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Gimme Shelter

Katrina Survivors Try to
Rebuild Their Lives

Five stories of storm victims on the road to recovery after their community was devastated

Joan Pfarrer and her husband, Pat, both 74, stood in the sunlit safety of their daughter's home in Plano, Texas, remembering the first shock of their loss. Katrina's fury had destroyed their ranch home in Biloxi, Miss., leaving only a cement slab.

Just months away from their 50th wedding anniversary, the couple had nothing left but the few family photos they had grabbed before fleeing. When Pat returned from surveying the destruction, he put his arm around his wife and said, "Think about it this way, honey—you're my new June bride. It's just like we're starting out all over again."

The winds and waters of Katrina uprooted and upended the lives of almost 1 million Americans, many of them older people who thought they were set for life, only to see that life shattered.

In the months to come they will begin to deal with their losses and with the haunting memories of those hot, deadly days during and after the storm. Experts warn friends and family to be patient: "There should never be a time when we say that's enough, get back to normal, because normal may not ever be what it was before," says Sarah Selleck, a gerontologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

But for now, people are pushing aside the trauma to get on with their lives—cashing government relief checks, contacting insurers, registering for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and reconstructing their financial records. Resilient, thankful, highly focused, many are moving quickly and deliberately toward their uncertain futures.

"I Have To Start Somewhere"Back to Article

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