by Tom Ensey
Five years ago Hurricane Katrina swirled out of the Gulf of Mexico and smashed the city of New Orleans. The images were appalling -- bodies and makeshift graves, destroyed homes and lives.
That storm displaced thousands of residents -- some of whom now call Montgomery home. They've sought to rebuild their lives and find a place for themselves in an unfamiliar city, while never forgetting where they came from.
Raymond Hunter spent days on the roof of his house that was inundated by the flood, watching boats and helicopters passing him and others in desperate need of rescue. He's still angry. And he launches into rants that are by turn hilarious and heartbreaking as he tries to come to terms with the destruction of his hometown.
"How can America invade a foreign country -- Iraq -- looking for weapons of mass destruction, find no weapons of mass destruction, spend billions of dollars to tear up a country then spend billions to rebuild it -- and we still can't put New Orleans back together?" he said a few days after visiting his old neighborhood, which is still in a shambles.
Raymond purges himself with dark humor. Family friend Elvira Gibson finds her peace in religion.
She and five carloads of family fled New Orleans -- they wound up in Montgomery because the Marriott was the closest hotel they could find with an empty room after traveling for 24 hours straight. They thought they'd be back home in a day or two. They brought one change of clothes. They've been here ever since.
"We were blessed," she said. "We all lived. We are together."
Two of her children stayed behind and rode out the storm. Her son still cries when he talks about it -- his home was in Gentilly, and most of his neighbors were old. He spent days trying to help them get to safety. He couldn't help them all.