Neighbors in Need: Part V - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/18/05

Neighbors in Need: Part V

Sometimes, it's the simple things that mean the most, like spending time with your family doing familiar things. That's especially true for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Even though their lives and routines were thrown into chaos, many are settling in new states, in new homes with new routines.

What they're really looking for is some sense of normalcy. Like Brenda Stier, a New Orleans school teacher who's moved to Savannah with her daughter Allison, to be close to family during this difficult time.

Even something as simple as driving her daughter to kindergarten at Hesse Elementary is a reminder to Brenda that life is returning somewhat to normal. "She has been my saving grace, she really has been," Brenda said.

It's been three months since Brenda and Allison left their New Orleans home, and most of their belongings. All that they were able to salvage fits on a coffee table.

Brenda says she's fortunate. She saved some precious family photos, a tiny pair of boots from her father's childhood and a small collection of miniature clocks. They found those items during their first visit back, weeks after the storm.

Brenda will never forget it. "I got to my house. What I saw outside was toys and things from my daughter's room. I think that hurt the most, just seeing her stuff."

The Stiers' house in Midcity sits higher than many in New Orleans, but not high enough to escape water from the broken levies.

"My house was raised about three feet and I had about another two feet inside, so we probably had a good five feet in our neighborhood," said Brenda.

It took at least two weeks for the water to go down. Brenda's husband, Mike, who worked in the restaurant business, is still there cleaning up. "When you don't have your place of work any more and you don't have a job to go to, you pull the sheetrock out, you pull the floors out and you get rid of everything," said Brenda. "So that's what he's doing. He's living on our back deck right now in a tent."

She's concerned for his health and eager for him to come back. "I'm more worried about him now than I was then, because of the toll this is taking on him. What he's breathing in. Not just the building materials that come out, but the mold that's in the air."

She wants them to be a family again in the new community that's taken her and Allison in. "They made us feel like, here you are. We've been waiting here just for you and just for Allison," Brenda told us.

"Everything in here has been given to us from the people of Savannah," she said. "All day long at my mother's house, there were knocks on the door or packages left outside. Whether they were monetary contributions, clothes, toys, prayers. I was just speechless."

For now, they're not sure when or if they will ever go home. "For now, we're going to stay in this wonderful city with these wonderful people."

Brenda has since started teaching at Southwest Middle School. And even though the names and faces are different, she says it's wonderful to be back in the classroom.

She's going back to New Orleans next week, this time to bring back her husband, so they'll all be together again very soon.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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