The following are some memories of Hurricane Rita that KPLC viewers have sent us. Send yours to ALLKPLCnewmedia@kplctv.com.
Mary Kaye Allemond
I felt like I got punched in the stomach that day! I had taken my boys, animals and mom to Baton Rouge - my husband stayed with Sheriff's Department - it was my anniversary and my son's birthday! My husband called and said it was really bad, I couldn't have imagined how bad! My nephew called and said everything was gone - I asked what he meant - he said my mom's house, and both my brother's home were gone - nothing but a slab left! I was dumbfounded!
We left like everyone else did, with intentions to go as far north as possible. Well, about three hours down the road (not even to Jennings because traffic was terrible) one of our vehicles broke down. We were on the side of the road for hours and NOBODY would stop to help. My uncle eventually got to us and we ended up staying in Mire which is close to Lafayette. Not as far north as we wanted to be, but it was a place to stay. The double-wide we were in survived Rita, but it started leaking water and we could hear shingles and siding being ripped off during the night. I was only 16 at the time, so it was a bit scary. I'm thankful that our temporary home in Mire survived but I was even more thankful to return home a couple of weeks later and have my same room to sleep in.
As the former Health and Safety Director of the American Red Cross of SWLA, there are so many memories I have of this most devastating storm, but through all the sorrow and devastation, I witnessed firsthand as people set all other things aside to lend a helping hand to each other. My best memories are of these amazing citizens of our community, the true heroes. I witnessed the pure selflessness of people, who themselves had been hit personally by this cruel storm, volunteer countless hours to help their fellow citizens.
Though this storm caused great hardships and sorrow to our community, I also watched as it brought people together. I watched as children helped the elderly. I watched men and women work together to help each other rebuild their lives. I watched people push forward and work hard, expecting nothing in return. I saw kindness, compassion, love, respect and civility.
Though much sorrow was to be seen, how blessed I was to witness and experience such beauty at the hands of simply people beautifully helping people.
Eligha Guillory Jr.:
My then fiancé and I were busy in deep planning a wedding with 400 guests. My brother-in-law asked me, what will we do if we cannot come back to get married? I said, nonsense, we will be gone for a couple of days and be back. We left Thursday evening around 4 p.m. and drove up north ending in Magnolia, Arkansas 11 hours later (a normal six-hour trip).
Needless to say, we were gone longer than a couple of days. We were gone for 2 1/2 weeks. The first day of the "Look and Leave," my uncle and I drove to Lake Charles to assess the damage. The home we were planning to live in as our first home was destroyed and unlivable. While back in Arkansas, we continually called Father Henry Mancuso, who was to marry us, and still in Lake Charles, asking how were things back home and if we can come back or should we drive to Shreveport just to get married in Louisiana.
Our wedding was scheduled for Oct. 8 and we wanted to keep this date. We were able to return on Oct. 7 just in time to prepare for our wedding. Fortunately, we had already purchased our marriage license otherwise, we would not have been able to get it. The courthouse was not open. Instead of a large wedding, we had an intimate wedding with about 15-20 people that were in town and not at home picking up shingles.
Nomica's wedding dress was stored in a friend's house so she could not get it. She bought a new dress in Arkansas and fortunately, I already had a tux. Nothing was going to stop us. After the wedding, nothing was open in town, so we went to Breaux Bridge and had a reception in my cousin's back yard poolside. It was simply beautiful!
Then, on Nov. 12, we were able to renew our vows and get married again, this time with our wedding party, family and friends. So now, we still celebrate two anniversaries! People in Lake Charles were ready for a stress reliever. We had over 400 people to join us and witness our wedding celebration.
Then to add insult to injury, after experiencing Rita, we went on a cruise for our honeymoon. We had to be rerouted in the Caribbean because we were headed directly for the eye of Hurricane Wilma. Once we returned home, we lived in a travel trailer for 13 months while rebuilding our home. During this time, we realized it is the small things that really mattered and as long as we had each other, we had all we needed.
Had my mom and sister with me, staying in West Monroe at my niece's home. Sept. 24 … my birthday, my mom's name: Rita.
T.A. "Tate" Williams
I will never forget Rita. What a nightmare. I had underwent two brain surgeries the month before the storm. I was unable to evacuate. My family had abandoned me when the storm came. I was able to watch the storm approaching Lake Charles on KPLC before the three-week loss of power. I was dazed from the surgery and as I watched the news, I could only think that I had seen storms come and go over my lifetime and thought this would just be another close call. I was wrong. The night was a nightmare. After a few days and the extreme heat that followed, Nolan Stokeld with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Department more or less saved my life. He brought me food and cold drinks and personally gave me money out of his pocket. I want to thank Mr. Nolan Stokeld and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Department for everything.
I remember going to work on that night when Rita hit. I stopped on top of the Rainbow bridge in Port Arthur and got out and enjoyed the view for about 10 minutes and thinking to myself, "This going to be one wild night." And boy, was it.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...
Me, my husband, daughter and parakeet were evacuating to my parents home in Bossier City. My parents also invited our dear friends in Orange, Texas to come. They were a family of four, one set of parents and grandmother. If you're keeping count there are 10 "evacuees" headed toward Bossier City. Once we finally arrived all safe and sound, we were glued to the TV, radio and Internet. Busy emailing and texting other friends and co-workers to find out how everyone had fared and where they waited out the storm. Our days and weeks after were spent taking advantage of the "evacuee" discount everyone offered and hanging on the phone to hear something from FEMA. After my girlfriend and I took care of all the business, we enjoyed time together sharing pictures of our kids together. Our girls have been best buds since they were bed babies. Did I fail to mention the guys went back home the following day? My husband stayed at Northrop Grumman helping get his workplace up and running. The others went on to Orange to help at their church with evacuees and around town. The girls stayed in Bossier until we knew we had electricity in our homes. We were blessed! Our homes had little damage from Rita. While it was a very difficult time (worrying about husbands and homes), we were making sweet memories with our daughters and thanking God for keeping us all from harm's way.
It was my birthday. It was a scary night. I hope I never experience one like that again.
During Rita, I was employed with Dominos Pizza. We were the last business in Lake Charles to close and the very first business to reopen. We operated the Lake Street store off of a generator to be able to serve the community, workers, guardsmen, police and fire departments for weeks due to no power. There were many dominos franchise owners who came in from Florida who helped make a lot of that possible. That is my best memory from Hurricane Rita.
I have lots of memories from this event, but one that sticks out in my mind was evacuating to my niece's in Monroe. She was living in a mobile home at the time and going to pharmacy school at UL Monroe. Lots of family also went there, and I believe at last count, we had something to the tune of 11 cats and 10 dogs in one mobile home. Imagine the chaos!