MOUNT VERNON — Frances Hughes and her family came to Mount Vernon after the devastation of hurricane Katrina destroyed their community. After living in Knox County for 2 1/2 years, she and her family went back to Slidell, La., to rebuild their home.
In September 2005 Hughes, her son, Seth, and her parents, Bernard and Vicky Aggers, came to Mount Vernon a week after the hurricane hit, to be with relatives.
“We stayed through the hurricane ... and when we left, the whole town was in ruins, it was a mess,” she said. “We got about 5 1/2 feet of water inside the house.
“[Now] Slidell is pretty much back to normal. They made a lot of repairs, they are rebuilding a new city hall, and that is still in the works,” said Hughes.
Under the surface, she said, there is a lot of rebuilding and a lot of changes being made to rehabilitate the damage done to the area. As for New Orleans, she said, there are some areas that are back to normal, although other sections are still under construction.
“I work in the Central Business District of New Orleans and that is pretty much normal and the French quarter. New Orleans has made its comeback. They have had Mardi Gras, and just got finished with the Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the Essence Festival,” said Hughes.
Tourism still flourishes in the big city, and many visitors are attracted by the festivities that take place throughout the year. “New Orleans will always have its big bang,” said Hughes.
Almost four years has passed since Hurricane Katrina, and many changes have taken place. Hughes said the population steadily returns as some rebuild from the ruins left by the storm.
“There are still people that are rebuilding — not just New Orleans, but in Slidell and the surrounding area. There are a lot of people, however, that did not rebuild. ... I can see where things are coming back, but everyday you look around and see things that use to be there that aren’t there anymore.
“Katrina left her mark. She left her mark in cities, in towns, and, I hate to say it, but she left her mark on a lot of people’s hearts. And it’s hard to look around and see things that used to be there that aren’t there anymore... [Slidell] will always be home but every year when hurricane season rolls around, we get scared.”
Much was lost after the hurricane, Hughes said, and there was very little left to salvage.
“A lot of things that were destroyed were clothes, furniture, pictures and the whole inside of the house; all we had left was basically the frame, the outside shell. The whole inside of the house had to be torn out and rebuilt,” she said. “[Now] we are living in the house and there are a few small things outside that we want to do to it, but it’s nothing major.”
Slidell, which is about 30 miles northeast of New Orleans, received a direct hit from the hurricane, causing severe flooding from heavy rainfall and loss of property as well as life.
“The levees breaking and causing the flooding is what caused a lot of the damage in New Orleans, but Slidell got the storm surge and the direct hit,” said Hughes.
Since they left Mount Vernon in 2008, she and her family have been living in Louisiana.
“It’s home,” she said. “...That’s where we were born and raised, and we have roots down there, but during the time we were [in Mount Vernon] we made roots here, too.”
Hughes said this would not be her last time coming back to Mount Vernon. During the time she spent here, she made a lot of friends and a lot of happy memories here.
“On behalf of my parents and myself, we would like to thank the town and citizens of Mount Vernon for all the help they have provided for us,” she said.