Shrimper's Story Of Survival During Hurricane Katrina - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

September 16, 2005

Shrimper's Story Of Survival During Hurricane Katrina

In the the bayou of Alabama's seafood capital, there is a compelling story about a man's fight against a raging storm.

"He didn't know what was going to happen to him," says Amanda Soljan.

Amanda Soljan is Raymond Soljan's sister-in-law. We won't meet Raymond in this story because he was in Mississippi helping his family repair their homes.

"He knows what life is all about now," says Soljan.

A lesson learned the hard way. You see, Raymond had been shrimping in the waters near Pascagoula, Mississippi, some 10 miles away but instead of docking there the owner of the boat instructed Soljan to motor on to Bayou La Batre. The owner thought it might be safer in Alabama. Raymond docked in the bayou, tied up and waited.

"It's a shrimper's mentality that you stay with your property and you don't leave your property," says Amanda Soljan.

That is what Raymond did and it nearly cost him his life. In the middle of the storm, Raymond's journey began. It was the beginning of something terrible, a dance with Katrina.

"The boat started to take on water and started sinking. He tried to plug the holes as best he could but the boat started going down with him," says Soljan.

More than two weeks after the storm, Raymond's shrimp boat is still capsized and broken.

"It was close," she says.

At that point Raymond knew he had to move quickly. He literally jumped his boat to another boat next to him. Little did Raymond know that he was about to be faced with yet another disaster.

"He jumped on a Vietnamese shrimp boat and it caught fire. He basically hop-scotched to boat-to-boat to survive," Soljan says.

This is when it all came into focus for Amanda's brother-in-law. She says Raymond kissed the ground, thanked God and hitched-hike 10 miles to Amanda's home. There on the back porch the family found Raymond exhausted but happy.

"Just totally excited to be there, was talking through all the horrors of everything, the fire, the smoke, boat taking on water, just overjoyed," she says.

Today, Raymond Soljan is back in Pascagoula helping his family repair their homes. Amanda says he will shrimp again. This time though with a newfound appreciation of getting a second chance.

Reporter: Bryan Henry

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