Myra James and her daughter Carol Eliot with a couple of souvenirs from New Orleans.
Myra James and her daughter Carol Eliot with a couple of souvenirs from New Orleans.

A close call with Katrina

By TOBY WALKER

LESS than three weeks ago, Myra James and her daughter Carol Eliot were wandering the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter, shopping, visiting cafes and generally experiencing what the most vibrant section of the city had to offer.

At the time, they had heard the official warnings being issued about a severe storm starting to build off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico, but thought nothing of them.

After all, they had been told by seemingly unperturbed locals that a hurricane had hit nearby Florida just weeks before and, as Carol said, you heard similar warnings about cyclones back home in Australia and that didn't seem to faze too many people.

But yesterday the pair, safely back home in Maclean, told of the shock and amazement they had felt after seeing images of the very places they had visited under water after Hurricane Katrina tore through America's most festive city.

"It's just the fact we were there so recently and it was a beautiful city and now it's just like a big lake," Carol said.

Myra and Carol enjoyed everything New Orleans had to offer, including its paddle steamer tours and a trip down Bourbon Street, while attending an international conference held by sewing and craft company, Janome. They joined 120 other Australian delegates at the conference and were enthralled by the abundance of street entertainment and other attractions that make the city so famous.

But the traumatic events that left thousands homeless and put the US government under public pressure to step up its response has left Myra wondering about the people she passed on the streets only three weeks ago.

"There was so many people living on the streets in New Orleans and I'm surprised you don't hear much about what's happened to them."

Myra and Carol may have left New Orleans several days before the storm hit, but they were still on the minds of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs, which called them yesterday afternoon to confirm they were back in Aust- ralia.



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