Unhappy anniversary: 2 years after Katrina
Brooks left her home in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward August 28, 2005, one day ahead of the storm, with nothing but the clothes in her suitcase. "We thought we were going to be back in a few days," she says.
Her sister drove Brooks and two of her children– she has eight altogether– to Memphis. Today she lives in Charlottesville and reflects on the events of two years ago.
"It's sad," she says during her lunch break at Kroger, where she fries chicken for the deli. "I know people who drowned, babies drowned..."
Although Brooks, 50, still hasn't been back, one of her daughters returned to their old neighborhood. "It's all messed up," reports Brooks.
A son who was living in Charlottesville urged her to move here. Churches provided gift cards for food and household items for her apartment. Anne Brown, who was the property manager with Dogwood Housing, took Brooks to pick out furniture collected by the Charlottesville Hurricane Relief Initiative and borrowed her husband's pickup to deliver it. "We provided a lot of support," she recalls, and even though she no longer works at Dogwood, she says she still keeps in touch with Brooks.
"[Brooks] is one of the success stories– she stayed," says Kinda Sandridge, who headed up the relief effort spearheaded by Robert Tobey and Associates. Today, Charlottesville Hurricane Relief Initiative is "dormant," says Sandridge, but could awaken if the need arises again. She estimates the organization collected around $45,000 and helped 65 families in some way or another with furniture or clothes.
Financially, it's been rough for Brooks. But she says her children, Joshua, 12, and Precious, 15, "like it okay" here, and Precious, now a ninth grader at Charlottesville High, has been making As and Bs.
Brooks moved to New Orleans when she was 15, and she still misses the city where she spent most of her life– especially the food. "I don't worry about the gumbo– I can make that myself," she says. "You can't find no good Chinese food. And Popeye's chicken. And seafood– crawfish, crabs... "
Brooks says sadly, "I wish I was at home." But she knows it could be much worse. "I got my life. That's the most important thing."