Katrina kids recall loss, trauma and recovery

Katrina kids recall loss, trauma and recovery

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - They are Katrina's youngest victims; children who've lost their homes, schools and even loved ones. Over the last 10 years, there have been numerous studies to find out if that violent storm has stirred up any mental health problems among children. We recently caught up with two former South Mississippi students who have experienced loss and recovery.

As a part-time model, Caroline Woods walks the runway with such poise and confidence.

"I did a fashion show one time and I was like, I love it! I have to start doing it," said Woods.

Her childhood wasn't exactly picture perfect. Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina ripped the roof off her Pascagoula home and flooded it with six feet of water.

"I was really scared and I didn't know what to do, because we had lost everything," Woods said.

Woods was nine years old when Katrina churned through South Mississippi. Back then, WLOX interviewed her and several of her classmates at St. Martin Upper Elementary who had gone through the same traumatic experience. Those memories came flooding back, especially of losing several of her pets who were in the bathroom.

"The water had gotten in there and all the kittens had died," said Woods. "I'm pretty sure I cried during it just because it was so scary and emotional."

"It was pure devastation. The house I grew up in was completely gone. I mean, I get emotional 10 years later talking about it," said Jessica Jenkins.

Jenkins recalls living in a cramped trailer after Katrina reduced her family's home in Pass Christian to just pilings. Flood waters also rushed through Pass High, so she spent her senior year in portable classrooms.

"Oh, it was a mess. It would rain and there would be mud everywhere," said Jenkins.

Volunteers from several states came to the rescue. They decorated a community center and donated dresses so the students could have prom and homecoming. Although the students couldn't return to Pass High for classes, the gym was repaired just in time so the seniors could graduate at the school.

"That storm really brought us together. I think we had more fun as a whole because of the things we went through together," said Jenkins.

That 18-year-old prom queen who once posed in her yellow dress among the ruins of her home will soon wear another gown, a white one.

"I'm getting married in October," said Jenkins.

She just started a new job as a lead teacher at D'Iberville Middle School.

"After the storm, you had all these teachers that came back and they stuck it out with us. Maybe was a good reason why I went into it," said Jenkins.

Woods also believes Katrina influenced her decision to major in interior design at USM this fall.

"I remember I helped my mom pick out stuff and we'd go shopping for new furniture and pictures, because we had to start completely over," said Woods.

Those Katrina kids are survivors, and they have learned there are friendships, family and fond memories no storm can ever destroy.

"There were so many people that came from so many different places just to help, so that definitely, it gave you hope and things will get better," said Woods.

The young ladies still keep in touch with their former classmates. The 2005-2006 class at Pass High is in the process of planning a 10-year reunion.

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