Hurricane Katrina Victim Gets a Second Chance

Kristie was the director of special events for the New Orleans Mayor’s Office. The college graduate lived in an apartment in downtown New Orleans with her 7-year old daughter. Renee was a Personnel Recruiter. She lives in Westchester County with her dog in a three-bedroom, 2 Ã?½ bath house, complete with finished basement. Before August 29th, the two women probably never would have met. But on that day, life changed for Kristie, and thousands like her. Hurricane Katrina hit land at about 5 a.m. that Monday. With 145 mph winds and 20-foot swells, the Category 4 monster pounded into the Gulf Coast. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds of people were killed. Kristie was one of the lucky ones. She decided early on that she would evacuate the area, taking her daughter to stay with her mom in Lafayette, La. They were safe, but their home – and everything in it – was ruined. Renee just couldn’t sit back and do nothing. “My heart went out to the people who lost everything,” she said. “I knew I had more space than I needed.” And with that, Renee placed an ad on Kristie had to find a new place to live. So she went online, found Renee’s ad, responded and devoted herself to moving to New York. She had wanted to move to the Big Apple in a couple of years, but Katrina’s wrath changed her timeframe and put that plan into immediate action. Renee only received three responses to her ad. Kristie was the first person to give a definite commitment. Many people would have felt apprehensive to having a stranger live in their home, but not Renee. She had checked the references that Kristie had provided her. “She faxed me a copy of her drivers’ license so I could be assured she had a New Orleans address and I checked (âÂ?¦) her references.” So with an oral agreement made Kristie arrived in New York on Sept 12. She flew to Rochester, took a bus to New York City, and then got a lift to Renee’s house, 30 minutes from the city. She showed up without her daughter, leaving her with her grandmother because, according to Renee Kristie “didn’t want to disrupt life her needlessly”. When Renee first saw Kristie, she was surprised by how poised and collected she was. “She got a little teary when she saw how nice the room I had for her was,” Renee said. The next day Kristie got to work. “She took the train into the city with me on Tuesday to spend time in the library sending out resumes. She already has an interview scheduled for next Thursday. She got a per diem job at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. for the weekend. They’re paying her travel expenses so she flew out there (Wednesday) morning. She’ll be back on Monday,” Renee says. “Kristie’s amazing! I had originally intended to lock the door between the basement and the kitchen for security reasons, but now that I see what a lovely person she is I will be allowing her access to the kitchen” (and the rest of my house). Aside from offering up her home, Renee is determined to help Kristie get back on track. “I’ve offered her clothes, use of my office for sending out resumes, help with finding a job,” she says, “but she’s extremely independent and so far hasn’t taken me up on many of my offers.” But when she returns, Kristie will have a private room in which to lay her head. And with that she will also have a big head start on rebuilding her life with her daughter. “I hope she will have the grounding for a terrific and successful new life. She is already touched by the great outpouring of love and generosity in this country. Hopefully some day she will be in a position to help someone else in need,” said Renee. “If an unexpected catastrophe like this can totally disrupt the life and plans of someone like Kristie, it could happen to any of us.” Thousands of people are opening their doors to the survivors of Katrina. On Craigslist, there are currently 140 ads posted by New Yorkers, 250 by Californians and 170 by Texans, as well as many more providing temporary housing for people who lost their homes. And they are all like Renee. All they want to do is help. And for Kristie, her home may now be under water and in despair, but for her and her daughter, their futures are full of sunshine and hope, thanks to the kindness of one stranger with one room to spare.

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