Michael and Angela share the first mattress on the left as you enter the shelter. Both in their mid-twenties, are trying to occupy their three daughters in the midst of the chaos around them. There is a panicky energy about them; the kind of uneasy tension that comes when one is lost and without direction, running low on hope. They are stranded in a small rural shelter in Alabama, over 175 miles from their home in New Orleans; a home that is no longer standing.
“We were hoping to leave New Orleans anyway” says Michael, trying to find an upside to his situation. “I just want to find work and get a place for my family to live. I’m a good carpenter and I’ll work hard.”
Myrna is across the shelter on the opposite wall. She is a single mother with two daughters: a twelve-year-old, basketball star/honor student and a two-year-old toddler, who isn’t quite sure where she is and why she can’t go home. “This is the third shelter we’ve been in since the storm” Myna said. “Every time they move us we get farther from home.” Home is Pascagoula, MS about 50 miles away. Myrna and her children were awakened by the rush of water rising against their front door. The hurricane they thought was far enough west had made a last second jog to the east, and now the storm surge threatened her family’s survival. Kicking out a window, Myrna and her children escaped by foot to a near by fire station where they rode out the storm huddled together on the second floor.
Myrna starts to cry quietly. “I try not to let the children see me upset. My twelve-year-old is already so hurt. Every time it rains or she sees lightning, she starts to panic.” Myrna works in housekeeping for a hotel that no longer exists. She has no vehicle, no clothes, no money. “I don’t know where I am going from here. I have family in Atlanta so I guess I’ll go there for a while. I want to get away from the coast. I don’t want my babies to go through any of this again.”