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Evacuees find safe haven

During the first of their 36 years of marriage, Henry and Elaine Jones made their home on Fort Bragg’s army base.
Since then, the couple has lived in Louisiana and raised a family. They are now proud grandparents.
“New Orleans isn’t like any other city,” said Henry. “If you’re born there, you die there.”
When news of Hurricane Katrina hit the airwaves, the family sat glued to the television. They soon learned they would have to evacuate.
“Our major worry was when it entered the gulf – then it was panic time,” said Elaine.
The couple gathered the family, packed up their things and drove through five states to the home of Henry’s sister, who lives in Iron Station.
And so, Henry and Elaine found themselves in North Carolina again.
“We made a big ol’ circle,” Henry said.
It wasn’t easy for the family to make it to Iron Station. Along with Elaine and Henry came their daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren ages 7, 3 and 4 months. The family dog, Tiny, was also on board.
Driving to North Carolina in a van and a truck, the family was plagued with questions like “Can we make it? Do we have enough gas?” It made for an extremely tense trip.
“We had to stop in many rest stops,” said Elaine.
Many stops were also made for then-4-month-old Tyrene, who had to have his bottle warmed with a generator.
During the ordeal, Tyrene’s father, Henry Jr., was working in California as an union electrician.
He learned about the hurricane on television and called his wife of two and a half years, Emma.
“I called her, and they were leaving,” Henry Jr. said.
Once his family made it to North Carolina, Henry Jr. went on a trip of his own — he flew to North Carolina in order to be with his family.
Henry and Elaine’s daughter, her husband and their two children eventually went to Atlanta.
The rest of the family stayed together, and after spending many nights sleeping on the floor, they found a house of their own in Lincolnton.
Throughout their ordeal, the Lincoln Chapter of the American Red Cross and the kindness of strangers have helped them through.
“Since we’ve been here, the people of Lincoln County have been more than generous,” Elaine said. “We just want to say a sincere thanks to all the people.”
Henry was originally worried that people would be hostile — seeing New Orleans evacuees as bringing crime and taking jobs.
Thankfully, this was not the case.
“You have some decent people,” he said.
While the family members are fans of North Carolina, where they will eventually end up remains unsure.
“This is one of the nicest places I’ve been before,” said Henry Jr.
His father is a little more set in his ways.
“I miss home,” Henry said. “I’m not going to lie.”
Since evacuating, Henry has been back home twice and found the experience unpleasant.
“There is no home,” he said. “It was total destruction.”
In fact, his old neighborhood reminded him of being in Vietnam. Members of the National Guard walked around with big guns, making everyone uneasy.
“It seemed like they would have shot anyone who got out of line,” Henry said.
Life in Lincolnton isn’t quite so stressful now. The family has a little house with hardwood floors and a big picture window.
Whether or not they choose to stay, the family is thankful to have survived the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, even if their worldly goods did not.
“This is the one they’ve been warning us about,” said Elaine.
by Sarah Grano

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