Jamaican recalls the horrors of Hurricane Katrina

Reported By Philomena Robertson

NEW YORK, USA, September 1, 2006 – It’s been one-year already since the dreadful day that Hurricane Katrina roared through the Gulf Coast, bringing mind boggling devastation to New Orleans, Louisiana and Mississippi. And for Jamaican migrant Dena Evans, it’s been a long arduous road back, after losing everything in the devastating floods.

Evans, the daughter of top Jamaican track coach Daltan Evans, still remembers the powerful winds and the swells of water created by the deadly hurricane that forced her and hundreds of others to make the New Orleans Dome their adopted home.

A ‘home’ where rogue elements soon arose in the mass of evacuees and were allegedly responsible for a host of criminal offenses including assault and rape. “You had guys in there molesting females. If I had to go the restroom, I had to ask a cop to follow me, it just wasn’t safe,” Evans reminisced.

But one year later, the graduate student says the nightmare that was Katrina has made her, “Determined…motivated…a stronger person.”

“Everyday I say to myself, motivation, determination,” she told HBN this week from her new home in Houston, Texas. “I had to keep motivated and determined through the whole process.”

Still she is rather shocked that she survived the experience. “When I look at it, I can’t believe it really happened; that I faced something like this in life,” added the Jamaican migrant.

But then she quickly admits her struggle along the road to recovery was not as arduous as others and while she empathizes with their pain, she’s content with her new home.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t go back,” Evans stated firmly. “If you had a home there, something worthwhile, you would go back… but nothing has changed, everything is still basically the same, it’s still destroyed.”

Evans says she visited her old neighborhood earlier this year to check on friends and admitted to finding one particular friend very depressed. “She went back because her family did, she didn’t have a choice,” she said. “They’re just trying to get back house together, they’re living in a trailer in the meantime because the house is inhabitable.”

This situation is replicated thousands of times across the Katrina affected areas as the victims left in the hurricane’s wake, struggle along the road to recovery.

But Evans is proud that she’s back on her feet, after the disaster forced her to leave the place she had called home since 2004. She lost all her belongings, some including her Chevy Tahoe destroyed by floodwaters; others looted from the apartment she had to abandon to seek refuge in the Super Dome.

For the soon to be 25-year old, the experience continues to inspire her and create a greater yearning for excellence. “I am determined that whatever I do, I will not fail, I just have to be strong about,” she said. “Basically I feel that whatever comes my way I can handle.”

The pride resonates in her shy voice as she disclosed, “I have my own apartment, purchased a vehicle, I work full time with the housing authority and I go to school.”

And she is also currently pursuing a master’s degree in juvenile justice and will graduate in 2007. After that, she plans to take a break, but has her eyes set on a PhD in public affairs as well as she definitely moves on after Katrina.

Proving that amidst the despair in New Orleans, a city that is still fighting to recover after the storm of 2005, the flickering flames of survival shines on in cases like Dena Evans.

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