Originally created 08/28/06

Hurricane Katrina Evacuees: Kristen Barze and Ariel Hunter



Kristen Barze and Ariel Hunter have been hungry for about a year since being forced to leave New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina came calling.

Hungry for the 24-hour bus service they enjoyed in their former hometown. Hungry for the jazz music that made the Big Easy such a distinctive city. And, of course, hungry for the restaurants that stayed open till the wee hours of the morning and served food that can't really be duplicated anywhere else.

"I really had to adjust to the food here, it's so different," said Ms. Hunter, a Paine College student.

Ms. Barze, her roommate, agreed.

"When I go home, I just pig out so bad," she said.

Ms. Hunter, 19, and Ms. Barze, 18, never expected to be at Paine. They knew Augusta only through its ties to James Brown. But their freshman year plans changed when Katrina flooded Dillard and Xavier universities, two New Orleans-based schools where Ms. Barze and Ms. Hunter, respectively, had completed their first week.

Relatives recommended Paine, and though they didn't know each other, both arrived in Augusta at the end of last September.

"Sometimes now I still can't believe all this really happened," Ms. Barze said, tears rolling slowly down her cheeks. "I'll just remember something, different times, different events. My family used to have a lot of parties, crawfish boils, and I'll get sad."

Ms. Hunter spent Thanksgiving with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins squeezed into her mother's tiny Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer in Baton Rouge.

"It's real hard being way from my family because I've never been away from them this long time," she said, her voice lowering. "Just regular things you took for granted when you're at home - going to see people on birthdays, you can't spend time together. Holidays aren't the same."

She visited her neighborhood in New Orleans East for the first time in January. She returned in May, then again in June for her grandfather's funeral and was angered that things looked much liked they did during her first visit back home.

Abandoned cars that landed where Katrina had tossed them still littered the landscape. Homes had yet to be repaired or demolished.

"I know everything takes time, but it don't take that much time," Ms. Hunter said. "It seems like they could've done more by now."

Ms. Barze has been home three times and said "everything looked brown" in her Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood.

Both say they won't return to live in New Orleans because things will never be the same.

"It's like depressing because I feel like this is not supposed to be happening to my city," Ms. Hunter said.

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.

RELATED STORIES

- Home (for now)

- Carole Jones

- Byron Gibson

- Kristen Barze and Ariel Hunter