Louisiana family finds new home as churches join to help others
By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 7, 2005 1:50 PM
Tina Toussaint's cousin in Fremont, Eula Holden, begged her to get out of the house the Sunday before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.
"No. We want to stay," Mrs. Toussaint said. She and her husband, Kenneth, and their son, John, had seen storm waters rise and go back down on previous occasions.
The storm came through early Monday morning, and when the Toussaints got up, they saw the high water. It was over the tops of cars.
The waters always receded before, but not this time.
The family waded 10 blocks through five feet of water Tuesday and caught a ride on a National Guard truck and rode to the Super Dome.
"There we met the lines of people," Mrs. Toussaint said. "We had to be searched before we could go in. There was no water, no lights. They gave us water and military rations. We had to stand in long lines and fight our way to get that."
They stood in another line for 14 hours three days later to get on a bus destined for Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans to catch a plane for San Antonio, Texas, where a Red Cross shelter awaited them.
The shelter was on the former Kelly Air Force Base.
"They checked us in, and we were able to see doctors," Mrs. Toussaint said. "We were there two days. There were 20,000 people in the shelter, and more were coming."
Three more buses were on the way when Mrs. Toussaint called her cousin.
Mrs. Holden's son-in-law, who works for American Airlines, asked his supervisor for help, and the airline relayed a message to come on. The flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport would be free.
They arrived at 2:17 p.m. Sunday to start a new life in Wayne County. Mrs. Toussaint was a hairstylist at Fantastic Sams before she resigned to help her husband start his new trucking business. They were in business three days before the storm hit.
The truck is under water now, and it's a tall truck, Toussaint said.
John Toussaint was starting college classes after having recently graduated from two years at Texas Bible College. He said he hasn't had time yet to look at nearby colleges.
"I want to design video games," he said.
Area residents are invited to attend a meeting to discuss ways to help the Toussaints and other survivors of Katrina. Rebuilding Broken Places will host the meeting Sept. 13 at its office next door to the former Oriental Jade Restaurant. The address is 2105 N. William St.
One of the coordinators of the effort, the Rev. William Barber, said he wants to help five to seven families who have survived Katrina, making it possible for them to move to Wayne County permanently.
"We're also gathering needs sheets that can be forwarded to congregations," Barber said.
The volunteers discovered an e-mail address where those who want to help can coordinate with the national effort. The address is Katrinaneeds@yahoo.com.
Barber said he has been working with 40 pastors across North Carolina to coordinate a relief effort. He said 30 churches in the state have agreed to open their fellowship halls to people trying to get up north to their families. Some of the shelters opened in Wayne County are Christ Centered Church, St. Mark, Best Grove and Christian Life.
A tractor trailer truck is being loaded with backpacks filled with school supplies, bottled water and monetary donations for the children who have survived Katrina. The truck will leave the parking lot of Rebuilding Broken Places Sept. 16 for a church that's housing people in Houston, Texas or in Mississippi.
Local volunteers Pierce Crank and his wife, Christine, will fly to meet the truck to make sure the supplies reach their destination.
The Rev. Aaron McNair is also filling a tractor trailer truck with donated items for the Katrina survivors at the church he pastors in Farmville. He said a minister in Houston told him there is a great need for personal hygiene items, liquid soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, washcloths, wipes, hairbrushes and combs and waterless sanitizers.
The people in Fremont have been very generous with donations to the family, Mrs. Holden said. She and her husband are fixing up her father's house for the Toussaints.
"They have almost a house furnished," she said. "They still need a refrigerator and a washer and dryer."
The Dollar General Store donated clothing and told the family to come back if they need anything else. The mayor, the town administrator and the police chief came to visit and said the town would do all it can to help.
"I've been to New Orleans to visit her," Mrs. Holden said. "It was a lovely place. Now when I see Canal Street on the news I get the chills. It's underwater."
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