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Survivors' Stories: Living Through Katrina

In the months since flooding and high winds devastated the Gulf Coast one year ago, stories of loss, sacrifice and survival have emerged that help Americans understand what happened -- and to whom.

For residents who are still recovering from the ordeal, the stories can be haunting.

Douglas P. deSilvey

A native of the Gulf Coast, Douglas P. deSilvey, 59, lives in Gulfport, Miss. It's where he met his wife, and where they raised their daughter.

Beginning his recollection of the last days of August, 2005, deSilvey says, "The story I want to tell today is about my family." Speaking of his wife, daughter and mother-in-law, Nadine, deSilvey says, "The three women in my family have steered my life for the past 59 years, to the man that I am today."

Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the family retreated to deSilvey's mother-in law's house, as they had for many storms. But a look out into the bay behind the house convinced deSilvey that the water would rise too high.

As he tried to warn his family about the danger, the roof collapsed. DeSilvey's wife, Linda Allen deSilvey, 57, and daughter, Donna K. deSilvey, 35, died, as did Linda's mother, Nadine Allen Gifford, 79, and her husband, Edward "Ted" Gifford, 79.

David Duplantier

A 16-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, David Duplantier went on patrol at the Superdome on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005. He was there for more than a week.

The Superdome was meant to be a refuge, a temporary shelter before those trapped in New Orleans could be evacuated. But instead of withstanding the storm, Duplantier says, "the roof literally looked like an eggshell. It started to peel. And you could hear the wind."

The floodwaters rose all around the Superdome, essentially trapping those who sought shelter there. But, Duplantier says, "The people never stopped coming in."

His wife, Melissa Eugene, had already fled inland as Katrina approached. And as he kept working -- and not sleeping, Duplantier says, "All I wanted to do was let you know I wasn't dead, I was alive."

"The whole thing felt like a really bad dream," Duplantier says.

When he was released from his duties at the Superdome, "I remember just feeling like I just escaped," Duplantier recalls. He immediately tracked his wife down.

"That was the happiest day of my life," Melissa says.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.