Mama Shields: Surviving Hurricane Katrina

by Gabriel Botello

“It changed my whole life, I became homeless and jobless. I had possessions in my home that could never be replaced.”

With Hurricane Florence affecting residents of North and South Carolina, Bosco religion teacher Ms. Valerie “Mama” Shields reflected on her own story of being a victim of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Going through a hurricane is extremely tragic, and many people living in California are fortunate enough to have avoided the experience. Residents must leave their belongings, their money and most importantly their homes while evacuating. For some people, it’s the home they grew up in.

The main tragedy of the hurricane is the destruction it leaves in its wake. Imagine coming back to your home and seeing nothing but destruction, filth, and sadness. As for Ms. Shields, she explained that she was one of the lucky ones, as she evacuated her home early and had insurance to rebuild her home.

Other people who were less fortunate had no insurance, decided to stay and take on the storm, or even ended up losing their lives.

Not only is the destruction devastating, but it also takes a long time to rebuild the community fully.

“People in New Orleans expected the town to be completely rebuilt in five years, and now 13 years later it’s still suffering from Katrina,” said Ms. Shields.

Although this situation is a tragic one, many people such as the citizens who suffered, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the United States Coast Guard still contribute to New Orleans to have it rebuilt and return to its amazing and vibrant culture.

Although Ms. Shields lost lots of her possessions and her home, she explained that she experienced a sense of “humbleness” when she was being taken care of by the Red Cross Organization and while she witnessed many people of different ethnicities and ages in the same situation she was in.

“Seeing all those people giving us a helping hand to those who needed it really brought me to a sense of humbleness,” said Ms. Shields.

Sadly, another hurricane has recently arrived and began hitting the east coast of the United States last Friday: Hurricane Florence. Mandatory evacuations began early last week and lives have already been taken in the aftermath.

“I sometimes experience anxiety and PTSD because I worry for those who are going to suffer and I know what people are going to be going through,” said Ms. Shields.

“I share my story every year to give my students an idea that they are truly blessed everyday they are safe and to make sure that they help whomever needs it. Make sure that if you see a brother down, give them a hand.”

During this time, we can always look to give a helping hand and try to support those in a fight with Hurricane Florence.


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