Evacuees, now Lawton residents, remember Katrina

Lawton_Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters ever to occur in the U.S.  Two years ago, today, it pounded the gulf coast with a force and fury residents had never seen before.  The storm killed more than 1600 people, destroyed countless homes and left many without a place to sleep, food or water to survive.

Fortunately, some families were able to escape.  Ahmand and Roshiva Johnson and their children jumped in their car the day before Katrina hit and drove to Texas.  Days later, they found themselves in Lawton and have been here ever since.  7News talked with the Johnsons shortly after they arrived from Louisiana.  Back then, they were still in shock from the hurricane, but they say their pain has healed, somewhat.

Two years later, though, it's still fresh in their minds.  New Orleans was a lifelong home for the Johnsons.  The only place they'd ever really known.  But, to live there, they say, you had to be used to hurricanes.  That's why, before Katrina, it didn't seem like that big of a deal.  "We didn't know, I was at work and I didn't think it was that bad.  Nobody thought it was that bad," said Roshiva.  But her sister knew and warned them to leave, even though she was thousands of miles away in Iraq.  And the bad signs kept coming.

"I used to work at Winn Dixie, and they told me not to come to work, and Winn Dixie doesn't close for anything not even a hurricane," said Ahmand.  After several warnings, Roshiva and Ahmand knew it was time to round up their family - including their extended family - and hit the road.    "We just packed the cars and just started driving.  We didn't know where we were going, we just followed everyone else," he said.  They ended up in a shelter in Jasper, Texas and about a week later they went back to New Orleans.  Their home had been destroyed.

They knew they had to find a new place to live, and Lawton, with arms open wide, seemed like the right choice.    "We got a lot of help from Lawton when we first got here," said Ahmand.  "Churches that welcomed us because we had to stay in a shelter.  People knew about the hurricane in New Orleans and said, 'How are you doing; we're sorry about what happened.'"

Things immediately started to fall in place.  Within a week, they had found a house.  "It was a lot of family that came up here.  It was like 20 of us staying in this house. We didn't have any furniture, or nothing, but we were here," said the Johnsons.  Today, Roshiva and Ahmand have both found jobs they enjoy and their kids are excelling in school academically and athletically.

They have been blessed with the second chance at life.  Sadly, however, Ahmand's father and grandmother died as a result of Katrina.  They survived the storm, but fell ill because of all the pollution left in the aftermath of the hurricane.