Revisiting New Orleans Evacuee Sharon White
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Three weeks ago, I spoke with New Orleans evacuee Sharon White at the Istrouma Baptist Church shelter in Baton Rouge. Many of you responded to White's positive spirit with phone calls and, in at least one case, financial support, for which she's deeply grateful, so grateful, in fact, that she tithed a chunk of the money to the church to help others. She remains at the shelter for the time being; the housing market is saturated in and around Baton Rouge. She did return to work this week as an hourly employee, no longer a manager. White has had some trouble, but overall she says she's doing all right.
Ms. SHARON WHITE (New Orleans Evacuee): I kind of had a little breakdown 'cause I guess I just hadn't grieved everything. I was so adamant about going back and being strong and doing all this, and I just hadn't grieved. So I wound up talking to a psychiatrist that was there on site at the shelter, and he much pretty diagnosed me with having a control issue. And being that I'm not in control of my entire situation right now, when I thought about it--'cause I was like, `I'm not a person that just needs control,' but I've always taken control over my situation, and he was right. I mean--and now I'm being told when to go to sleep, when to take a shower 'cause the showers close at 8, you know. I have no control over my job situation. You know, I was a manager in my own store; I was pretty much doing policy and procedure there. But here, I'm pretty much at other people's mercy.
NORRIS: When do you get a chance to go back and see your home?
Ms. WHITE: Oh, I'm actually going back home on the 5th. I bought me a camcorder because I need to capture every moment. I'm not saying I won't cry, but I will film and I will rebuild all that. That's still in play. Ain't nothin' going to stop that. I mean, any of my neighbors want to back out after they get their insurance money, I'll be right there 'cause my goal is to possibly get in there and see if I can get more property and bring more families back. That's what's going to drive me.
You know, there's a lot of money that's going out right now from FEMA, Red Cross, and I'm watching these people spend crazily. They're just spending every penny. My money--I'm saving most of the bulk of mine from New Orleans because by the time we get to New Orleans--this is one of my fears--a lot of the FEMA money and all this money they're giving us to survive out here, it's going to be gone. Save some of your money, invest it back into the community, invest it back into the city.
NORRIS: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that because when I first met you, you were adamant you were going back.
Ms. WHITE: Oh...
NORRIS: And I wondered after a few weeks...
Ms. WHITE: No, I...
NORRIS: ...if you still felt that strongly about it.
Ms. WHITE: No, after a few weeks, it only--like I said, my breakdown wasn't because I wasn't going back. I just had to grieve the entire situation, not just the home, not the materialistic thing, me and my kids being split up--we were always pretty much at arm length of each other, you know. Now my son's in Kansas, my daughter is in Texas, my mom--I still have not found my mom. We're just all over the place. And I just hadn't grieved New Orleans, period. When you see those pictures--and I know I have to go and see it on the 5th, and I know it's going to be horrible. I expect the worst. But you know what? Out of the ashes is going to come bigger and better.
NORRIS: Sharon, you said that you haven't heard from your mother.
Ms. WHITE: No, I don't know if I want to talk about Mama, but I'm trying to track her down. She was one of those special needs people, so I did list her with the missing persons, which I haven't gotten any response. But you know, they say no news is good news.
NORRIS: Sharon, I hope you hear something about your mother soon.
Ms. WHITE: Hopefully.
NORRIS: Can you share her name with us?
Ms. WHITE: Bessie White.
NORRIS: Bessie White.
Ms. WHITE: Yes.
NORRIS: All right. Sharon, it's been good to talk to you again.
Ms. WHITE: It always good to talk to you.
NORRIS: Take care of yourself.
Ms. WHITE: And thank all your listeners, all of them.
NORRIS: Katrina survivor Sharon White. We'll check in with her again in coming weeks.
MELISSA BLOCK (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.