3 years after Katrina, Gustav evacuees make Knoxville temporary home

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Hundreds of Hurricane Gustav evacuees are finding shelter in Knoxville.

About a hundred of the evacuees have a temporary home at the Knox Area Red Cross shelter in Knoxville's First Baptist Church downtown

Some say they were just about back on their feet three years after Hurricane Katrina, and now they have to wait and wonder how far Hurricane Gustav has set them back.

Two-month-old Andrew Reed's cries capture the way many evacuees from New Orleans feel as they watch Gustav spin toward their home. Andrew's uncle, who shares the same first name, drove the whole family to Knoxville. After Katrina they wound up in Kentucky. It took them over a year to get back home.

New Orleans evacuee Andrew Reed says, "I don't know we may not go back. We may stay ourselves. Some of our family members, after Katrina, they didn't go back."

Many at the shelter watch television closely as Gustav comes ashore. Aaron Davis just moved back into his home about a month ago. As an employee of the city water department, he's seen how far New Orleans has come since Katrina, and knows how quickly all that work could be undone.

New Orleans evacuee Aaron Davis says, "Right now. We're just worried about whether the levees are going to hold, whether our house is still there, whether our homes is still there."

New Orleans evacuee Wilmer Vappie says, "I tried to ride Katrina out, but I couldn't"

Wilmer Vappie spent days wading through Katrina's flood waters, literally seeing the death that storm left behind. He says he won't make that mistake again."

Vappie says, "Whenever there's a hurricane coming. I'm leaving every time, no doubt about it, I'm leaving, I don't care."

But even in the middle of the storm, some hold onto hope for the only home they've ever known.

Aaron Davis says, "It's just one of the things we have to deal with living in New Orleans, it's just home for us and I wouldn't live anywhere else."

First Baptist isn't the only Red Cross hurricane evacuee shelter in Knoxville, there's another one at Park West Church of God.

The big question now is how long it will be before the evacuees can return home.


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