I was six years old on August 23, 2005 living in Biloxi, Mississippi. My mom was a single parent and was deployed to Iraq and my grandma had moved down to Biloxi to take care of me while mom was deployed. Mom made sure we lived in a house that wasn’t in a flood zone.
To me it was just the same routine my mom and I took every time a hurricane warning happened; we would drive up to Huntsville, Alabama to my grandparents’ house, this time my grandma was taking me. We would be gone for a couple of days and come back home, but this time was different and I didn’t know it then. Hurricane Katrina had demolished all the Gulf Coast! I couldn’t go back home, flood damage by 5-foot swells. I had lost everything.
My mom had homeowner’s insurance and wind and hail insurance but she didn’t have flood insurance. My grandparents drove down to Biloxi and tried to save what they could but it was very little. I wasn’t allowed to go so I had no idea what the state of the house was in, plus being six years old everyone kept me on a normal routine and didn’t discuss much when I was around.
My mom would call grandma very early in the morning, while I was asleep, to verify information for the FEMA paperwork and other tasks that needed to be accomplished. This went on until my mom returned from Iraq at the end of October.
When my mom came home, grandma took me to Biloxi to pick her up at the airport. This was the first time I was able to see my house after Hurricane Katrina. The outside looked pretty good, no damage, but when I went inside the house, everything was “gutted”, it was just a frame. My mom’s superintendent was able to get her a room in the base dormitories since our house was unlivable, which was good, but that meant I couldn’t come back home with mom, I had to stay with my grandparents.
Insurance companies called the damage flood damage and my mom did not have flood insurance, so our insurance company wasn’t paying for any damage, but they did pay for lost food items and the wind and hail insurance paid for a new roof. So, the next phase of trying to fix our house began. Grandma would call all charities to try and get some help to put the house back together. Mom was back at work trying to help others who lived on base and lost everything. She had little time to help herself and her situation when she was helping everyone else.
There was a charity organization called “Service International” who were gutting houses, bleaching everything and doing everything they could to help. They eventually were able to put insulation and drywall up in our house as well as everyone house in our neighborhood, due to monies donated by people from all over the United States. We were even able to get doors and baseboards, but the rest of the house was a shell; there was nothing in the kitchen or the bathrooms and the floor was nothing but concrete. My mom and grandma were so worried since they didn’t know how they were going to fix the house without insurance and my mom didn’t want me to live with my grandparents forever since she knew I needed a home.
Grandma finally got a hold of a charity that volunteered to come to our house and put it back together. These five people came from Indiana and spent five days putting our house back together. They went to Lowe’s and bought the kitchen appliances, kitchen cabinets, paint, and closets. Mom had saved money to buy everything for both bathrooms such as sinks, toilets, faucets, etc.. These wonderful people spent over 12 hours a day fixing our house and they never stopped.
The house was completed and livable in April of 2006. Grandma brought me back down to live for good in May after school ended. Everything was new and I was happy to be home. It was luck that grandma was able to find those kind-hearted people to come fix our home. Who knows how long it would have been before I was able to live with mom again. All of this was due to not having flood insurance. There was a lot of stress and lost sleep for months over this. As soon as we moved back into the house, mom purchased flood insurance and has kept it ever since.
The Air Force moved us to Montgomery, Alabama and mom bought a house in Prattville, Alabama. She has since retired from the military and still lives there and she renews her flood insurance every year. I asked her once why she buys flood insurance since we don’t live near any water and we’re pretty far from Hurricane weather. She told me when I grow up to have full coverage on my car even if the car is paid off, do not get liability, keep full coverage; if you are renting an apartment, get renters insurance always; and never forget your flood insurance. Flood insurance doesn’t always mean flood from a Hurricane, it also works for flooding in your house when a pipe bursts. She also said, the moment you think you might not need it, is the moment you will need it and I never want you to go through the stress and heartache I went through after Katrina.
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