Guest Writer Feature: Hurricane sends Peña family to Texas


Danielle Bell

Jenna Abadie the guest writer

by Jenna Abadie, Guest Writer

They used to go to festivals all the time, roam the streets with family and laugh like there was no tomorrow. Now whenever they go back, they will always be reminded of what happened nine years ago.

Nine years ago  in August, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with a category 5 storm, but the town was not prepared for such a devastating hurricane. Shanda Peña is a Hurricane Katrina survivor, along with the rest of her family.

“We started driving towards Georgia, where my parents were going,” Peña said. “We thought that we would go back that week, we didn’t think it would be so life changing.”

Coming home at twelve o’clock in the morning, she and her husband Richard put their two daughters in their car and drove off towards Georgia. They were lucky to get out fast before the storm picked up.

“Richard and I were at a bar doing a tribute to a night out against crime,” Peña said. “We saw the news with the mayor and meteorologist, which was weird because the mayor rarely came on the news. His hair was messed up and he was shaking. He said, ‘I can’t legally tell you this, but you need to evacuate the area. I am doing this with my family, and am wanting you to do so, too.’”

Living in New Orleans, Louisiana was an important part in Peña’s life. She was extremely close with friends and family there, and lived there since she was fourteen until Katrina. The now somewhat dangerous town was once where all their memories were made.

“We spent every moment we could together, anniversaries, birthdays, major holidays, everything,” Peña said. “We would play outside most of the time, even though we had board games, too. It was more fun outside.”

Peña and her family’s first visit back in October that year brought many different feelings among them.

“Driving into New Orleans they had armies surrounding the place, and we could only go back into certain parts,” Peña said. “It was weird because there were no lights, it was scary to see the water higher than usual, and the smell of death was so strong. They made marks on houses that said if anyone was alive that lived in the household. Only Home Depot, Lowes, and restaurants were open, and we had a curfew. The smell was the one thing that stuck out. It was something we could never forget.”

The Peña family has lived in Texas for about nine years. They have met lots of new people, and think it’s safe to say that they won’t be moving back to Louisiana, but not just because of new experiences in Texas.

“We wouldn’t consider moving back,” Peña said. “The crime rate was high back then, and it’s even higher now. You can’t even walk on some streets because people are doing horrible things to others.The girls were also enrolled in private school, since the public ones weren’t good. We feel safer here in Texas.”

Staying calm was a key into being brave, and even though this memory leaves a saddening track on their hearts, they will always see New Orleans as a place where their memories were made.

“I was very calm,” Peña said. “We didn’t think it would change our lives this much, so we didn’t worry.”