Seeking shelter from the storm

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2005

AHOSKIE – Gregory Kelly and his wife Lynette are glad to be in Ahoskie.

For that matter, when it comes to fleeing the path of a killer hurricane, the Kelly’s are glad to simply be anywhere that’s safe and sound.

The Kelly’s were living in St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached and their plan was to wait out the storm.

&uot;We didn’t have reliable transportation,&uot; Mr. Kelly said. &uot;We looked at the computer on Saturday night and knew it was going to hit, but decided to ride out the storm because we didn’t want to be a burden on our family.&uot;

&uot;My mother called and told us we needed to get out,&uot; Lynette Kelly said. &uot;If we had not listened to her, we might not be alive now.&uot;

Fortunately for the Kelly’s, Lynette’s sister left her car and they were able to leave New Orleans on Sunday August 29 (the day before the category 4 storm made landfall). Gregory and Lynette picked-up Lynette’s parents in nearby Algiers, La. and made their way to Lafayette, La.

&uot;We stayed in a church in Lafayette,&uot; he said. &uot;It was the first time the church had done anything like this, but they worked around the clock to make us feel welcome. They were on top of things.&uot;

The church was only a temporary shelter and the family had to move to the Cajun Dome, also in Lafayette. &uot;The dome started to get crowded,&uot; Mrs. Kelly said. &uot;People were stealing in the shelter.&uot;

Lynette’s sister, Eltroyce Moore, and her husband Pete Moore live in Ahoskie and they drove to Lafayette and brought the Kelly’s to Ahoskie. Reverend Daniel Smith, Lynette’s brother, has also provided help for other family members who lived in the New Orleans area.

Gregory Kelly had his own business in New Orleans, installing ceramic and hardwood flooring. Unfortunately, his business is gone now. All of his tools and his work vehicle were under 18 feet of water along with the apartment they were living in. Gregory Kelly, also a musician, believes all of his musical equipment was destroyed in the flood.

&uot;We lost everything,&uot; Mr. Kelly said. &uot;We are devastated.&uot;

However, there was no bitterness in their voice when talking about their experience, only praise for the people who have helped them. The only source of frustration came when discussing New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

&uot;He told the people his family was flying out and everyone needed to evacuate, but he didn’t give the people a number to call to ask for help,&uot; the Kelly’s said. &uot;We feel for the people who didn’t have transportation and we grieve for those who tried to get out, but couldn’t. Our heart goes out because so many people died. They should have used buses to get people out of the city. They were supposed to make provisions for this type of situation.&uot;

&uot;We thought we were going to leave for a couple of days an then go home,&uot; they said. &uot;We thought we might be dealing with three or four feet of water in our apartment and we stacked stuff on top of cabinets.&uot;

&uot;I have to pinch myself because this feels like a dream, but it is real,&uot; said Mrs. Kelly.

Gregory Kelly is a native of New Orleans and lived there his entire life except for the six years he served in the United States Army. However, the Kelly’s do not want to move back to New Orleans.

&uot;People have been very friendly and very helpful here in Ahoskie,&uot; Lynette said. &uot;People in New Orleans are not like that. It is every man for himself down there.&uot;

&uot;My mother doesn’t scare easily, but this really scared her. She doesn’t want to go back,&uot; she added.

&uot;I am ready to start working again,&uot; Mr. Kelly said. &uot;I enjoy doing creative things with flooring. I enjoyed being able to see the finished product. I started with a bag of tools and when we left I had a building full of tools and a vehicle for work. I love what I did, but I am not afraid to try new things.&uot;&uot;

According to Mrs. Kelly, a pharmacy in Murfreesboro donated some medication to her father, who is diabetic, and a local doctor has agreed to see him free of charge.

&uot;God will always open a door and make a way.&uot;