Many who fled New Orleans after Katrina remain

August 29, 2010 4:17:48 PM PDT
Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and left 80 percent of New Orleans under water. Thousands of evacuees ended up here in Houston and five years later, many are still here. A Katy-area neighborhood is now home for the Villarnovos.

"My favorite color is pink, so my entire room is pink," said Barbara Villarnovos, 17.

Barbara has spent her teenage years adjusting to life as a Houstonian, but the hard part for this smart, beautiful girl wasn't rebuilding friendships.

"I made friends the very first day and I'm still friends with them now," she said.

Instead, it was being swept away from the city she loves.

A childhood wall clock and a school certificate are the only things she was able to salvage from her old room before Katrina washed everything away. When the levees broke, water rushed into her house.

Her dad swam to roof and was rescued by boat. He was sheleterd at the University of New Orleans. Now all they have are a few pictures her mother was able to find.

Barbara never went back inside her childhood home.

"I just couldn't go in," she said. "It would've broken my heart completely to actually see what happened. Right now, I can sort of imagine it, but I don't actually want to know what happened.

The Villarnovos have sprinkled a little bit of New Orleans throughout their Houston-area home; a Mardi Gras boa, Saints throw pillows and a bedroom wall dedicated to the hornets...

"I used to go to their games all the time," said Barbara. "It reminds me of home."

And while they're happy here, the Villarnovos say it's still hard thumbing through the only tangible memories they have left, even today five years later.

"We at least have something to remember," said Barbara.

Barbara and her family still have relatives living in New Orleans, so they go back to visit them. Barbara tells me she's looking forward to *moving back soon. She hopes to attend Tulane University next year.


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