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SK woman offers a safe harbor for Katrina evacuees

Though Lois Roark’s daughter lives in New Orleans, the South Kitsap native isn’t glued to the television or the phone trying to find out if she and her grandsons got out safely.

Because she knows exactly where they are — on her couch.

“They’re all here,” Roark laughed, explaining that it’s been quite a feat to find space in her “two-bedroom mobile home and itty, bitty motor home” for not just her daughter, but three other uprooted adults.

Before the hurricane hit Louisiana, Roark said her daughter, Shannon Massicot, her two grandsons, and one of the men’s fiancee piled into three cars with all their animals and left the city.

“They had 15 animals, and by the time they got all the kennels in the cars, they didn’t have room for anything else,” she said, explaining that the caravan then set out for a harrowing 13-hour drive to Houston, which under normal circumstances takes only five.

Once Massicot made it to Houston, Roark said she helped the group get plane tickets to Seattle, and was very happy once they all landed here safe and sound.

“Once I got them up here, I felt a lot better,” she said. “I was just concentrating on just making sure they were alive.”

Now that their evacuation is over, however, Roark said, the rebuilding is just beginning.

“She’s just walking around in a fog,” she said of her daughter, explaining that Massicot wants to go back to New Orleans, but doesn’t know when or how she can. Or what she’ll have when she gets there.

“They can’t get any information about their houses,” she said, explaining that word about neighborhoods or homes is very hard to get, even for people still in the area.

And even if they can go back, Roark said their lives, and the city, will never be the same.

“They all just watch the (television) footage and cry,” Roark said. She grew up here, but moved to New Orleans with her late husband, who was in the U.S. Navy, and raised her children there.

When her husband died, she said, she moved back to South Kitsap, and most of her other children left New Orleans, as well. “Luckily, (Shannon) was the only one who stayed there.”

Roark said even though the city she knew might never look the same, she said its heart will be the same.

“Some people have said to me, ‘Where are they going to have Mardi Gras next year? They can’t have it there,” she said. “But I tell them, ‘Oh, they’ll have it there. They’ll find a way.’ ”

Gulf Coast residents who were displaced by the hurricane and are in Kitsap County can contact the local Red Cross office for assistance at (360) 377-3761.

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