Kanelia Nixon is a single mother, a math teacher and always willing to help a friend or family member in need. Missing her right hand from birth, she had no choice but to roll with life’s ups and downs right from the start. “Yeah, I’m left-handed,” she said with a smile. “I had to be.”
On October 10, 2019, when Hurricane Michael plowed through the small South Georgia town of Albany, Kanelia, her three children, Kynnadi, Collen and Caiden, and her mom, Willa Mae Clark, clung to each other on the living-room floor of her brother’s home. “It was very scary,” said Kanelia. “You could hear the trees crackling and hitting the ground and we weren’t sure if the trees would land on the roof over our heads or not. All my kids are still terrified every time the wind starts to blow or it starts to rain.”
After the storm passed, Kanelia and her children returned home—unsure of what they would find. Thankfully, the house was still standing—but roof damaged forced the family into a hotel for a couple of days and it took weeks to clear the massive amounts of trees and branches that blocked the family’s path form their driveway to their home. “For about a month, every time we came or left the house, I had to help all the kids up and over all the trees. It was hard.”
Today, a pile of branches and some torn off pieces of siding remain on the property—visible evidence that the third strongest hurricane in U.S. history passed through only one year ago. As for the home, the Nixon family is still living with a tarp over a portion of their four-bedroom safe-haven. “This leaves my mom one of the rooms and me sleeping in one of the kid’s rooms,” Kanelia said. “We’re just rolling with it. We have to.”
Since Michael tore through, Kanelia and her kids have discussed what to do during an emergency. “We’ve talked about big storms as a family,” Kanelia said. “The kids all know where to go if a tornado comes through and they all know our family meeting spot in case we get separated or have to evacuate for a fire or something else.” Kanelia thinks that talking about emergencies might make the kids less apprehensive about experiencing another hurricane.
In mid-July, the Nixon family grew by one. Layla, Kanelia’s 2-year old niece, moved from New York to Albany, to live with the family. “I’m happy to help out my sister and take Layla in,” Kanelia said. “It’s much better than foster care.”
Now, with four children to comfort, care for and feed, Kanelia is even more grateful for the assistance she received from the Red Cross. “The help from the Red Cross really made a difference with groceries and hotel bills,” said Kanelia. “We’re still on a waiting list to get our roof fixed-up; but I’m just thankful we are all still alive.”