Neighbors in Need: Part II

What would you do if you had to start over from scratch? Thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims are doing just that. They're people of all ages, from all walks of life. Now many are coming to the Coastal Empire to start new lives.

We talked with one young woman who's facing several challenges since the storm, Aura Bishop. Since the storm, she's had to find a new place to live, in a new state, with a new job and a new school.

That's a lot to handle. But when a friend encouraged her and her boyfriend to come to Savannah, she decided to give it a try.

Aura just began studying performing arts at the University of New Orleans when Katrina called. "I was in school a week when this hit. We had just gotten textbooks and everything."

Suddenly Aura and her boyfriend found themselves on the road, in a mad dash to outrun the storm. "Somehow, we just knew this one was a little different and it was kind of hard to believe, that two days later, we were in the car leaving and not sure what was going to happen next," she told us. "The first week was probably the hardest."

They rode out the storm in Jackson, Mississippi. Their home, in Metairie, Louisiana--a suburb of New Orleans--survived, but they couldn't go back.

"We were very fortunate," said Aura. "Our house wasn't flooded, but we did lose work and school was closed, so that's why we came to Savannah."

Doors opened for Aura here with a new job at Savannah Coffee Roasters and a new school. The Savannah College of Art and Design was taking in students affected by the storm. Two days after arriving in Savannah, Aura started classes.

"It's been kind of a whirlwind, a lot of last-minute decisions, but it's been going really well since we've been here and everybody's been really nice," Aura said. "It's a lot like home."

Still, she's had struggles. "It has been a little difficult, juggling relocating and trying to keep up with my class work, so I haven't been doing as well as I normally do, but I am glad to be here."

And she's grateful for the support she's found. "I really think that the events that have happened over the last couple of months have brought out the best in a lot of people."

Including those in her new school. "They helped me to get some supplies I needed for school and they waived tuition for students who were from the affected areas for the fall semester."

But it's Aura's fortitude that those who know her admire. Savannah Coffee Roasters manager Heather Brower told us, "She's just been wonderful. She's really worked on it to the best of her ability, making great progress in a bad situation."

As New Orleans rebuilds, Aura's considering returning home next summer or early fall. "I'm actually very proud to be from New Orleans," she said. "It sounds like everybody is putting in their best efforts to move on and go forward back at home and we'd like to be a part of that."

But she might stay here. "It's a possibility. I think it's too early to make that decision, but we're definitely enjoying it while we're here."

Aura's boyfriend, Robin, is a writer. He's working in retail sales right now, but he's hoping to also do some writing like he did in Louisiana.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com