Out of the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina, comes new life and hope

M. Susanne Hinkle
July 12, 2006 at 11:44 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The home of Ron and Deborah Unger was completely distroyed by the rising waters of Hurricane Katrina.
The home of Ron and Deborah Unger was completely distroyed by the rising waters of Hurricane Katrina.
The residents of Chalmette and St. Bernard Parish were struck unusually hard by the infamous killer storm, Katrina.

Like most living in St. Bernard Parish, Deborah Unger, her husband, Ron, and children lost their Chalmette home and belongings to the breaches in the levees.  The family lived only three houses from the Florida Avenue Canal, so the destruction of their home and possessions was catastrophic.

Deborah Unger said, "The twenty foot storm surge left sea grass on our roof.  We now have our own thatched roof, Globe Theatre style."  The contents of their home, she said, were "churned together by the water's force like a huge blender -- smashing furniture, thousands of books, clothing, sheetrock walls and ceiling, insulation and every photo album and memento of the last thirty years into a huge, mucky heap."

Due to the hurricane, Unger lost her teaching job at Andrew Jackson High School in Chalmette.  Her daughter, Amanda, who had just graduated from Louisiana State University in May had been teaching for only two weeks when she lost her job.  Unger and her daughter are both alumni of Andrew Jackson High School.  "We both miss the experience of being a mother-daughter team; colleagues in the AJHS English department.  We also miss the students and staff," said the school teacher.

Brad, Unger's son, has a water cooler business, located in Mid-City, New Orleans, which also went under water along with his entire inventory, and she says he is working hard to restore his business.

After the Ungers returned home from their three week evacuation, she said they "stayed with friends who graciously housed them for two  months."  Shortly thereafter, the couple purchased a home in Destrehan, allowing other family members who had lost their homes to move in with them.  Luckily, Unger was quickly hired as an English teacher at Hahnville High School.

In addition to having the comfort and love of family, compassionate friends, and finding a new home and job, another blessing has been the caring people of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Kenner, where Unger's husband is a pastor.  The church building had very little wind and water damage, so its fellowship hall and offices have been a staging area for volunteers who have come from all over the country to gut out and rebuild homes.

"Despite all the devastation connected to Hurricane Katrina, including the human errors of the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and many other government officials who  have weakened my confidence in government, its management of the levee systems, and its response in times of disaster, I feel blessed by God and am thankful for my family, friends, and new parts of life," said the former Chalmette resident.
Now that the storm is over, they have found a new home, and a new teaching job, Unger says, "I plan to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation, and my husband, daughter, and I have even planned a trip to Paris.  Come August, I anticipate a school year filled with joy as I begin teaching gifted English II, III, and IV at HHS." 

Out of the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina, the Unger Family have sprung into new life and Unger concluded that she is a "true believer of resurrection."

Deborah Unger assisted in compiling this article.

View other articles written M. Susanne Hinkle

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