As many as 16 people have found shelter with friends and family in Lafayette County after losing all but their lives to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Each one of them tells the same story....it's one of the worst things that our family has had to go through.

Lafayette County native Anna (Lamb) Kimmell and husband Ben along with their small children Jeremiah, age 23 months and Lena, nine months said they left New Orleans on Saturday from their home on the campus of New Orleans Theological Seminary when the evacuation was issued.

"We brought enough clothing for about four days, assuming we could return home once the hurricane was over, now we have nothing to return for, everything is under water, all gone," Anna said quietly.

She said their home was about four miles from the levee that broke east of downtown New Orleans.

The Kimmell family is staying with her parents Bill and Sheree Lamb in Mayo part of the time and also with Ben's parents who live in Perry.

Brandon and Sherry Harper opened up their home to family and friends from Bay St. Louis, Miss. who arrived in Mayo after living through the destructive path taken by Katrina as it blew ashore in their town about 11 a.m. on Monday morning.

Jerry Harper, brother to Brandon and wife Trisha said they left Bay St. Louis on Sunday headed south but decided to go back home when they were unable to find a motel. Trisha said the traffic was backed up and what normally takes one hour traveling time took over five hours.

Finally arriving at their suburban home around 11:30 p.m. Trisha said the storm could be felt as it neared the Gulf coastline.

"We stayed, simply because our efforts to leave were impossible," she said.

The decision would quickly become a nightmare in the middle of the day as Katrina rushed ashore with winds pushing the Gulf of Mexico into their city of 37,000 residents who were left at the mercy of nature's fury.

Trisha said they looked down the street, saw the water literally rising by the second. "Within five minutes of seeing the rushing water we had climbed onto our roof as the house was filled with dirty, oily water littered with debris," she said.

She and the other four survivors along with several of their American Pit Bulldogs they raise, clung to the roof for over six hours with no where to go as the storm played out in an eerie orange glow cast from the sky.

Eventually they were able to find a boat down the street and made their way to a store that sits on higher ground near the subdivision.

Across town Jerry's mom Nancy and step-dad Greg who own a jewelry store at a local shopping mall, would also lose everything in their home and business, escaping with a few clothes.

As the Gulf claimed home after home, possessions floated away from their owners who were helpless to stop the exodus from continuing said Nancy.

Chrissy Stiglet, Trisha's sister, said she and her family climbed onto furniture as the water rushed in strewing the furniture every which way.

Chrissy and children, six-year-old Maisie and four-year-old Dillan comforted each other as they watched the water swirl around the inside of their home.

"I feared we would drown as the water rose higher but it stopped just short of trapping us inside the house," Chrissy said.

The Harper and Stiglet families were able to finally escape their homes that had become deathtraps and are staying with family in Mayo and Luraville.

When asked if they would return, without hesitation they said, "no, we'll start over somewhere else."

Trisha said authorities are saying it could take as long as two years to sort through the debris and rebuild what was a thriving community.

Anna and Ben plan to continue with the call that God has placed on their lives. Now classes will be taken online as Ben pursues his master's degree. They plan to stay in Florida.

Anna said those wanting to learn more about the destruction of New Orleans Theological School can click on bpnews.net.

The Harper family, those staying at their home and Anna and Ben and their families expressed appreciation to Lafayette County residents that has called to inquire about their safety. Also the many generous gifts of food and clothing as well as money that has been donated is greatly appreciated.

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