As Hurricane Isaac takes aim at Louisiana, a Harlem woman who fled Katrina seven years ago is thinking of her family awaiting the storm in the Big Easy.
“I’m so far away, I feel I can’t do anything,” Elitia Mattox said Tuesday.
She had just called her Aunt, who intended to ride out the storm in her Uptown New Orleans home, where she had stocked up on candles, flashlights and ice for a cooler.
Mattox said her aunt's home was flooded with two feet of water during Katrina, leaving a legacy of green mold. Still, as long as the evacuation remained voluntary, Mattox said most of her family in New Orleans would be staying put.
“It’s déjà vu all over again,” Mattox said.
She was a graduate student in New York during Katrina and was on break in New Orleans at the time. She remembers evacuating her three children, ages 12, 10 and 4, and other family members who didn't own a car and had at first refused to leave.
Mattox had to hitchhike to the airport to get one of the last rental cars there, a P.T. Cruiser. “Then I had to drive back and convince everyone it was time to go,” she said.
Finally able to persuade her family to leave, Mattox drove the vehicle packed with nine people and all the luggage they could carry to her brother’s home in Allen, Texas.
“Interstate 10 was a parking lot,” Mattox said, recalling the drive.
What would have typically been an eight-hour trip became a 13-hour ordeal. Nonetheless, Mattox and her family escaped disaster as New Orlean's swollen levee system burst, leaving entire neighborhoods under water and necessitating a recovery that has taken years.
Mattox, who went on to become an NYC Teaching Fellow in the Bronx, remarried and enrolled her children in New York City public schools, hopes Isaac will be kinder than Katrina to her hometown and the people in it.