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Displaced Children, Homesick and Unsure

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Displaced Children, Homesick and Unsure

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Displaced Children, Homesick and Unsure

Displaced Children, Homesick and Unsure

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Michele Norris has spent a week in Louisiana covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the first of her reports, she visited the shelter at the Istrouma Baptist church in Baton Rouge, temporary home to 600 evacuees from New Orleans. Now, Norris returns to the Istrouma shelter to see how some of the children are doing. Many are missing home, and unsure if they will ever go back.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Our colleague Michele Norris has spent a week in Louisiana covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the first of her reports, she visited the shelter at the Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, temporary home to 600 evacuees from New Orleans. Before Michele left Louisiana, she wanted to find out how some of the children at the Istrouma shelter were doing.

(Soundbite of children playing)

MICHELE NORRIS reporting:

From a distance, the children look like they're doing OK. Boys play basketball in clean, white oversized shirts; children frolic on the playground. They're on their way to new lives, making new friends.

(Soundbite of children playing)

Unidentified Child: ...(Unintelligible).

Unidentified Boy: Give me a Y!

NORRIS: The kids at Istrouma stay busy, but ask them and they'll tell you that they pine for their old lives, all that was familiar in the neighborhoods they fled. Sierra Bruce(ph) is 12, her sister Jasmine(ph) is 13, and her older sister Verrazana Farraind(ph) is 15. They list some of the things they miss the most.

Unidentified Girl #1: My clothes, my swimsuit and a TV.

Unidentified Girl #2: There is so much that I can't name it.

Unidentified Girl #3: Our beds.

Unidentified Girl #4: I miss my friends.

(Soundbite of children playing)

NORRIS: Margherita Ellis(ph) is a wiry 12-year-old with a big, broad smile and a bad case of insomnia.

MARGHERITA ELLIS: I don't really go to sleep because I be wide awoke and I don't know why is that, 'cause usually when I first hit the door, I go take my bath and go straight to sleep. But here, I be wide awoke and I don't know why.

NORRIS: Can't sleep?

ELLIS: Can't sleep. I go to sleep, like, late, late, late, after everybody be asleep. I be the only one woke up...

NORRIS: Well, what do you...

ELLIS: ...except for the soldiers.

NORRIS: What do you do all night when everybody is asleep?

ELLIS: I don't know, just be sitting up in my bed, you know, or my cot. There ain't nothing really to do because it's nighttime and everybody's asleep.

NORRIS: What did New Orleans mean to you?

ELLIS: What did it mean to me? Dignity. My dignity. My pride.

NORRIS: Your dignity and your pride? Help me understand that.

ELLIS: Because of--How can I put this?--I didn't want really to go to nowhere. I didn't want to go nowhere. I wanted to stay in that exact house that I be living there for I don't know how long, ever since I was a baby, put it like that.

(Soundbite of children playing)

NORRIS: As far as 11-year-old Rhianna Lexus(ph) knows, her home on the West Bank is still underwater. She's wearing a sky-blue T-shirt and a weary expression, but she insists she and her new friends are doing all right.

RHIANNA LEXUS: We children? We're doing fine. We're trying to keep out of trouble. And some of us are, but not all of us.

NORRIS: Are you staying out of trouble?

RHIANNA LEXUS: Yeah, much as I can.

NORRIS: If you look into your future 10, 20 years from now, you get past all of this, what do you want for yourself?

RHIANNA LEXUS: A decent home, probably back at where I was living when I was born. New Orleans not to be this way again. Kids not fussing and fighting, adults are not fighting.

NORRIS: Do you think you'll go back to New Orleans?

RHIANNA LEXUS: Well, then not really, not what they're saying on the news--after what they're saying on the news, no time soon.

NORRIS: But maybe eventually?

RHIANNA LEXUS: Yeah.

NORRIS: What do you hope you're going to find when you get there?

RHIANNA LEXUS: A place where we live when--the place where we came from, but even more peaceful.

NORRIS: We can only hope. In Baton Rouge, I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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