Katrina Victims Salvage Holiday Spirit

Yahoo News, AP

Friday 30 December 2005, 12:07 am

By Mary Foster, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS - The congregation of First Emmanuel Baptist Church drove from Baton Rouge, Houston and other points far and wide on Christmas, then walked past collapsed buildings and piles of storm wreckage to worship in their old church for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

Cheryl Anderson was only too happy to get up at 2 a.m. Christmas morning to begin cooking in the tiny kitchen of the trailer she shares with her husband, son and three grandchildren. Even the location, on the grounds of Metairie Cemetery, where her husband works, didn't bother her.

Anderson, 46, floated away from her house on a door when the water hit 9 feet. She spent two days on an overpass, then took shelter at the Superdome before being evacuated to Birmingham, Ala. Her family was scattered across four states and it took her months to find them.

"I didn't think I'd live to see this Christmas," Anderson said. "Now we're having everything like a regular Christmas — the gumbo, the ham, all of it. Everything except a tree. That won't fit in the trailer."

"You get 14 feet of water in your house and it don't leave much," said Harold Hansford, who had managed to salvage a few Christmas decorations from the attic. This year his house is decorated with the marks painted on by rescue workers as they made their way through the neighborhood looking for people and bodies.

"I never imagined Christmas like this," he said. "Not much left, but we'll be back."