New Orleans Family Spends First Thanksgiving in Charlottesville

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

November 24, 2005

After Hurricane Katrina left their home in ruins, one New Orleans family chose to start over in Charlottesville and so far they've adjusted well.

"I'm thankful that we really got out of New Orleans, from that hurricane," explained Alicia Brooks.

For Alicia, her husband Isaiah and their four boys, this Thanksgiving is unlike any others because they're not in New Orleans. Their journey to Charlottesville began when they learned a Category 5 hurricane named Katrina was barreling towards their hometown.

"When we came back from my aunts funeral, we came back and my sister told us not to give the van back because we rented a van," said Brooks.

The family's two cars weren't working and without the van they'd rented to go the funeral, there would have been no way for them to leave.

"If we wouldn't have had that transportation, we would have been stuck just like everybody else," explained Alicia.

Thinking they would eventually come back, Alicia packed everyone only a few outfits and headed two hours away to her deceased aunts house; it was packed.

"We had three bedrooms, and we had 17 people, one bathroom, [my] kids had to go to school in the morning, my mom was going to dialysis," explained Brooks.

"[It was like] a can of sardines, it was a mess," stated Isaiah Brooks.

The Brooks's never saw their home again, but Alicia's sister described to them the horror left behind.

"She said the roof was caved in, and my dog was dead in the bathroom," Alicia remembered.

For one month, they endured their tight living conditions. Then Isaiah's brother called from Charlottesville and told them that the Salvation Army would fly them out and help to them start fresh.

"They got the house for us, it was furnished and they gave us a lot of stuff," said Brooks.

It's been two months since they arrived. Alicia is working as a nurse's aid and Isaiah is working at a bakery. Starting over has taken some adjustment, but they're determined.

"We just decided that we were going to start all over, start our life here brand new," said Brooks.

But they still miss home, where they were used to the cajun-style cooking, Mardi Gras and of course family--especially when little Isaiah who has multiple sclerosis gets sick.

"When we were in New Orleans, I had help with my mom, she would come and sit with the ones who were at home, while one of us would go to the hospital."

Yet despite all of their struggles, this Thanksgiving, for the Brooks family there are many reasons to be thankful.

"I'm thankful to be alive, have someone where to stay, have food, my family," explained Isaiah Brooks.

"I'm thankful that everybody, our family, mine, my husbands, everybody got out safely, that's what I'm thankful for," said Alicia Brooks.

The Brooks family says even though they'll miss their family and friends--they're ready to call Charlottesville their new home, and they don't have any plans to go back.

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