Monday, September 12, 2005

Family Clan Reunites at Red Cross Shelter

Thursday, September 08, 2005 — BIRMINGHAM – Late at night, past the Jefferson Civic Center doors in Birmingham, Ala., sleeps a family of 47 joined by a complex network of family ties and friendships whose bonds were too strong for even Hurricane Katrina to break.
This family, who regrouped here after Katrina’s wrath, now calls this American Red Cross shelter in Birmingham “home” along with more than 200 other evacuees.
The Cain clan, as they call themselves, called New Orleans home before Hurricane Katrina loomed in the Gulf of Mexico and placed New Orleans in its crosshairs. Packing up their loved ones in a New York minute didn’t allow for any belongings to be grabbed when the Cains loaded up a five-car entourage in about an hour.
Venita Seals, godmother to Kenny Cain, traveled in this convoy with her mother and two sons.
“We didn’t stop for anything,” Seals said. “We looked out the rearview mirror and saw the hurricane coming in the background. The kids were scared so I said, ‘hey, we’re going to pretend we’re Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark’.”
Metrell Cain with her five-month-old son, Derren, join 45 other loved ones in calling the Jefferson Civic in Birmingham, Ala., home after evacuating from New Orleans to escape the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 6, 2005. (Photo Source: Hector Emmanuel/American Red Cross)
Metrell Cain and her three children, ages 12, 2 and 5 months, were also traveling with Seals. Metrell left behind her car and home, but she doesn’t believe she’ll have either when she returns to her birthplace.
As Metrell carved a path away from the hurricane, her brother Edward Nedd gathered his fiancée, his 15 year old son and his in-laws together in a local New Orleans hotel to ride out Hurricane Katrina.
While the first two days after the storm were passable, the third day Nedd and his family faced flooding, no electricity and no running water. They also ran out of food and drinkable water. Nedd walked through neck-high water to a relative’s house to find food and water and to plan an evacuation route.
Nedd and his family trekked through the water with their belongings in plastic bags that floated along the water – the children sitting on the adults’ shoulders. Ten family members in all loaded into a truck – four in the front cab and six in the bed of the truck. They drove towards Texas hoping to find a place to stay and looking for family.
As they neared Texas, Nedd got a call from his family who were safely ensconced in the Red Cross shelter at the Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham. Nedd turned the truck around and headed toward Alabama – driving more than 15 hours and detoured by broken bridges, flooded roads and horrible road conditions.
Meanwhile Terri Turner, Nedd’s sister-in-law, was still in Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. As an essential employee, she was required to remain until all patients were safely evacuated. Terri and her parents remained in the hospital until just a few short days ago when they were evacuated by helicopter and transported to the Alabama shelter where the rest of her family awaited her arrival.
“I got in at 3 a.m., was welcomed by the Red Cross staff and led to a hot shower – it was great,” said Turner.
With all of the recent reunifications, the Cains’ clan of 47 members is still not complete. Seals is missing her sister, who she last spoke to on the Sunday preceding Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. Her sister, who is deaf, called in a communication relay regarding the storm; however, Seals has not heard from her in more than a week. Tim Mutin, a cousin of Metrell’s who is staying in the shelter, has three brothers who remained in New Orleans. Mutin has not talked to them since the storm struck.
As their 20-plus kids run through the shelter play space and deal cards, the Cains reflect on what their futures hold with some assistance from the Red Cross. Seals hopes to call Birmingham her home.
“Never in my life have I met people who have such divine compassion,” she said. Turner also believes that she’ll remain in Birmingham.
Metrell would ideally like to return to New Orleans with her three children, but certain that both her home and car are waterlogged and useless. While she weighs her options, Metrell will stay in a Red Cross shelter.
“I want to go home,” she said – echoing the sentiments of many evacuees, as she held her five-month-old son, Derren. “But it looks like I’m going to be here for a while.”


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