Almost one month to the day Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, newly-relocated Denver resident Lynn Burnett was amazed by the devastation around her.
Her first real look at Katrinaâ€™s wrath came as she drove into the town sheâ€™s called home for the past 41 years. She got into the city on Sept. 28 around 11 p.m. and had to wait until the next day to see how her apartment had survived the storm.
â€œI had to go into New Orleans through the Causeway Bridge,â€ she said. â€œThe Twin Span bridges were gone.
Those werenâ€™t the only sights missing.
â€œThere are these three buildings right off the causeway that we call the Lakeview buildings and all the windows on the north side of the buildings were gone,â€ she said. â€œUsually, New Orleans is lit up at night, but the city was completely black.â€
During daylight, as she went down the street she once lived, she noticed some buildings were missing sides or roofs and others had the blue FEMA tarps on them.
Brunett said that while things looked fairly normal outside her apartment building, it was a different story inside.
â€œWhen I got to my apartment, it was very (difficult) to get the door open,â€ she said. â€œWhen I got inside, I started crying. It was worse than the pictures that were sent to me.â€
According to Brunett, her Jefferson Parish apartment was partially underwater with mold growing all over everything.
â€œI decided that even though with gloves and a mask, it wasnâ€™t safe for me to be in there,â€ she said.
What further complicated matters for Brunett is the fact that parts of the ceiling of her apartment had collapsed onto her things.
â€œI talked with a friend of mine whoâ€™s a firefighter and he said it wasnâ€™t safe to try and move things,â€ she said. â€œHe said moving things would probably make even more of the ceiling collapse.â€
She also says she has no plans to go back and live in New Orleans.
â€œA lot of people in New Orleans have asked me to come home,â€ said Brunett. â€œI tell them I came home to Denver and this is my home. Iâ€™m going to make a life here. I went back home because I needed some closureâ€
While Brunett is getting back on her feet, she is staying with the Templin family in Denver, a family she met on a cruise 12 years ago.
â€œSheâ€™s a great person so that makes it pretty easy,â€ said Jackie Templin. â€œIâ€™d like to think that somebody would do that for me.â€
If the roles were reversed, Brunett would be doing the same for her, Templin said.
Brunett has already experienced differences between her life in New Orleans and her life in Denver.
One difference , according to Templin, is Brunett is seeing has to do with her job as a receptionist for the law firm of Deborah Johnson of Lincolnton â€” Louisiana law versus North Carolina law.
â€œWe have Napoleonic law in Louisiana, where everythingâ€™s spelled out in black-and-white with no room for interpretation,â€ said Brunett. â€œHere in North Carolina, itâ€™s common law and is open for interpretation.â€
Brunettâ€™s heart goes out to her family and friends who are back in New Orleans, people who decided to rebuild their lives there.
â€œAnyone who stays in New Orleans is strong,â€ she said. â€œWith all of the devastation, itâ€™s unreal. Nobody should have to live that way.â€
by Jon Mayhew