NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk family vividly remembers the sights and sounds of the costliest and deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, which wiped through their former home of New Orleans.
A decade later, Schwanda Dillon and her son Jeremy say they are happy to be alive after underestimating the power of the storm.
“We still didn’t think it was going to be terrible because we’ve had them come through before and we’ve never had to evacuate before,” said Mrs. Dillon. “I didn’t think it was going to be that magnitude.”
Katrina eventually swallowed entire neighborhoods and left more than 1,800 people dead.
“I just grabbed up enough clothes for two or three days to take with us, and I picked up the photos because I knew if the storm got really bad they couldn’t be replaced,” said Dillon.
The storm did get really bad in her hometown of Gretna, LA. The family recalls the water rising and taking cars away like toys.
“I just laid there, prayed and said, ‘Lord, whatever it is, let it go by fast,” said Mrs. Dillon.
“I remember waking up to all the wind and rain pounding against the window,” said Jeremy Dillon.
The family arrived in Virginia two weeks after the storm. They had limited knowledge of the area but had previously looked into moving to the Virginia Beach area.
In the following days, Jeremy was enrolled at Norview Elementary School and Schwanda became gainfully employed in the medical field.
The family says they’ve been back to the New Orleans area a few times since 2005 and are pleased to see the success in growth and development.
While there has been much progress, some say the city’s poorer areas have been neglected over the past decade. A majority of those living in the hardest hit Lower Ninth Ward have not returned since the storm.