On the day before Thanksgiving, Hattiesburg, Miss. native Ramona Backman moved into her new home, closing one Katrina-affected chapter and opening another.
She's lived there less than a month with her two-year old son Jaylen, but already attests to the house's comfort, calling it cozy.
|Antonio McDyess pitches in. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
As part of the NBA's partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the three Detroit veterans, also Mississippi natives, were part of the volunteer group that helped construct the framing of the home Backman ultimately received, one of seven that were shipped to Hattiesburg for completion.
In Backman's eyes, the ill-fated storm brought her chaos and despair and ultimately home and shelter. The next chapter will also be Katrina-affected. That's going to be the case for everyone starting over in the Gulf Coast. The key lies in how many hands extend to help.
Conversations can be started easily by asking, "where were you ..." when the storm hit, when the levees broke, when the flooding got out of hand?
Backman was living in her grandparents home. Jaylen was just two weeks old. She heard the menacing winds, saw the power go out, felt the trees going down. She was forced out of her home, had to live in a shelter for a few weeks with her newborn and knows all about FEMA trailers. She knows all about compassion and the spirit of volunteering now, too.
"It was scary, but I wasn't alone," Backman said. "I had family with me and people just pulled together."
Her story rings familiar to most affected by Katrina. There was a low point, a moment where the decision whether to stay and rebuild or start over somewhere else came to a head, followed by the journey that followed retrieving all the pieces.
"After the initial interview, I went on the initial home visit, which expresses the need for aid," said Angela Keith, Volunteer Coordinator for the Hattiesburg Habitat for Humanity, who surveyed the home Backman had lived in. "There really was a lot of damage. The house's back bedroom had its door shut, because there was mold growing on the walls. It always amazes me what people are forced to live in because they can't afford anything else.
"She has a two-year-old who wouldn't have had a chance to grow up healthy under those living conditions. We run into that a lot. So many hopes received so much damage."
In a dedication that was aided by former Mavericks and Lakers star Sam Perkins, several families got an opportunity to start new lives. The tragedy magnified the need for cooperation and inspired increased funding, not to mention creating job opportunities that has resulted in roughly a 10 percent population increase since the storm hit.