You probably remember hearing about Hurricane Katrina and all the damage that terrible storm caused, especially in New Orleans. For 12-year-old twins Joseph and John Moya, Hurricane Katrina wasn't just something they saw on TV. The boys lived through it with their mom, dad, older brother, and older sister. Together, they were trapped in their house for 5 days before being rescued. Joseph and John told us what it was like and how Hurricane Katrina has changed their lives forever.
Before the Storm
Joseph was worried before the storm, but he felt confident their yellow, wood-frame house would survive even a big hurricane. He knew they wouldn't starve, because their mom had just bought a lot of groceries. What he didn't count on though, was getting dehydrated — which is what happens when you get too hot and don't get enough to drink.
John was worried and less sure the house was a safe place to be. A lot of his friends from school evacuated, which means they left town before the storm arrived.
"I was worried if it was going to flood badly in my neighborhood or not. I was worried that the house would get destroyed or not," he said.
John said he was talking online with a bunch of friends from Louisiana before the storm. The friends dealt with being worried in different ways.
"One of them was saying she was scared of the hurricane going to hit. The other one was prepared and filled the tub up with water and had tons of bottles of water and food," John said. "Another friend of mine was saying he wasn't scared at all. He was acting as if it wasn't even going to hit."
But it did hit New Orleans on Monday, August 29. It would take 5 days — all week — before the Moya family was rescued.
During the Storm
John remembers it raining hard during the storm and said it was probably the most rain he'd seen in his entire life.
"I woke up in the middle of the hurricane. Everyone was in their houses or evacuated. The water was so high and there was things floating in the water and a lot of wind pushing things back," he said. When the water started coming into their house, they grabbed bed sheets and other stuff to try to block it. Nothing worked.
"When there was water in the house that started to rise, I was imagining us going on top of the roof or going to the attic and imagining water going even higher," John said.
They moved important stuff — like TVs, computers, and DVDs — into the attic, just in case the water got any higher.
Joseph remembers the water coming in, too. He sat in a chair, watching the water cover the floor.
"It was up to our ankles — I was relieved that it didn't go any higher. We just sat there and waited for the water to go down," he said. "I was looking outside most of the time hoping to get rescued. It flooded over my mom's car. If I were to step outside, I would probably have been floating."
Waiting to Be Rescued
As they waited to be rescued, they had no running water and no electricity. They couldn't communicate with anyone because even cell phones weren't working. The water went down after the second day, so it wasn't in the house anymore. But it was still flooding the streets outside, so they were trapped.
New Orleans has steamy hot weather for a lot of the year, so the house got really hot and uncomfortable without air conditioning. And although their mom had enough food, no one was very hungry — not even when she made grilled cheese sandwiches using a propane torch!
Joseph and John both tried to keep busy while the hours passed. John had a portable DVD player, but the battery died on the first day. The boys played GameBoys and read books.
"What really kept me busy was a book I was reading called The Abandoned," John said. "It made time go by quicker."
Joseph tried to keep a diary of his life during the storm and the aftermath. Only one radio station was coming in clearly on their radio — and the news wasn't good. It said it could take 6 months for the water to leave the city.
"Most of the time, I cried," Joseph said.
Meanwhile, their dad, Juan, kept busy feeding the dog, fanning the twins so they would feel cooler, and trying to keep everyone calm. Their older sister Francisca, 20, listened to music on her CD player and removed pictures from photo albums because she knew she wouldn't be able to take the heavy books with her. Like Joseph and John, their 18-year-old brother, Victor, read his books and wanted to know just one thing: When was someone coming to rescue them?
"I kept telling them they're picking up people on roofs first and then they will come for us," their mom, Marlene, said.
Finally, on Saturday — 5 days after the hurricane hit — help arrived. The U.S. military came into their neighborhood in boats. The boys' mom flagged down a boat and they were invited aboard. The boat ferried them to a bridge, where they waited for a helicopter to take them to the airport. Once at the airport, it was a long wait — 10 hours — for their plane. But at least their mom's cell phone started working at the airport so she could check in with friends and family.
This wasn't like a typical plane ride like you would take when going on vacation. They had no luggage and they didn't choose where they were going. The idea was just to get anywhere away from the storm-damaged city they were in. The plane took them to Austin, Texas, where they spent a night at a shelter for evacuated people. Then all six family members moved into one hotel room.
"We stayed at the hotel for a week, recuperating and trying to figure out what to do," their mom, Marlene, said.
Where Did They Go?
They couldn't go back to New Orleans because their neighborhood was still flooded and it wasn't safe to go back. Not only that, but basic stuff like schools and stores weren't open. As they tried to figure something out in Texas, a friend from Ohio came to the rescue. The friend offered to rent a van for the family so they could drive north to Ohio and stay there.
From Texas to Ohio is one long ride — more than 1,200 miles and about 19 hours in the van. But that's what Joseph, John, and the rest of the family did. And they found good and generous people in Ohio. A university donated a furnished house with 1 year's free rent. And the house is big enough for the whole family — and just three blocks away from a good school for Joseph and John.
The Hard Part
But getting used to this faraway place, a new house, and a new school hasn't been easy.
"I miss my best friend, though I talk to him online. I still miss my friend," Joseph said. "My old house had memories. I didn't know moving would be this tough."
John also keeps in touch with a friend from New Orleans by chatting online, but he misses his hometown, too. He misses certain places and stores that they have only in Louisiana. He also thinks he'll miss Mardi Gras, a big celebration in late winter before the Christian season of Lent (the 40 days before Easter). New Orleans is famous for this huge party packed with music, fun, and parades.
John also misses his old school, even though he had just started attending there. "I was starting to get friends but then the hurricane came," he said.
The Happy Part
But the family has been really happy with the move and very grateful to all the kind people who helped them get settled in a new place. Joseph loves the new house, which is big enough that there's a small room for his computer. He also likes his new town.
"People like me there, and I can walk to places such as Starbucks, my friend's house, and school," he said.
John, too, is happy to live in Ohio. They have a "much more beautiful and cozier house" and the neighborhood is safer.
"Well, everyone's nice to me and I'm getting to know everything better," John said. "Over here, I can go outside if I want to without worrying anymore."
And John has a word of advice for other kids who find themselves in scary situations: "Whenever there's a hurricane, a snowstorm, or anything like that, just have faith."