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Katrina: the Long Road Back

Elderly Survivor Focuses on Future

WILMINGTON -- Images of Hurricane Katrina are ones most Americans will not soon forget.  There is agony often expressed in the faces and the voices of the young.  But some of the people most affected by Hurricane Katrina are the elderly.

Helen Byerley, 93, now lives at the Davis Health Care Center in Wilmington.  But a year ago she lived in New Orleans.  She refused to evacuate with the rest of her family and ended up having to be rescued by a cab driver.

She was sent to the Superdome, Astrodome and then to a hotel where her family was able to find her.  Byerly said she was lucky.  Others were not.

"Not everyone survived," said Byerley.  "I don't know why I did, but here I am."

Elise Howard, Byerley's granddaughter, said it was tough for her grandmother to talk about her friends who died during Katrina, and the elderly who never made it out.

"I think that in her situation, she chooses not to think about it," said Howard, "and not to remember a lot of things that happened."

Now Byerley is focusing on the future, and that can be tough at times.  She said it was the small things at Davis that help her get through the day, like her favorite activity: eating.

People often asked Byerley if she wanted to make it back to New Orleans.  She said it was her home and she loved it, even though it is a home she would recognize now.

Reported by Kacey Gaumer

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