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Starting Life Again in a New World After Katrina’s Wrath


Just weeks after the worst natural disaster in American history, many evacuees are finding new homes in other cities.

Many are just a few hundred kilometers from familiar surroundings. But for a few, it's been a journey to places they never dreamed of going.

They march in the largest American exodus in recent history. More than 300,000 people forced to leave flooded homes for places very different from the cities they leave behind. It's a long journey that has found some, like Larry Andrews, feeling like strangers in their own land.

"For me, it was like, ‘What am I going to do in Utah?’," he said.

Larry Andrews survived for six days, just barely above water, before a helicopter airlifted him and his family from the flooded streets of New Orleans. They were taken by charter plane, along with 600 fellow evacuees to destinations unknown.

"So I asked the stewardess,” recalled Larry. “I said, ‘Ma'am where are we going?’ And she said ‘Salt Lake City, Utah.’ Everybody was like, uh… ‘Utah. What's in Utah?’ "

Well, for one, there are snow-capped mountains in the state of Utah. And unlike Louisiana, very few trees and even fewer swamps.

From the very first breath, Larry and his family knew they were far from home.

"The air is different."

And after his first meal, Larry knew the food was going to be different too.

Larry, used to the spicy cooking for which New Orleans is known, said, "It didn't have no seasoning."

But the biggest shock, were the people of Utah. One evacuee said it was like being a fly in a bowl of milk. New Orleans is nearly 70 percent African American, while Salt Lake City is less than two percent.

But besides the obvious differences -- the weather, the buildings, the food -- the city offered something New Orleans has little of right now: jobs.

At a job fair for evacuees, Larry, who had experience in Shipping and Receiving, managed to line up a job interview and some new clothes, donated by his new neighbors.

It may have seemed like a foreign country at first, but Larry and his family say they've found a place they can call home.

"The people are nice. They're wonderful. That is the thing that's really surprising -- seems like they are genuine."

And the city is eager to make its newest citizens feel welcome. They even staged a Cajun Gumbo Party for the new arrivals.

A little piece of home for Americans discovering their own country for the first time.

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