A personal tale of drastic life changes

I was only 12 years-old when the hurricane known as Katrina drastically changed my life. 

DeQuanna Alexander

I remember getting a vacation packet from my 6th grade teacher; I remember this because I was so mad she was giving out homework during my mini vacation. 

Before August 29, 2005 I was use to having minor hurricane scares that require me and my family to drive to Shreveport, stay in a really nice hotel and swim. I never expected what happened would ever actually happen. 

The night before leaving for what would be a very long and boring trip my parents argued about my dad staying. 

“Me and Buffy are going to be ok, Yvonne,” I remember him telling my mom. The mayor had just declared the hurricane to be a category five and suggested that if you had a place to go; then that’s where you should be.

My family and I have rode out many tropical storms, even minor hurricanes; so my dad just knew he would make it through this one. 

The day had come and it was time for everyone to go. My entire immediate family met by my grandmother’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the cities hardest hit areas. My sister was an RN nurse at Charity hospital so she was forced to stay. I remember her coming outside, eyes full of tears telling everyone how much she loved them and couldn’t wait to see them again. She kissed her sons and then proceeded to bless she and my grandmother’s duplex they shared. 

After the longest ride in what seemed like my entire life (due to traffic from other cars evacuating) me and my family finally made it to our destination.

My oldest sister, who is a Grambling graduate, relocated to Shreveport after graduating. She later moved to Houma, La., but still had close friends there to welcome us. 

We settled in our hotel, and everything seemed to be going normal. As the hurricane was passing I was outside in the hotels pool swimming and having the time of my life. 

The day after the hurricane everything seemed to be normal. The news began to report about damages and my sister was our inside confirmation to let us know that everything in the city was going ok.

The calm after the storm quickly ended. Breaking news about what had just occurred was going across every TV station.  The news had just reported the levees were breaking. My mother began to cry, and call my sister in panic. No answer.

She called about a million time; still no answer. The reports began to come in about the water rising and people being trapped. I even saw my school mate, her mom and younger sister on the Television, stranded. 

I was only 12 and I was watching the only city I knew fall apart. 

A unrecognizable number called my mom and she already knew who it was, my sister.  Everyone was in one hotel room, it was about 15 of us and my mom took the call. My sister, who was crying her heart out began to tell my mom to tell her sons that she loved them, and that she wants them to do great in life. She also went on to tell my mom tell my family she loved us all; she was preparing to die stranded in Charity hospital.

Forced to leave the hotel because of excessive hotel prices we were now basically on the street. We went to a church and my family considered staying there, but that just wasn’t a good fit either.  We then decided we had to spilt up. 

Half of my family went to St. Rose, La., while my half went to Houma La to live in my sisters 2 bed room apartment. Thankfully she was in a relationship so she moved out and we moved in.

This is when my life changed. I thought I would be able to stay home and just not go to school until I moved back home; boy was I wrong. 

My dad basically rescued my sister and my cousin after they escaped from the airport. They hid in bushes and walked from New Orleans to Hammond.

The day before school I cried. I was so afraid. My whole life I lived in New Orleans. I visited many states but I wasn’t prepared to move. Everything was so different. The people talked weird and the food was so nasty. The town was so small that I literally walked everywhere. I almost went crazy at 12. 

I didn’t attend school the first week due to anxiety and fear. My mother, who was moving back to new Orleans the next week to work sat me down to have a talk. She told me I couldn’t let what was happening rights now get me down and I had to continue to push forward. So I finally went to school.

For the first time I went to school with white kids and for the first time I also experienced being bullied. To escape everyone I became close with my science and English teachers. I think they felt bad for me because I was a refugee in their eyes and they wanted to make me feel ok. I appreciated them very much for that. 

I began to write poetry and was one of the best writers in class. I remember finding out I was about to move home and my teacher asked me to write my English class a goodbye speech. 

I don’t remember the speech but I remember naming it “Must Be Nice,” because that was my mom’s favorite song and I missed her drastically. I know I dedicated the poem to appreciating what you have in life because it can be taken away so very fast.

My sister hated living in Houma. I’ve never seen her cry so much, believe it or not; living there was also the first time I dealt with racism. We dealt with so much racism and unfairness while living in that town during that time that it was scary. 

After our landlord passed racist remarks to my mom and sister we knew it was time to go. We no longer felt welcomed and everyone was pretty much ready to go. 

We moved to a hotel, enrolled in a school that was opened on the west bank and was ready to began rebuilding our lives.

We eventually got a fema trailer and my grandmother brought a house on the westbank because her house was destroyed. My house was a two story so my dad gutted out the bottom and we just lived at the top of the house.

After the hurricane and moving back I began to grow. I met many new friends and many new people. Social media began to take over so I was able to find some of my friends.

Although the city is back to normal and I grew a lot faster than I expected but the older I get the more I appreciate Katrina. It did destroy the home I knew but it taught me never to value anything because it can easily be taken away. 


DeQuanna Alexander is a senior mass communication major from New Orleans.