Evacuee finds shelter in Selma

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 4, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

“It’s New Orleans 9-11,” said Hurricane Katrina evacuee Sidney Montrel.

Montrel fought back tears as he talked about his family’s early morning flight from their home in Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish and the discovery that everything-his home, his job, all of his family’s possessions-are gone.

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“When I look on the TV at the city that I grew up in, that I love…I think about the people there, the bodies floating in the water, the lives that have been affected. I just haven’t fully grasped it,” he said Saturday at the Selma Red Cross.

Montrel and his wife, Christy, are still shaken over the realization that they are essentially homeless. They are

relying on help from strangers in Selma as they try to find a way to rebuild their lives.

“It’s like being on an island by yourself. You can’t get in touch with people,” Montrel said. “It’s so wonderful to run into someone from New Orleans. I just hug them and tell them that I feel their pain.”

The Montrels, along with their three children, traveled to Selma last Sunday in a convoy with Christy’s mother, her sister and her sister’s three children and grandchild.

“When we went to bed Saturday night, they said the hurricane was a Category 3. Then when we woke up Sunday, it was a Category 5 and they told us to evacuate,” Christy said. “We each grabbed four outfits and got on the road. At one point we didn’t know where we were going.”

Christy said her sister’s fianc is from Selma and has family here, so they chose Selma as a place to seek shelter.

The Montrel family is now staying in the three-bedroom home of Selma resident Mary Coleman.

They are trying to make the best of the situation, but so far it has not been easy. Christy has already been to the hospital due to infections in her kidneys and in the lining of her stomach. Her children, ages seven, 11, and 15, have not been able to sleep and “don’t know how to take it,” she said.

“They were supposed to start school on Monday,” Christy said. “Our church, City Cathedral, gave them a scholarship to attend a Christian School. Now we can’t reach anyone in our church family.”

Sidney said he has also not been able to contact his four daughters from a previous marriage.

“I don’t know where they are, but I know that they are okay,” he said.

Still, the family remains defiant. Through his tears, Sidney talked about watching the Hurricane coverage on the news.

“They keep calling us refugees. We’re not refugees. We’re people with real lives. We are tax paying Americans” he said.

The Montrel’s are trying to stay positive and relying on their strong faith.

“We are uprooted and we have to figure out how we are going on, but we keep praying,” Sidney said. “This whole city has really opened their arms to us. The people of Alabama have been great. I just keep thanking God, because he is going to bring us through this.”

If you would like to share your story about Hurricane Katrina, call Steven at 410-1716, Tracie at 410-1736 or John at 410-1744.