they're trapped in the house, can't get out." Again Lorenzo's voice cracks.

Adrian is disturbed when people assume that those stayed by choice. "How can they leave? How can they leave? My heart goes out to those people because they did the best they could."

Now, the McDonald family must consider their own finances. Lorenzo's sister in law, Monique Simms, pointed to a television picture of the devastated downtown New Orleans buildings. "See! Where that's at. That's where we work. Even if we do get home, we won't be able to get to work."

The McDonalds have consolidated their extended family into one room to save money. The closeness spreads comfort.

Adrian is at a loss for words. "I can't even think of a word. Difficult is for lack of a better term. This is just heart wrenching. This is absolutely heart wrenching."

The McDonald's will have their 10th wedding anniversary on Thursday. The celebration will have to wait.

Right now, they wonder if they'll have to join others at the Red Cross Shelter in Nacogdoches. About 60 people are staying there. Some of them are people who can no longer afford hotel rooms. Others have nowhere else to go.

American Red Cross Director Glenna Harkness said, "Some of these parishes can't go back in. We don't have dates on that, so we could be long term, and we're just trying to take care of their needs." That includes handing out literature to help visitors with insurance and assistance questions.

Meanwhile, the SFA Social Work Department is providing games for children. For adults, they're providing a listening ear. A dinner is being served right now for all evacuees.

The American Red Cross Shelter in Nacogdoches has these needs. All certified American Red Cross volunteers are needed. Coloring books, toys,videos, wipes, and diapers are needed for the children. Bottled water, blankets, personal hygiene items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shaving supplies,soap, etc. are useful. If they're not used at the shelter, they can be used for the trip home. Most Red Cross supplies are heading east. Any business or church wishing to provide a meal would be helpful. Last, but not least, donations are always put to good use.

All items can be dropped off at the Nacogdoches Recreation Center or the American Red Cross in Lufkin.

If you're an evacuee looking for a family member, you can stop by one of the Red Cross offices and they can help you try to locate your loved ones.