Katrina Evacuee Finds New Life in San Antonio Yvette Warren did not choose to leave New Orleans, the city where she'd met her husband, raised five children, and worked as a teacher's aide. Hurricane Katrina forced her out. Now she's found a new home in Texas.

Katrina Evacuee Finds New Life in San Antonio

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5031565/5031570" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


On Wednesdays, the business report focuses on your workplace. And today we'll continue our series Take Two, tracking people as they reshape their lives through their work. Back in September, NPR senior correspondent Ketzel Levine reported on the Warrens. They're a displaced family of seven from New Orleans who landed in San Antonio, Texas. When Ketzel interviewed Yvette Warren, she and her family were living in a local shelter.

Mrs. YVETTE WARREN: The second night I was here, a depression just hammered me, and I'm like, man, my whole world is gone. And so what I did was I just went to sleep, 'cause I really--I had to get away from it. I'm like, I can't think like that, because my world isn't gone.

INSKEEP: In fact, Yvette Warren has since re-created her world and herself through her work. Here's Ketzel's update.

Mrs. WARREN: It's fun. This is my exercise day. Oh my God, it is.

KETZEL LEVINE reporting:

We are careening through the halls of San Antonio's Justice Center delivering files and tapes to attorneys in any number of hushed courtrooms.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

Mrs. WARREN: OK, prepare, because you may get thrown out. OK. You ready?

(Soundbite of door opening)

LEVINE: We seem to have hit a lull in the action, as Yvette Warren quietly slips a few documents into counsel's hands.

Mrs. WARREN: Here you go, your files.

Unidentified Woman: Thank you.

Mrs. WARREN: You're welcome.

LEVINE: She has learned through trial and error.

Mrs. WARREN: One day I'm on my own, and the judge is addressing the jury and I walk in. He gave me the hand like, stop, sit down, and I was like, oh God, on God, oh God.

LEVINE: She was worried she'd screwed up, but the judge wasn't miffed, accustomed to file clerks on a learning curve. After all, it's barely been three months since Yvette Warren was a preschool aide.

Mrs. WARREN: Taking care of four-year-olds, I mean, there's another side of my brain I hadn't used for years, and I was telling Mr. Nelson, I said, `Man, that's another part of me that's waking up again.'

Mr. ROBIN NELSON (Justice Center): I'm a great believer in things don't happen by coincidence.

LEVINE: Robin Nelson is Yvette Warren's boss, who did happen to have a entry-level job open in early September. Right on cue, he got a call from a lawyer in the Justice Center networking on behalf of the Warren family. Might he interview Yvette Warren? The question now is: Can he hold on to her?

Mr. NELSON: She has enough talent, I kind of expected people in the district attorney's office are looking to see when she's ready to make a move to other things.

Mrs. WARREN: Being an attorney doesn't interest me at all. That is not my cup of tea. But being a rehab counselor, child advocacy, those types of things, that's where I naturally flow.

LEVINE: To hear Yvette Warren talk about where she's going, you'd think her clarity and ambition were just a part of her repertoire. But her oldest daughter Brandy says this Yvette Warren bears only a superficial resemblance to the mom she's known for 22 years. Before Katrina, her mom was a woman who deferred to her husband and hid behind her family. Since moving to San Antonio, she is living large.

BRANDY: She's open now. You can just see it in her face. She's just alive.

LEVINE: What's that like for you to see your mother sort of happen?

BRANDY: I'm thrilled. I really am thrilled because I want my mom to be alive. Like she wants me to have a good life, I want her to have a good life. She'll say, `I want to do this.' Do it, Mom. Just do it. You know, I'm like all excited, like, `Yes, do it!'

LEVINE: I am getting the feeling that you are just shedding skin.

Mrs. WARREN: I am definitely shedding skin. You called it. You know, I've been wanting a change of everything, and I got it.

LEVINE: What's happening at home? I mean, if I might ask, what's happening with Alton, your husband?

Mrs. WARREN: He's back in New Orleans, and I don't agree with it, but that's what he wants to do.

Mr. ALTON WARREN: Well, I went back to New Orleans and...

LEVINE: I reached Alton Warren on his cell phone.

Mr. WARREN: An opportunity to make some good money down here. Got a lot of business opportunities down here, so I want to take advantage of it.

LEVINE: What kind of work did you find?

Mr. WARREN: Well, security work.

LEVINE: Were you not able to find work in San Antonio?

Mr. WARREN: Yeah, I found work in San Antonio. I found good--I found decent work in San Antonio, but the opportunity was great in New Orleans right now, so I couldn't pass it up.

LEVINE: However, Yvette Warren had not wanted her husband to go.

Mrs. WARREN: I mean, he's excited and every time we talk it's like he's justifying why he's there, but I don't badger him about it anymore.

LEVINE: Sadly, there is a question about the couple's future together. Two of the older children feel that Katrina has simply accelerated a rift in an already vulnerable marriage. `We'll see,' says Yvette Warren. `There's a lot of me I put on hold to stay married.' Her own education, for one. This summer she'll start taking college-level courses, tuition being one of the perks of her Bexar County job.

Mrs. WARREN: 187 District Court? OK. Three files. Thank you.

LEVINE: Yvette Warren is 42. As a file clerk she's making about $19,000 a year. She won't be making that long. She is ambitious and people are ambitious for her. But she's not in a hurry to leave the file center, surrounded, as she is, by supportive, easy-going colleagues, enjoying the steady rhythm before the next inevitable wave of change.

Ketzel Levine, NPR News.

INSKEEP: You can find photos of the Warren family and more stories in the Take Two series at npr.org.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.