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Community Volunteer on Receiving End of Disaster

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Red Cross veteran and Hurricane Katrina volunteer seeks relief from flooding

“It’s been a crazy week, one we don’t want to relive,” said Louis and Tonya Trahan while taking a moment to sit down and decompress.

Louis is a 20-year veteran of the American Red Cross and 31-year veteran of the Maurice Volunteer Fire Department. He’s used to being the person helping, not the person on the receiving end of help. He recalls working in Red Cross shelters after Hurricane Katrina, saying he would leave his day job, come to the shelter and volunteer overnight, then shower and return to work the next day.

“Those people needed me, and I could be there to help. I never thought we’d be in a similar position,” said Louis.

Tonya explained that at 8 a.m. on Friday, August 12, she went to work thinking that the rain was going to be a typical “South Louisiana rain shower.” When her boss released everyone to go home just over an hour later due to the approaching weather, she realized that things might get a bad.

“Friday, the rain started, and they monitored it until about 9:30 a.m., and they released us to go home to care for our families,” she said.

Louis recalled that the coulees were coming up, and they didn’t think much because they were out of the flood zone. As the couple awoke on Saturday morning, they realized water had begun to rise up to the tires of their truck. Tonya decided that she’d look out the back door and take a few pictures, and her reading glasses fell into the water. When Louis went to try and fish them out with his hands, he quickly leaned back into the house and told Tonya, “It’s time to pack a bag and get out of here”.

The Trahans have been married 22 years. Living in Vermillion Parish, they were told that their home was on higher ground and that in order for their home to flood, the entire City of Maurice would have to be under water.  At 10:30 a.m., they decided to call 911 and placed their names on the list to be evacuated before night fall. Shortly after, Louis received a call from his little brother to see how they were fairing. He explained that the water was starting to rise, but didn’t want to be caught in their home with no way to get out. His brother rushed down in a boat and brought the Trahans to higher ground.

”It was a feeling of helplessness. My fire pager was in the vehicle, twelve inches of rain was around our house, and I’m sitting there not being able to do anything,” said Louis. “I never thought it would happen to us.”

“After all the years of Louis being involved with American Red Cross, we always knew that preparedness is what we have to do,” said Tonya. “During hurricane season, we’d always pack all of our memories into containers. After three years of packing and unpacking, I just didn’t unpack last year, so we’re lucky. We still have our memories, our lives. There are a lot of folks who don’t. They’ve lost everything – we consider ourselves lucky.”

Looking outside on the porch of Louis’s parents’ house, what they are calling their “temporary home”, sits the possessions they’re so proud of, in containers safe from the flood waters.